“I never dreamed I’d write a book about pasta, because, I mean, that would be crazy,” says food writer Roddy, incredulous on the phone from Rome, where she has lived since 2008. And yet, she has. Her new yolk-yellow cookbook, An A-Z Of Pasta, comprises 50 stories about 50 pasta shapes – a mere fraction of the 1,300 shapes identified by one of Roddy’s inspirations, Oretta Zanini De Vita, author of the Encyclopedia Of Pasta.

While there are many beautiful photos and pasta shape doodles in An A-Z Of Pasta, there are also recipes that don’t feature an accompanying image at all. “I think some books have so many images, we stop reading. That’s why I like cookery books without pictures,” says Roddy, “because actually, you have to be transported by the words and you do paint your own picture, and then you enter a different realm, don’t you?”

Roddy’s aim, also, is to give us meaningful, truly helpful advice, not just step-by-step instructions. “You want someone to say to you, ‘Look, really dice the tomato small, be really generous with the oil, plenty of salt and then really toss it, you just add a tiny bit of pasta cooking water so it’s a bit swishy’ – those bits of advice where you think, ‘Ahh, ok’,” she explains.

What she really hopes her jigsaw of pasta offers is for people to “have little eureka moments with very straightforward recipes. If people have two or three favourites that they make again and again and make their own, I will be the happiest food writer ever.

“I hope it’s a useful book,” she continues, “because when I have a plate of pasta in front of me, for that minute, everything’s all right with the world.”

Cavatelli with sausage, mint and tomato recipe


(Serves 4)

2 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed

4tbsp olive oil

400g sausage meat, crumbled

150ml white wine

400g ripe tomatoes, peeled and roughly chopped

A sprig of fresh mint


400g dried cavatelli, orecchiette, fusilli, casarecce

Grated pecorino and red chilli flakes, to serve


1. In a capacious pot over a medium-low heat, fry the crushed garlic in the olive oil. Add the crumbled sausage and stir until all pinkness has gone.

2. Pour in the wine and raise the heat. When the wine has evaporated, add the diced tomatoes and cook for another five to 10 minutes, or until the sauce has thickened. Finally, add the mint leaves and salt to taste.

3. Cook and drain the cavatelli, put them into the pot with the sauce and let them simmer for a few minutes, stirring and adding some of the cooking water if needed. Serve, passing round grated pecorino and red chilli flakes for those who want them.

Capelli d’angelo with prawns and lemon


(Serves 4)

Olive oil

1 small clove of garlic, peeled and sliced

A pinch of red chilli flakes

400g small prawns, peeled

120ml dry white wine


400g fresh egg pasta, cut to approx.1mm thick, alternatively tagliolini or spaghettini

Zest of 1 lemon

1 heaped tsp chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley


1. Bring a large pan of water to the boil for the pasta.

2. In a large frying pan, warm the oil, garlic and chilli gently to infuse the oil. Add the prawns, stir, then raise the heat, add the wine and a pinch of salt and allow to bubble for three minutes while you cook the pasta – which will only take a minute or so.

3. Drain the pasta, or lift directly into the prawn pan, add the lemon zest and parsley, then toss for the last time, and serve.

Midsummer pasta


(Serves 6)

Olive or vegetable oil, for frying

1 large aubergine, diced into 1cm cubes

1 red pepper, diced into 1cm cubes

2 courgettes, diced into 1cm cubes


2 large ripe tomatoes

1 clove of garlic, peeled and crushed

600g mezze maniche, penne, fusilli, rigatoni

100g Parmesan, grated

200g mozzarella, diced

A big sprig of fresh basil leaves, ripped


1. Bring a large pan of water to the boil for the pasta.

2. Pour enough oil into a deep, medium-sized frying pan for it to come 2.5cm up the sides and heat until hot. Working in batches, fry the diced vegetables in the oil until soft and golden, then blot on a kitchen towel, season with salt and keep warm. Tip the oil from the pan.

3. Plunge the tomatoes into the almost boiling water for a minute, then lift them out with a slotted spoon and refresh under cold water, at which point the skins should slip off. Roughly chop the tomatoes.

4. Put the frying pan back on the heat with four tablespoons of new oil and the garlic. Once the garlic is fragrant, add the chopped tomatoes and a pinch of salt and cook until soft and saucey – about 10 minutes.

5. Once the water is boiling, add salt, stir, then add the pasta and cook until al dente. Once the pasta is ready, drain, tip into the tomato pan and toss.

6. Tip the pasta and sauce into a large bowl, add the fried vegetables, Parmesan, mozzarella and ripped basil, toss thoroughly and serve.

An A-Z Of Pasta: Stories, Shapes, Sauces, Recipes by Rachel Roddy is published by Fig Tree.