Today was a great day! I took an Italian cooking course with my two roommates from London from my host, Rebecca, on the ancient Italian secret of making fresh egg pasta. Although it is a lot of work, it is worth it! To start with the recipe:
Fresh Egg Pasta
100 grams of flour per person
1 egg per 100 grams of flour
And that’t it! So, if you were making pasta for a family of 4, you would do 400 grams of flour and 4 eggs. Then you make a volcano out of the flour, and crack the egg(s) in. You use your hands to mix the flour together, like Rebecca is doing below.
You work the dough for about 10-15 minutes, until the dough becomes a ball with a more smooth consistancy. Rebecca said it is best to make pasta on wood surfaces, because ceramic and marble can get too cold and cause the dough to become hard, whereas wood is more temperature neutral. Once you have the ball of dough, you let it sit for about 10 minutes (get started on the sauce here, see below). After 15 minutes, you break the dough into managable size peices, and begin flattening by hand, and then using a rolling pin flatted out a bit.
Then you feed into the pasta rolling machine. I have one packed in a box somewhere after moving back from New Mexico, and I know my mom has one too. They are relatively cheap, $25, and you can get them at any kitchen store and probably even Target or that horrible store that starts with a W.
You crank the pasta through the machine on a couple different thicknesses until you get the consistancy you want, thin and even throughout. Then you run through the other side of the machine, which cuts the pasta shape, or you can use the sheets for ravioli, canneloni, or lasagne.
For the sauce we made a basic ragu, starting with chopped vegetables, celery, carrots, onion, sauteed in olive oil, probably about 1 cup total. Rebecca’s parents make their own olive oil from Abruzzo (southern Italy), so we used that. Once softened, we brown ground beef, and then add tomato sauce, here it was 100g, so do the math. Then you add a bit of hot water, always hot, you don’t want to add cold water to the hot cooking! Then you let it sit while you finish the rest of the pasta on a very low heat, stirring occaisonally. Very simple flavors, but why over do it?
Obviously this step everyone knows, boil water, add salt, and cook the pasta until it’s ready. It takes a bit longer to cook fresh pasta than it does to cook pasta from the box. After draining the water, you add a little ragu to the noodles, and mix. Put your noodles on the plate, add parmesean, and then serve the ragu on top. Rebecca suggesting drizzling some of her fathers olive oil on top of that, and it was fantastic!
We enjoyed the pasta with red wine from southern Italy, toasted “Cin Cin” (pronounced Chin Chin), and enjoyed. When toasting in Italy, you have to look each person in the eye as you say the toast.
Obviously I loved this meal for many reasons. The freshness of the pasta can’t be beat, you can feel and taste the difference as your eating. One of the main things we discussed while eating was the sense of satisfaction we got from working so hard to create this meal, making us want to savor it and enjoy it so much more. Rebecca told us stories of her family, how on Sundays they all get together and all the women in the family work to get the pasta ready. While it is impractical for everyday eating, I really believe we should take the time to create food like this on special days.
Tonight my new friends have been kind enough to ask me to join them for dinner, I’m very thankful to not be eating alone tonight!
Oh, and on bad news, my first farm visit cancelled due to a roof leak in the guest room. No fear, I will figure it out! I only hope they get it fixed so I can come visit them later in my trip!