PASTA! PASTA ! PASTA!
We just had a wonderful class on pasta, led by our Chef Marvin Martin. It was so popular we may do another! Everyone ate well, laughed well, and went home with the recipes to try their hand at making homemade pasta. I grew up making pasta by hand, in class we made pasta with an electric pasta roller. The small Atlas hand cranked pasta makers are just fine to use to make dinner at home. For ease of making lasagna, we recommend Barilla or De Cecco pre made pasta. The Barilla oven ready pasta sheets are fabulous for making lots of lasagna for your party.
When you make dough, feel free to add spices to the dough itself to add layers of flavor. In class the pasta dough was flavored with finely diced green olives, Castelvetrano, Nocellara del Belice olives, from Sicily. You can purchase these olives locally in Northern California, at Nugget Market, Whole Foods, and Costco. If you cannot find this product in your local store, ask your grocer to purchase some for you to try.
In Italy, each town, each Grandmother, has their own pasta recipe and their own sauce. Books have been written about how to pair just the right sauce with just the right type and shape of pasta. Different shapes are usually indicative of regional preferences and how to pair their local sauces. Here is a beautiful example of corzetti or coins, the wood hand press cuts the dough and the engraved characters on the disc are pressed into the pasta coins. The designs helps hold more sauce. In Liguria, where Taggiasca olive oil is plentiful, I have had corzetti served with oil, toasted pine nuts, herbs, salt and pepper, and sprinkled with parmesan cheese. It is common in Liguria to add a little wine to the pasta dough.
Speaking of pasta, yesterday our staff attended Tri Biccheri in San Francisco, we tasted our way through over 100 premium Italian wines. This was a wonderful experience to talk to the wine makers and distributors from Italy. So many amazing wines. Beautiful Amarone from Nagar near Verona. Fresh sparkling white wines from the Veneto region, and gorgeous dessert wines from Sicily and Sardinia. Of course all the Chianti was so drinkable. Great fun to discuss wines with your friends and plan meals around the best wines from Italy. After the tasting we went to La Ciccia, “the best Italian restaurant in San Francisco” according to the food critics in the city. Their pasta dishes are spectacular. The sauces are really out of this world. Olive oil, lemon, and dried tuna over fresh pasta over spaghetti. A ragu with lamb, tomatoes and herbs served over tiny gnocchi. Amazing. Amazing. Amazing. I would love to go back there tonight. The owners, Massimiliano Conti and Lorella Degan are so friendly and gracious to every single person who comes in the door.
In preparing for the class, I did some research on pasta and would like to share the list of dried and fresh pasta names with you. Pasta the noble Maccherone
From The Silver Spoon Pasta
There is no more natural and simple food than pasta, which is made from tow ingredients only – flour and water. Simply drying the product makes it last for much longer, while its natural coloring is already full of the sun’s brightness, absorbed by the wheat grains as they grow in the fields. The Queen of fresh pasta is egg pasta. Pasta is one of the most balanced foods in terms of human nutrition. Every city, town, region and village in Italy has its own method of making pasta: the shape, sauce, filling, and even the dough varies. Pastario, the atlas of Italian pasta, says that pasta is music to your mouth.
The oldest evidence dates back to 3,000 years BC. The ancient Greeks and Etruscans produced and ate the first types of pasta. The oldest documentary evidence for the use of dried pasta dates to 1316 and was found in Genoa, naming the first pasta make in history, Maria Borgogno, owner of a house in which lasagna was made.
For Italians the only way pasta can be cooked is “al dente” or “vierde vierde”, as they say in Naples, and overcooked pasta is considered uneatable. “Al dente” literally means “to the tooth”, while “vierde vierde” means “very green” or “unripened”, both describing pasta that is tender but still firm to the bite. Here is a compilation of some of the names of pastas from the Silver Spoon pasta book and Pastario.
THE SILVER SPOON PASTA BOOK, PHAIDON PRESS
Pastario, Atlante Delle Paste Alimentari Italiane, Eugenio Medagliani e Alessi, Crusinallo 1985
Making pasta is fun. Eating pasta is even more fun. Experiment with types of pasta and types of sauces. Go to La Ciccia and learn how the real experts make spectacular pasta. Then go home and use the recipes and make your own.