Yesterday evening I caught up with Nigella Lawson’s programme about Anna del Conte, The Cook who Changed our Lives. Anna del Conte is ninety one and still cooking! Her book The Gastronomy of Italy influenced countless chefs yet she has never become a household name.
Portrait of Pasta (see above) is dated 1976, which must be when I bought it. Half the book is a history of pasta and instructions on how to cook it; the other half, recipes. These begin with ‘Recipes from the Past’. My copy has many pencilled annotations where I’ve commented on recipes I tried and I see that one was the old Roman dish ‘Horace’s chickpea, laganelli and leek soup.’ There’s a bookmark for Bucatini alla Carbonara.
‘Spaghetti alla Carbonara became a very popular dish in Italy after the second world war. This is presumably because it was loved by the Allied Troops since it combines their old favorites (sic) bacon and eggs.’
I seem to remember that a bean and pasta dish was a favourite during our vegetarian phase. Over the years I amassed quite a library of cookery books. There have been many purges but I’ve always held on to Portrait of Pasta.
By the end of the TV programme we didn’t really know much more about Anna del Conte. I’m grateful to her for her excellent, totally reliable recipes and glad she’s getting public recognition.