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November 01, 2013

Pasta Modern

Celia Sin-Tien Cheng

Francine Segan’s new cookbook, “Pasta Modern,” is a pasta lover’s dream. Segan traveled throughout Italy to research the classic and innovative dishes featured in this book — over 100 distinct recipes that she gathered from chefs, bloggers, home cooks and grandmas, including spaghetti with chestnuts, pasta sushi and a whole section devoted to savory chocolate and coffee pasta recipes. At first, I was a little skeptical about some of the less traditional recipes, but after testing them out, I was easily won over. Take, for example, the recipe for pasta with sea urchins and coffee. Segan writes that it is reminiscent of her favorite Sicilian breakfast of sea urchins on crusty bread with her morning espresso. A sea urchin lover myself, I couldn’t wait to try it out. The dish took me less than 15 minutes to prepare, and, as promised, the elements complemented each other beautifully. The acidity of just a dash of coffee balances the intense iodine flavor of the sea urchins. In the section “How to Cook Pasta Like an Italian,” Segan directly addresses you, the reader, giving you the freedom to interpret the recipes “your way” and tailor them to your own palate and preferences. In my case, I prefer the flavor of raw sea urchins, so instead of cooking them in olive oil, I blended them with olive oil in a food processor and garnished the pasta with raw pieces at the end before sprinkling espresso on top. That freedom of experimentation — preserving the essence of the dish, while following your own tastebuds — is what I think Segan means by “new and inspired recipes.”