My mother is a dab hand at making home-made pasta – her fingers dance all over the wooden board, known as ‘spianatoia’ in Italian, and the precision with which she slices the final rolled-out dough is incredibly neat, almost geometrically perfect. She only recently confided to me that she had learned the art of pasta making from the signora Pierina who hailed from Bologna (my mother grew up in Frascati, near Rome), which of course is home to the art of egg-dough pasta. It is called ‘sfoglia’ and is made using tender wheat flour (00 flour as it is known in Italy). In central and especially in Southern Italy, eggs were eschewed from the pasta picture and the dough was and continues to be made with flour and water only, the flour in question being the same as that used for commercially dried pasta (as well as bread), the ‘hard’ durum wheat called ‘semola di grano duro’. The typical sfoglia is rolled out very thinly, and is soft and velvety to chew. The pasta made using durum wheat, instead, is a little more resistant to the tooth, it has a little more bite. In neither case, however, does one worry about having to cook it ‘al dente’ – and besides, fresh pasta takes far less time to cook, ranging from 2-3 minutes max from the minute the water starts boiling again after the pasta has been added.
I confess that I do not often make my own pasta – I buy it either freshly made on the day at a local ‘pastificio’ (pasta shop) or else use commercially dried egg pasta. My favourites seem to hail from the Marche, where my in laws come from. The pasta from Campofilone and from Camerino are really really good, try them one day. The egg pastas of Marco Giacosa typical of Piedmont (tajarin or tagliolini) are top notch. Having been asked to conduct a cooking class around pasta making, I thought it would be a good idea to get some practice in and so I became a bit of a pasta fanatic recently – making it at least twice a week. It had me experimenting too … using a mix of both 00 flour and durum wheat flour, hence the ‘fusion’ in title of today’s post.
Always use the best flour you can get your hands on and these days I won’t touch flour that is not organic. The brand I used today is Molino Conti which is in Lazio, and not very far from Tivoli. The table you see is our dining room table.My three fingers are there to show that I weighed out 300g of the durum wheat flour.
And there it is … 300g of sifted flour resting on the wooden ‘spianatoia’ (it might help if I spelled it as it is pronounced: sp-yah-nah-toe-yah). The spianatoia in question was placed over a towel on the dining room table.
And now I decided to add 200g of whole wheat, tender wheat flour this time (as opposed to Durum wheat). The brand of this flour is Molino Fratelli D’Emilio, from Artena … which is even closer to Frascati than Tivoli. Artena is famous for its good bread.And I mixed the two flours up. I did not sieve the whole wheat flour.I then set aside 5 whole eggs (1 egg for each 100g of flour) … and my son was having fun with me while I was taking this photo … adding his own hands to the photo just to confuse the reader even more !
I mixed the eggs in with the flour and started making a dough …the dough was very hard, however, too hard indeed for me to knead and so I just had to add some water to soften it — and to avoid a sprain in my fingers!
I ended up adding 150ml of water to the dough in order to be able to knead it properly. The dough required 10 minutes of kneading with my hands for it to become soft enough. I then covered it in clingfilm and set it aside to ‘rest’. Any pasta dough has to ‘rest’ at least 30 minutes. This will make rolling it out afterwards much easier.I rolled out the dough into strips … quite thick ones, called “fettuccine” … and here they are !
It’s a good idea to shower the freshly sliced fettuccine with plenty of flour, so that they won’t stick together.
And the sauce? I had some asparagus left over from the day before …I cut up some cherry tomatoes and cooked them in a saucepan with olive oil, a clove of garlic and slices of pork jowl (guanciale).I cooked the sauce for about 15 minutes and add the asparagus only towards the very end.It does not take long for the fettuccine to cook: about 3 minutes. Never throw away the cooking water ! fresh pasta is very very thirsty and will soak up anything in sight !Indeed, I had to add about one cup of the cooking water to the fettuccine as I mixed them up with the sauce directly in the saucepan. I grated some parmigiano …And there we are ! Home-made fettuccine with asparagus and tomato sauce. Buonissime. Buon appetito ! And yes, my boys were very happy with their lunch that day.