Thursday, August 19, 2010

Homemade pasta - grandma style

The first couple of months after moving to the US, a large number of people approached me pretty much with the same question: can you teach me how to make homemade pasta?

The syllogism at work was simple, logical, but, alas, wrong. It followed these lines:

Major premise: all Italian prepare homemade pasta.
Minor premise: the Tuscan Foodie is Italian, and claims to be able to cook.
Conclusion: the Tuscan Foodie is regularly making homemade pasta.

The problem with this is that the Major Premise is wrong: I don't know ANYONE in Italy who regularly makes homemade pasta. We all buy it at the supermarket, exactly like everywhere else in the world. I myself have done homemade pasta probably only a dozen time (before I used violence on the pasta machine, but this is another story...)

Homemade pasta was a regular in Italian kitchens a couple of generations ago. I have NO memories of my mother, now in her sixties, preparing homemade pasta. But I do remember her mother, my grandmother, regularly making homemade tagliatelle and gnocchi, and quadrucci, a short pasta used in a chickpea soup common in the Marches region (so you know the truth: I am not 100% pure Tuscan. My blood is 50% Tuscan, 25% Lombardy and 25% from Marches).

Making homemade pasta is not difficult. On the contrary, it is pretty easy. But it requires time, and you end up making a mess in the kitchen. All these elements explain why, unless you own a restaurant or you have a strong passion for homemade pasta, you almost never make it.

My sister has been visiting me from Italy over the past couple of weeks. We have been talking a lot about my grandma, who recently passed away. Among other things, we were also revisiting our childhood memories of the many dishes that she used to cook but that now have gone kind of lost. And so we also talked about homemade pasta. And we felt like cooking it together, as a sort of tribute to her.

And not only did we do it, but we even made it grandma style: no pasta machine to cut it, no Kitchenaid to prepare the dough, no nothing. We made it with our good old hands kneading the dough, and then folding it and cutting the tagliatelle with a knife. Exactly how she used to make them.

And since I have been asked many times, here is how I do it (when I do it):

Homemade pasta

Ingredients for 6 people300 g / 10 oz of all purpose flour
3 eggs
salt, a pinch
1 tablespoon of water

  • Create a "volcano" type of shape with your flour, with a hole in the middle. Put your eggs in the crater of the volcano, add the salt, and start kneading. You can let a Kitchenaid type of machine do the work for you, or you can do it old-style, by hand. In the Kitchenaid it will take 10'. By hand a bit more.
  • Mid-way kneading, add the water. You want the end result to look like this ball here:

  • Let the dough rest for at least 20 minutes, covering it with a dry cloth. I usually let it rest for at least one hour.
  • Then you have to roll out the dough. You can do it with a pasta maker, but if the dough is too humid (it happens) you are going to get mad (and you may - if you are crazy like me - go berserk and destroy the pasta machine). My advice is to roll it out with a roller, by hand. You want the end result to be a thin layer of pasta. If the dough is too humid, and get sticky on the roll, just add more flour.
  • Once you have a thin layer of dough, you can do whatever type of pasta you want with it. I decided to do tagliatelle. Again, if you have the pasta maker, all you do is to pass the dough through the machine, and it will cut the tagliatelle for you. We did it grandma style here: what you do is fold the thin dough three or four times, and then cut it with a knife, like this:

  • You then have to open each tagliatella individually. They will not be all the same: some will be larger, some will be longer. It doesn't matter. It is actually better, because the pasta will really have a homemade look. The different width will not affect cooking time.
  • Put the tagliatelle to rest on a floured plate, so that they dry, and add some more flour on top. The end result will look like this:

Now you are ready to cook them. Keep in mind these two facts:
  • Home made pasta cooks in less time than the pasta you buy at the supermarket. It very much depends on the type of pasta you are making. As a general rule of thumb, count 3-5 minutes. Taste the pasta to make sure it is ready!
  • Homemade pasta absorbs A LOT more sauce than regular pasta. If you are used to a certain quantity of condiment when you cook spaghetti or tagliatelle from the supermarket, consider adding 50% more (rule of thumb, it may vary) condiment.
Tonight we decided to eat the tagliatelle with a porcini mushrooms and tomato sauce. They were pretty good.

