Sometimes, all you want is a nice bowl of pasta – a warm, saucy heap of carbs, usually accompanied, and made even better, by cheese and meat.

“The Long and Short of Pasta” has plenty of recipes to sate that craving. The compact, colorful volume covers the bases, with all the favorites – carbonara, pesto, ravioli, gnocchi and seafood linguini, to name a few.

Cover courtesy of Hardie Grant

The book doesn’t claim to break new ground or promise flashy advanced technique. Most of the recipes are fairly simple and straightforward, with ingredients readily available at your local supermarket. Aside from recipes for homemade pasta – a daunting task for those of us who ruin every dough they touch – accessible, familiar dishes fill nearly every page of the book.

Confusing organization and distracting translation errors, however, mar an otherwise fun cookbook. Recipes are divided into rough sections – meat, seafood, vegetables, etc. –but there’s a lot of crossover and a spotty index, so expect a lot of page flipping to find the recipe you want.

Most of the recipes were originally published in Italy, and a few things were lost in translation. Ingredient proportions are a little wonky, and some directions are vague and confusing. Anyone used to improvising in the kitchen won’t be thrown off by these errors, but they might frustrate a novice cook who wants to follow a recipe’s every direction.

I chose to make pasta with sausage ragu and kale for two reasons: First, I was tired and I had all the ingredients at home. Second, I often turn to my own version of the recipe, and I wanted to see how this one shaped up.

The dish turned out filling and flavorful, just how I wanted it. The addition of heavy cream was a new twist for me, but it added depth without overwhelming the other ingredients. The recipe doesn’t call for any specific pasta, but I’d use a shaped pasta like a rigatoni or a ribbon variety such as tagliatelle, as the sauce will cling better to a broader surface area.

Pasta with sausage ragu and kale

Serves 6

10 1/2 ounces cavolo nero (or other cabbage), washed, tough stems removed and leaves roughly chopped

6 good-quality (over 90 percent meat) pork sausages

5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 fat garlic cloves, peeled and slightly crushed

Fresh red chili, sliced, or 1/4 teaspoon dried chili flakes

17 ounces dried pasta

3 tablespoons white wine

Scant 1/2 cup cream (optional)

salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 ounce ground Parmesan

Bring a large saucepan of salted water to a boil, add the cavolo nero and cook for 5-10 minutes until soft. Drain well and set aside. When the cabbage is cool enough to touch, cut the leaves into shreds.

Make a shallow incision along the length of the sausages with a knife and peel away the skin. Discard the skins and crumble the meat into a large frying pan, then add the oil, garlic and chili. Put the pan over medium heat and cook until the sausage meat is lightly browned, breaking it up with a wooden spoon as it cooks.

Meanwhile, cook the pasta according to the packet instructions and time it so the pasta will be cooked just when the sauce is ready.

Add the white wine to the sausage mixture in the frying pan and allow this to evaporate for around 5 minutes, then add the shredded cavolo nero and stir through. Pour in the cream, if using, bring the sauce to a gentle boil and taste for seasoning (sometimes there is no need to add more salt if the sausages are already salty). Stir hot, drained pasta into the sauce and serve straight away with the grated Parmesan.


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