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Book Review: American Sfoglino

December 2019/January 2020 Issue
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American Sfoglino: A Master Course in Handmade Pasta
by Evan Funke with Katie Parla (Chronicle)

In her foreword for American Sfoglino, Nancy Silverton jokes that the author’s forearms sport more ink than the Monday edition of the Los Angeles Times. But don’t let the tattoos distract you. Evan Funke, chef and partner at Felix Trattoria in Los Angeles, is serious about making pasta. He’s so serious that when he decided to become a sfoglino—that’s Italian for “pasta maker”—he sought out the best
teachers in the world.

For years, Funke apprenticed under pastamaking luminary Alessandra Spisni, the eight-time world champion of the competition La Sfoglia d’Oro and founder of La Vecchia Scuola in Bologna, Italy. Another big influence is the Japanese sfoglino Kosaku Kawamura, owner of Base, the pasta workshop and dining room in Tokyo. After years of hard work and study, Funke became a pasta master himself, a true American sfoglino. And in his debut book, he shares everything he knows about crafting fresh, hand-rolled pasta
that’s beautiful and delicious.

Funke is extremely specific about how he wants you to learn to make pasta. He wants you to succeed, and if you follow his advice and recipes, he knows you will. His rules are clear and uncomplicated: First, always use a digital scale to weigh ingredients precisely; and second, never, ever dream of using a (insert expletive here) pasta machine.

What you’ll find between the covers of this book is a master class in traditional Bologna-style pasta-making. First, the fundamentals: equipment (such as the mattarello, a pasta rolling pin), ingredients, master doughs (there are four), rolling technique (there is one), and troubleshooting. As might be expected, the technique for rolling a sfoglia (a sheet of pasta) is explained in loving detail. And the process is illustrated with 34 breathtaking photos shot from above, each with explanatory text.

The latter half of the book provides the payoff: 14 gorgeous pasta shapes paired with traditional sauces, including the vibrant green spinach balanzoni that appear on the cover. Here, too, thoughtfully composed images lead you step-by-step through the method.

When you’re ready to try your hand at pasta-making, choose a day when you have time. Whether you go it alone or share the experience with friends, it’s important not to feel rushed. Enjoy the meditative process of rolling the dough with the mattarello, and savor the knowledge that you are carrying on the centuries-old tradition of the master sfoglinos.

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