I dream of traveling to Italy. The land of my maternal heritage holds such a strong personal draw for me. Italians find immense pleasure in growing, cooking & eating food. We delight in the process - and seem to value knowing where each ingredient comes from. In my own imagination... all other Italians can relate to stopping after that first bite of food (that which you took part in growing, cooking & serving) and getting a bit teary eyed at the wonder of it all. Below is a picture of my maternal grandmother - Marina Scarpenti - standing proudly in front of her green beans. And me in my garden, the first year we dug up the lawn.
I do not have many Italian relatives left with whom I can learn from. I want to visit Italy - see the villages and towns that mia famiglia came from -and meet some of them. I don't need to do the typical tourist thing... I hope to find a sweet, thick-ankled Italian mama who will let me sit in her kitchen and watch her cook. Someday...
Until then, I find great joy in creating simple dishes that remind me of something Grandma Scarpenti might have made.
Home made pasta is an experience.
Why go to the trouble? Because it is completely different than dried pasta... and for me - the process of making it from scratch is romantic - and it connects me to my roots.
The process is also quite simple. All you need are eggs and flour.
In Italy - they use Tipo '00' flour - which is very finely ground. In my local searching - Bread flour is comparable. It's very finely ground. Also, blend in some Durum Wheat Semolina. This contains high levels of gluten to make it elastic.
I like to make a 'well' on my cutting board with the flour.
Then, crack in some beautiful fresh eggs.
Begin mixing together. I use my pastry scraper at first...
But eventually, you have to get your hands into it... Afterall, your hands are your best tool.
Mix and knead for a few minutes,
Until it's nice and smooth
Wrap it in some plastic to keep from drying out - and let rest for 30 minutes. You've worked the gluten in the dough nicely, but now it needs to rest so that you can roll it out. Otherwise, it will want to shrink back up, and will be difficult to roll thinly enough.
After it has rested, begin rolling.
You want to get it as thin as you can. I pick mine up, flip it over, dust it with a bit of flour if it's still sticky and keep rolling.
Then, take your large sheet of nice, thin pasta and roll it up gently. Taking care not to squish it.
With a sharp knife - cut your pasta to the desired width.
Gently unroll each piece and set it aside to wait while the water boils.
Little people love this part...
Add some friends, and it's done in a flash! (we made a huge batch this evening!)
Bring a BIG pot of water to a boil while you are making your pasta. Salt the water generously. It should taste salty. This is important. You will only need to boil this fresh pasta for a couple of minutes. Taste it and don't over-cook!
Here is a quick lunch I made the other afternoon when I didn't know what to make. I was out of a lot of things... but I DID have eggs and flour. This batch was made with bread flour and (freshly ground) whole wheat flour. I sauteed some garlic in some bacon drippings, then added chopped broccoli leaves (and a few florets) from the garden - salt and pepper and some grated hard cheese... perfetto! Simple yet delicious.
If you have dietary restrictions - just adjust the flour type you use. The other night, I made three different pasta doughs to suit my guests.
Traditional Pasta Dough:
- 3 Eggs
- 2 cups bread flour and 1/2 cups semolina flour
Gluten-free Pasta Dough:
- 3 Eggs
- 2 and 1/2 cups Rice flour, Quinoa (or corn) flour (I added a bit of arrowroot powder - though it's not really necessary)
Egg-free Pasta Dough:
- 2 and 1/2 cups Semolina & bread flour
- enough water & drizzle of olive oil to bring the dough together
I will admit - the traditional recipe was the best. But I love the fact that it's possible to adjust things for those in your life whom you love. Everyone loves to twirl up a bite of pasta. I'd love to know if you give this a try!