Sauces and ShapesBy Oretta Zanini de Vita and Maureen B. FantW. W. Norton & Company, 400 pages, $40

This book, by an Italian food scholar/cook and an American translator who lives in Rome, seduced me in the introduction, when I read that many Italian cookbooks refuse to take a position on things like time and temperature. These writers attempt to capture the ineffable qualities of Italian cooking while providing a bit of structure for American readers.

They match 100 or so sauces and soups with handmade pastas—dishes like orecchiette with Sicilian broccoli sauce (an amazing combo of capers, anchovies, black olives, pistachios, and broccoli) and cavatelli with raw tomatoes and basil (using a lovely maceration technique that will coax big flavor even from winter grape tomatoes). There are meaty sauces, too, but we loved the simple, interesting vegetable versions.