No pasta-loving person or family should be without Josee di Stasio's "Pasta et cetera," one of the simplest but most elegant cookbooks on the subject.
The book by the Montreal award-winning cookbook author, television host and chef, was recently published in English by Transcontinental Books ($29.95, paperback).
Di Stasio has been a household name in her native Quebec for many years and only now is being recognized in the rest of Canada.
Her television show, "A la di stasio," draws a television audience of 500,000 Quebecers each week when it airs on Cuisine TV and TV5 Monde.
Born to a French-Canadian mother and Italian father, di Stasio learned much of her cooking skills from her maternal great-grandmother.
"She gave me confidence, while my Italian grandmother taught me the importance of the Mediterranean diet," she says.
Di Stasio travels extensively around the world in pursuit of material for her TV shows.
Recently she travelled to San Francisco to interview chef Judy Rodgers at her famous Zuni Cafe. Then she went on to meet Alice Waters, famous founder of Chez Panisse, a restaurant devoted to the finest and freshest seasonal ingredients in Berkeley, Calif.
"The way I work in the kitchen is very artisanal," says di Stasio. "And the cooking shows and the cookbooks are my full-time career."
Like so many other successful foodies, such as her French-Canadian friend Ricardo Larrivee, who has carved out a successful career with cookbooks and a show on Food Network Canada, she is very attuned to local, seasonal cuisine.
"I think we are more and more conscious of what we eat thanks to luminary figures like Michael Pollan," the American writer whose books defend a plant-based diet and eating seasonally.
"Canadians are becoming more proud of local products," says di Stasio. "If you make it simple with good fresh produce, it's quick and easy to prepare a delicious meal."
"Pasta Et Cetera" also has her Italian recipes for antipasti, soups and desserts. The mouth-watering photos are the work of Jean Longpre.
For empty-fridge days, here from the book is a recipe that is elegant and simple.
Finely grated rind of 3 room-temperature lemons (organic if possible)
Juice of 2 lemons
325 ml (1 1/3 cups) grated Parmesan cheese
75 ml (5 tbsp) olive oil
500 g (1 lb) spaghettini or other large long thin pasta
Salt and freshly ground pepper
A good handful of fresh basil, snipped
In a large bowl, combine lemon rind and juice, Parmesan and oil. Set aside.
In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook pasta according to package instructions. Drain, reserving 125 ml ( 1/2 cup) of the cooking water.
Add hot pasta to lemon sauce. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Toss, adding reserved cooking water as necessary, until pasta is well coated with sauce.
Garnish with basil.
Makes 8 servings as an appetizer or 4 as a main course.
Variation: Lemon Asparagus Pasta: In the water to be used for cooking pasta, cook 500 g (1 lb) trimmed asparagus until tender. Remove with a slotted spoon and rinse under cold running water; chop. To reheat, add to pasta for the last few minutes of cooking.