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A Christmas gift idea for pasta lovers...

If it's pasta and other Italian fare you crave, here is a trio of new and noteworthy books to consider as gifts -- to others or to yourself:

Pasta book

The Silver Spoon Book of Pasta (Phaidon Press, $39.95) from the editors at Phaidon Press features 350 recipes from Italian cooking bible The Silver Spoon. It also has new recipes published in English for the first time. Organized according to type (dried, fresh) and shape (long, short) of pasta, such dishes as bucatini with fennel (plus raisins, pine nuts and saffron), elbow macaroni with pumpkin and radicchio, and bigoli with sea urchins promise meals as tasty and unusual as your palate can handle. There's just enough history and cultural observation to feed your mind as well as your belly without overloading either.

Encyclopedia of Pasta (University of California Press, $29.95) is a quirky little tome intended for anyone who needs to know absolutely everything about absolutely every kind of pasta. Published in English by the University of California, the book is author Oretta Zanini De Vita's academic look at the history, ingredients and uses of traditional Italian pasta according to its shape: long, short, layered, rolled, stretched, stuffed. Indeed, in its 300-odd pages, the Encyclopedia of Pasta ranges from abbotta pezziende, a short pasta that means "feed the beggar" in Abruzzo dialect, to the zumari of Puglia, a long pasta traditionally added to vegetable soups. In between there are the corzetti of Liguria and Piedmont, the little stamped-out coins; pi fasacc of Lombardy, which look like little babies in a papoose; avemarie, which cook for as long as it takes to say a Hail Mary; and several dozen variations on macaroni and ravioli. Each illustrated entry lists ingredients, provenance and how the pasta is traditionally served.

□ The cooking that comes from Italy's boot isn't all pizza and pasta. Arthur Schwartz's The Southern Italian Table (Clarkson Potter, $32.50) brings a folksy style and clear passion to recipes for the region's well-known tomato sauce, pork ragu and, yes, Neapolitan pizza. But he also offers such lesser-known fare as orange and onion salad with olives from Sicily and lentil soup with sausage and broccoli rabe from Campania. Of course, tasty-sounding seafood recipes abound, as well as the occasional twist: Enna's ground pork ragu with chocolate, apparently inspired by Mexico via Spain.

Source: www2.journalnow.com

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