The end result, before it got into my mouth.

PS: as you might have guessed, this is the first of what I think could be a long series of recipes. We'll see.


palbi said...

adesso ti tocchera' fargli vedere che - QUANDO VUOI - sai pure suonare il mandolino !
The last picture looks EXTRA delish!

Tuscan foodie in America said...

Palbi, thank you and welcome!

You made me laugh (for non-Italians, he said that next thing I will need to do is to show that, when I want to, I can even play the mandolino, like in all good stereotypes).

Thanks for the delish: it was...

ilpikkio said...

I must admit that for the very first time I read one of your posts and I start salivating (che così suona un po' schifoso ma vorrei dire che ho l'acquolina in bocca, ecco) even if I don't like mushrooms.
ps: oh so you are a 25% TERRONE. Good to know!

bottaval said...

Ehi Tuscan foodie, you made me homesick and also quite nostalgic of my grandma. She used to make it exactly that way! Just I remember that she would also let the dough rest for one hour or two once rolled out, before cutting it, and that would be on the master bed, with a piece of cloth on top to protect it. Kids could not have access to the master bedroom in that case, as we would be tempted to sneak a piece or mess up with the dough.
Of course, I never made it myself this way, as I cannot take a full day off to follow the whole procedure...

Tuscan foodie in America said...

Pikkio, thank you. I may add new recipes in the future. Although the internet is full of blogs with Italian recipes...who knows. And btw, no, I am not terrone. Marches never belonged to the Borboni (the Borboni were the Royal family of the Kingdom of two Sicilies, which extended on the Southern part of Italy before the unification).

bottaval, welcome, and thank you for your comment. It is exactly as you said: as a kid I didn't have access to the room where the dough was resting..

Fabrizio Cariani said...

this is my grandma's recipe too.

except she also used to get the mushrooms on her own!

Tuscan foodie in America said...

Fabrizio, when I was a kid I used to go with my parents looking for mushrooms. It has been a few years since I last did it.

I made this sauce with dry porcini.

Supafly said...

Hey TF, I tried your recipe and it worked. The dough was sticky, but I added more flour. I didn't cut it by hand, though...but the pasta was delicious. THANK YOU!

Tuscan foodie in America said...

Thank you Supafly, and welcome. I am happy it worked for you.

Interesting name you have there...yesterday I was discussing with an American friend the exact meaning of "supafly"...

Oriana said...

hey even though you're not cento per cento tuscan I would still love it if you guest posted for me!

Tuscan foodie in America said...

Oriana, I have been a bad boy. Let's put the blame on my non-Tuscan side. An email is on its way.

Elena said...

This post is really good! Thanks! Everything that defend real Italian food works for me. On the same topic I suggest all of you this post: Italian food stereotypes, no grazie!I hope you'll enjoy it!

Tuscan foodie in America said...

Hi Elena, welcome and thank you for your comment.

Devoted Foodie said...

This sounds so yummy, I can't wait to try it. I love your blog and can't wait to read more stories. We share in the love of food and all things Italian :)

Tuscan foodie in America said...

Hello Devoted Foodie, welcome! Food is something that unite people beyond all differences...

Thomas Cappiello said...

I would like to know if there is any particular reason why you use all-purpose flour as opposed to semolina or durum, or other type (eg."00")

Tuscan foodie in America said...

Hi Thomas, welcome and thank you for your comment. No particular reason if not to make sure that everybody can try this at home: grandma used 00 flour, which for me is the real deal. But it is not available everywhere in the US. Everybody instead has all purpose flour at home, so they can make this easily.

In Italian we have a saying that goes more or less "the best is an enemy of the good", which means that if you try to make only perfect things, you will end up not
making even perfectly good things.

The main difference among the different types of flours is the quantity of the wheat germ and bran that are milled with the flour. Even within the "all purpose" flour definition, every flour will be different in its protein content.

This means, for instance, that a certain brand of all purpose flour will make excellent bread and afwul cakes, while another brand will make awful bread and excellent cakes.

If you have 00 flour available, by all means use that.


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