Meryl Feinstein, the creator of Pasta Social Club and pasta-making extraordinaire just released her cookbook Pasta Every Day. The book which has recipes and techniques for everyone from novice pasta makers to those who simply want to hone their craft, is the perfect addition to anyone’s kitchen library.
I recently had a chance to chat with Meryl to catch up after our previous interview back in 2020. In this interview, she shares about when she first decided to write a cookbook, her favorite sauces from the book, and her recent experience on national television.
When did you first decide to write a cookbook?
I started the process towards the end of 2020. I had been approached by a couple of literary agents earlier that year asking if I had thought about writing a cookbook before. After a few months went by, I connected with an editor at a big publishing company and they suggested that I think about writing a book. I feel like when a publisher says you should write a book, then you should write a book. So it was in December of 2020 that I wrote the proposal for this book.
At what point during the writing process did you come up with the title?
I did not come up with the title. My agent actually came up with the title. She had read the proposal and I, for the life of me, could not come up with a title. I’d written the proposal so quickly that I was totally spent at that point. So, she kind of pieced together the whole idea of making fresh pasta accessible to everyday people and she suggested Pasta Every Day as a working title.
Out of all of the amazing recipes in the book, is there a recipe(s) that is your personal favorite?
When I think about recipes, I think about the sauces even though there are lots of other components. When I first started, I was so much more focused on pasta shapes rather than sauces when I first started. So, I think that the pasta sauces were the most exciting to create for the book. My favorite sauce would probably be the Fiery Calabrian Chili Sauce was probably one of my favorites. I also really love the Braised Onion Ragu and the meat sauce recipes, which is funny because I was actually a vegetarian for a very long time. I like really spicy food, and low and slow cooking so any of those are my top recipes.
Were there any recipes that didn’t make the cut?
Hardly. There are a couple of pasta fillings that got nixed. It’s kind of funny because when I submitted the manuscript to my editor, I expected that he would cut recipes because there were quite a few more recipes that we’d originally discussed. He said that we couldn’t cut any, we’re going to keep them all. So, we ended up keeping pretty much everything.
Which pasta shape would you suggest a novice pasta maker try first?
I tried to organize the pasta shapes and recipes from beginner to advanced. This goes the same for any of the sections in the cookbook. So, I would suggest making the pasta shapes and recipes in the order in which they occur in the book. I will say that everything is simpler than it seems, and I broke down the pasta shapes that can be more difficult to create so that they would be easier to recreate.
What did you enjoy the most about the writing process?
I think that I learned so much during the writing process. My experience with pasta has been very organic. I went to culinary school and worked in restaurants and made pasta for them, but so much of it is self-taught. So, this process allowed me to really dive deeper into specific topics that I had never really come across before or sort of bothered to learn. So, I think through writing the book, I felt much more knowledgeable in areas of pasta making that I hadn’t previously known much about. I knew some of the history of pasta making, but some of the technical/scientific aspects of pasta hadn’t been something I’d researched before. By the end of the book, I felt more well-rounded and knowledgeable about the subject.
How long did it take to write the cookbook and shoot all the photography from start to finish?
From the time that I signed with the publisher until the publication of the book, it was about 2 ½ years. I had the concept of the book percolating for a lot longer than that. It’s a culmination of everything I know and have learned about pasta making over the past five years. The photography element was quick, we shot everything over a ten-day shoot. Considering the number of photos in the book, it was a lot to do in a short amount of time. So that was probably the most fun piece of writing the book.
Nico Schinco took the photos for Pasta Every Day. What was a typical shoot for the cookbook like?
It was a bit chaotic because the structure of the cookbook is so different from other cookbooks. We tried to vary between the process shots and the plated shots. So, if we doing a platted shot, we made sure that we did all of the process of making that particular type of pasta that day as well so we could be as efficient as possible. Other days we would make 5 or 6 pasta shapes in a day and he would try to shoot all of them.
You were recently featured on GMA for National Pasta Day. How was that experience?
It was so much fun! I’m a camera-shy person, so the promotion of the cookbook has been out of my comfort zone, more so than other parts of the process. I went from never being on national television, to being on national television twice a month. I didn’t realize how robust the teams were on these morning shows. There are food stylists etc, and people so good at their jobs and they make it comfortable and seamless for the guests. It was a whirlwind. 3 minutes goes by faster than you imagine it would.
Now that your first book is out in the world, do you have plans for a second book?
I don’t have plans for a second book right now. Everything I learned and wanted to share is in this book. There will always be more recipes, but I think what makes this book different is the teaching component, the structure, and the technique. So, for now, this is going to be it.