A new cookbook pairs pasta shapes and sauces

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Squares of pasta with peas known as quadrucci served with a cheesy broth hails from Rome. Photo by Jonathan Lovekin.

English-born food journalist Rachel Roddy has called Italy her home for the past 18 years. Her column "A kitchen in Rome" runs in The Guardian. With a strong desire to feed her family without any bells and whistles, pasta is often at the centerpiece of the dinner table.

Roddy says strascinati, the pulled flour and water pasta coming out of Southern Italy, along with orecchiette and cavatelli, gave her confidence in making pasta, which reminded her of playing with plasticine as a child.

"[Strascinati] helped me overcome my fear of making pasta actually," says food journalist Rachel Roddy, "[something] that I thought was some rarefied skill that you could only have if you had Italian blood." Photo by Jonathan Lovekin.

In her book An A to Z of Pasta, Roddy tips her hat to the great food historian Massimo Montanari, who believes form leads to flavor when combining a shape of pasta and a sauce. The nature of noodles, how they fold and how they feel in the mouth, is an indicator to help pair pasta and sauce. With very clear ideas of what pastas match with what sauces in a city such as Bologna, Roddy says she encountered a refreshing anarchy and explains that food is forever changing.

The three pasta shapes always in her pantry? Rigatoni, spaghetti, and mezze maniche, which translates to "short sleeves." Roddy compares it to the sleeves of a white Fruit of the Loom t-shirt.

With 1,300 options available in Italy, An A to Z of Pasta centers on the stories behind 50 shapes of pasta and their complementary sauces.  Photo courtesy of Knopf.