How to make Italian pasta
If someone had suggested making pasta to me previously, I would have reacted the same way as if someone had recommended getting a bank loan, going to a car dealership, buying a car, getting it registered and getting it insured just so I could drive down to the shops to get some pre-made pasta.
It had all seemed like too much time and effort for something so cheaply and easily available. Oh, how wrong I have been all my life!
I’m at the Vecchia Scuola cooking school in the Italian city of Bologna. Under the guidance of experts I pour a heap of flour onto the table and make a hole in the middle.
I crack in two eggs and begin to mix them together until a dough forms and I can roll it into a ball. (If you’re interested in trying this for yourself, the recipe for making pasta is simple – one 50 gram egg for every 100 grams of flour.)
As I knead the ball of dough, the teacher tries to help. “Do it like you are massaging a lover,” he says. In my mind the dough takes on a new form and I throw some extra flour on top. It is getting a bit too sticky for my liking.
When it’s got everything it kneaded (sorry, couldn’t resist), the dough goes into the fridge for a while to cool down – then it’s time for the rolling.
Apparently I am too powerful for my own good. The gentle rolling motion eludes me and I push too hard every time. More than once the teacher takes the rolling pin from me and demonstrates. “Start in the middle, roll gently to one edge, turn the dough a quarter, and then repeat.” It sounds simple enough, doesn’t it?
Eventually my rolling is satisfactory and I’m allowed to move on… to the fun part, it turns out. This is where we cut the pasta into small squares, put some filling on top of each square and then deftly, with our fingers, create the little bundles of pasta goodness we’ll end up eating.
I’m surprised pasta is not a Japanese dish, considering the origami-like skills needed to make these parcels.
The pasta pieces then dry for up to an hour and then they’re ready to be cooked in boiling water until soft enough. Easy!
And how did it taste? Well, much better than any dried pasta I’ve ever bought at the supermarket. There may be a bit more effort involved but it’s certainly worth it. Lesson learnt.