Kerry Teitzel reviews new cookbook American Sfoglino by making pasta by hand, and discovers it's actually easy

I love this cookbook!

 I have always wanted to make homemade pasta but always thought it was too hard and time-consuming.  This cookbook, American Sfoglino: a master class in hand made pasta, byEvan Funke, showed me that making homemade pasta and gnocchi is easy and I was even able to hack the time process a little.

Although my background is mostly Finnish (with a little French Canadian and English smattered in there), I come from a very Canadian-Italian hometown.  Italian is the predominant ethnicity.  So I grew up with amazing homemade Italian food by friends, neighbours and great Italian restaurants.  I know good Canadian Italian food.

I cook a lot of Italian at home – lasagnes and pasta dishes – I have always been intimidated to make my own homemade pasta.  This cookbook American Sfoglino has changed that.  Not only did I learn that it is easy to make homemade pasta and gnocchi, you do not need fancy ingredients or equipment. I also really loved the stories in it of the author’s time training in Bologna, Italy with a pasta master. It is a bit of a travel memoir (my favourite book genre) with history of Bologna pasta and food culture.  So it’s a great read even besides the pasta making. It also has beautiful, simple and useful photography.  The food I made actually kind of looked like the food in the photographs which doesn’t always happen with cookbooks for me!

The recipes I have tried so far the Sfoglia All’Ouvo (Egg Dough) and Gnocchi Di Ricotta (Ricotta Dumplings).  I turned the Sfoglia All’Ouvo into Tagliatelle with the Pomodoro Sauce (which I served with parmesan chicken and salad), Triangoli with Ripieno Di Zucca (Butternut Squash Filling) served in the Burro E Salvia (Butter and Sage sauce) and the Gnocchi Di Ricotta Alla Boscaiola (Pancetta, Mushrooms and Herbs sauce).

All recipes tasted amazing and looked surprisingly as good as they did in the book.  And the best part was that I only needed special flour – “00” Italian flour – which I found in our rural grocery store. 

I could not find all the mushrooms listed for the Pancetta, Mushrooms and Herb sauce, but I did find button, baby belle and oyster mushrooms which tasted amazing.  Our grocery store also had pancetta in the deli and Italian peeled canned tomatoes.

When he first described rolling out the pasta dough to the thickness of 4 post it notes I thought I’d never get it that thin, but I cleared off my table and rolled it out easily to this thickness.  I was pleasantly surprised how easy the dough was to work with.

The only hacks I did make was to not use a kitchen scale to weigh the ingredients – I googled weight to cups and this worked fine, although I do a lot of cooking and feel my cooking experience may have helped estimate if the dough was wet/dry enough and adjust accordingly. 

I also sped up some of the waiting times on the dough which needs to rest 2-3 hours, I waited 2 hours with the first batch and 1 hour with the second batch, and it came out amazing both times. I also substituted chicken stock for the mushroom stock in the mushroom sauce which still came out amazing.

I loved everything I made from American Sfoglino but I especially loved how light, fluffy and airy my Tagliatelle was in the Pomodoro sauce – it was exactly how I imagined my homemade pasta should feel and taste and the Pancetta, Mushroom and Herb sauce was the best mushroom sauce I have ever made and would go great with any pasta. 

I can’t wait to make these recipes again and try more from American Sfoglino.  I will be cooking from this cookbook and reading for pleasure for a long time to come!

P.S.  Sfoglino/Sfloglina means a maker of fresh pasta sheets in Italian.

American Sfoglino made the NY Times list of the 13 best cookbooks of the fall.