As an Italian American, it seemed my duty to learn how to make pasta when given the opportunity in Italy. I mean, where better to learn this art? Luckily our friend Matteo’s mom, Amelia, was ready and willing to teach me.
So the plan was set, I’d head to their house one morning and then we’d eat the pasta for lunch that afternoon. Sounds like a delicious plan to me. I made sure to wear some older clothes but almost immediately Amelia handed me an apron so I looked all official.
I’ve spoken to my mom before about when she’d watch my Italian relatives in New York make pasta. She said there was a volcano, a broomstick and then it was all meticulously cut by hand. I had a few foggy memories of this but was ready to see how we’d do it today.
The ingredients are pretty simple, flour, eggs, milk. We got out the electronic scale to measure out the flour but then we had some technical difficulties so we just ended up guesstimating 800g. After sifting the flour, we shaped it into a volcano type of mound and cracked 6 eggs into the center. Then we wisked up the eggs and poured in some milk.
It was my turn to take over. I’d be mixing up all those ingredients to turn them into dough. I had not only never made pasta before, it might have been the first time kneading dough. Neil has experience with pierogi but I don’t think I ever did it.
Amelia was telling me to use the heel of my hand and push with my wrists. I didn’t really know the intensity I needed so Matteo translated Amelia. “Pretend you are angry with your husband! That’s why Italian women always make pasta!” Hilarious, ok I’ll put more power into it. And make sure to have some spare flour so your dough doesn’t stick to the wooden board.
After all my hard work, we got a break to let the dough rise for 15 minutes. Time for a new job while we wait. I’d be battering up some zucchini flowers to fry them up.
Today’s lesson would be the slightly more technology based version of pasta making than what my mom was talking about but that’s ok with me! Amelia said that a few years back her hands were aching too much for using a rolling pin so now she uses a pasta maker. Makes sense!
Our first task with the pasta maker takes the place of rolling out dough. We’d cut the dough into little wedges and then slide the wedge into the rollers. Again be sure to have plenty of flour all over the dough and the machine! My job was to catch the smooth strip of dough as it came out. Then you send it through for a second time so it’s the correct thickness. Once I had done a few wedges I got the hang of it. I told Amelia I had never done this before but apparently I was doing a good job because she said “Brava Maria”, multiple times!
Once all the strips of dough were prepared it was time to cut them. We folded some of the strips in half so the tagliatelle would be the correct length. And then we fed the strips of the dough back through but this time it was a cutter instead of a roller. Again, my job was to catch the strands of pasta as they came out of the machine. Once it was out, you did this swirl motion to create a bird nest with the noodles. We all kind of chuckled as we were wrapping up because it looked like we’d have pasta for days with all the bird nests we’d accumulated.
All that’s left now is to cook the bird nests, which we all kind of shook and dropped into the double boiler of water with a bit of oil. They cooked in like 3 minutes, I want to say, and then the easiest part was to just pick up the colander out of the water to drain it. So it was time to Mangia!
I can’t claim any credit for that beautiful sauce you see cooking on the burner. Amelia had literally been cooking it all morning with fresh mushrooms that someone brought over for her.
Matteo and Stefano plated it all out for us and we popped the cork of one of the sparkling wines we’d purchased just days before at the winery. (Wine Tasting at Ettore Germano Winery in Barolo, Italy ) Of course, we needed a wine to pair and why not celebrate all our fun with some bubbles! It was a great wine to choose because Amelia was really enjoying it too.
You’re probably wondering how the pasta came out? Well I’m no expert but it was delicious and you probably already predicted this, but we finished off all those wonderful bird nests of pasta.
I had a great time throughout the whole process and I told Amelia that some people pay upto $150 for a “make fresh pasta demonstration/lesson”. She said she’s ready to go into business. I just need to get it set up! Seems like a great opportunity for my next trip out to Italy!