"How Italian Food Conquered the World" by John F. Mariani (Palgrave Macmillan, $16) is for readers who like their recipes on the side.

The paperback's heaping main entree is the history of how Italian food came to dominate the world's cuisines. Mariani, the food and wine correspondent for Esquire magazine and a wine columnist for Bloomberg News, starts at the very beginning - even before there was an Italy, just separate regions with their own culinary styles.

Mariani will be a featured presenter March 9 in the culinary tent during the Tucson Festival of Books, which runs March 9-10.

In the cookbook, Mariani offers an all-you-can-eat-buffet of interesting tidbits (the world's first known cookbook is Roman) along with a few gross ones - gluttonous third-century meals would be interrupted so guests could throw up what they'd eaten before heading back to the table to feast for hours more.

A smattering of black-and-white photos offer interesting peeks at Italian food's origins, from a 1903 photo of people slurping spaghetti with their fingers as street food to an ad for Chef Boyardee. Interesting fact: Italian immigrant Hector Boiardi, aka Chef Boyardee, sold canned spaghetti to the U.S. military during World War II and later made his boxed spaghetti dinner into one of the most successful postwar food products - and introduced many Americans to Italian food.

The book is sprinkled with recipes, including an exceedingly simple marinara sauce and one for a muffuletta sandwich (raise your hand if you knew that was Italian). The end offers a quick roundup of restaurants, products and people who were instrumental in Italian and Italian-American cuisine and where they are today.

Marinara sauce

• 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

• 5 garlic cloves, crushed

• Two 28-ounce cans Italian-style tomatoes, with juices, crushed or chopped

• 3-4 leaves of fresh chopped parsley

In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium-low heat, then add garlic and cook until lightly browned. (The garlic cloves may be left in the sauce or removed.)

Add the tomatoes and parsley, salt and pepper to taste, and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook for 20 minutes.

Use over pasta or as a condiment and sauce.

Fettucine all'Alfredo

Serves: 4

• 1 pound egg fettuccine (preferably fresh)

• 1 tablespoon salt

• 1 stick unsalted butter, cut into pieces

• 2/3 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

In a large pot bring 4 quarts water to a boil. Add the salt and the fettucine and cook until al dente. Drain, reserving a little of the pasta water.

In a large saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat until it is just barely foamy. Add the fettuccine and toss with the butter. Add the Parmigiano-Reggiano and a little of the pasta water, and mix until well incorporated and creamy. Add salt and pepper to taste.

From "How Italian Food Conquered the World" by John F. Mariani.

If you go

• What: Fifth annual Tucson Festival of Books.

• When: 9 a.m.-5:30 p.m. March 9-10.

• Where: University of Arizona campus. Attendance and parking are free.

• What: About 450 authors, book discussions, workshops and literary activities for the entire family - including the culinary stage, which will feature nationally recognized and local top chefs and beverage professionals.

• More information: tucsonfestivalofbooks.org

Contact Kristen Cook at kcook@azstarnet.com or 573-4194.