Come si fa la pasta (how the pasta is made)

Come si fa la pasta (how the pasta is made)

Thursday, April 17th, 2014

One time last year I came home from school and saw that Cesarina had made pasta. I asked her if she’d show me how it’s done. I’ve made fresh pasta at home in California but never without the little pasta machine that is used to both do the last kneading of the dough and then make it much thinner. You can also use the machine to cut it into strips for tagliatelle or other sizes of pasta. In any case this year Cesarina had remembered my request and offered to teach me. So below you can see the results.

First you make a mountain of the flour and “excavate” a cavity – it looks kind of like volcano. Then you crack eggs into the cavity. She said one egg and one etto (a 10th of a kilo – about a quarter pound) of flour per person. So she started with the three eggs. After she had mixed and kneaded it a bit she said that it was too hard and added another egg to some flour that remained. Then you knead this mass for quite a while until it’s very smooth and just the right consistency.  The kneading is really hard work. You do it with the heel of your hands. People that make pasta often must have really strong forearms and shoulders. Of course the consistency is hard to explain. It’s a matter of feel. It just leaves and impression in the dough if you press a little hard with a finger.

Now you have a ball that’s a little bit flat and you start rolling it out with a mattarello (rolling pin). This is not your usual rolling pin as you can see in the photos. It’s very long and you can see why. Little by little you roll the dough and turn it to keep it circular. Again this is hard work and to do it right seems to require quite a bit of experience. You want to get uniform over the total service so sometimes she just used one end of the mattarello around the edges.

When it’s done it’s translucent as you can see in the photo. Then you let it dry for awhile; something like half an hour so that it won’t stick together when you cut it. Then you roll it up and cut it with a knife to the desired shape. She had made ragu the day before so when her husband (they’ve been separated for 20 years) arrived we one of the most typical of the bolognese dishes – tagliatelle with ragu.

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