Until I came down to Puglia to live pasta to me came in packets from the supermarket and whilst I had seen pasta makers in the shops they looked complicated and seemed to require a certain amount of effort. The first Sunday lunch we went to at an Italian family house opened my eyes to pasta. Let’s just have a quick look at an Italian sunday lunch , certainly the way it is done down here in Puglia. Italian women tend to buy packet pasta all week but on Sunday most will make their own. The lunch almost always follows a similar pattern. A ragu is made that consists of a tomato sauce with small chunks of meat in it to provide extra flavour. The ragu without the meat is poured over a homemade pasta and served with cheese. Freezer stored red hot chillies are placed on the table for everyone to take and cut over the dish if they want. I always do as do most of the men but few if any of the women do. Once this dish is eaten the meat from the ragu is put into the same bowl and you polish that off. Those bowls are removed and plates placed on the table and another meat only dish is served having either been cooked on the hot embers in the main fireplace in winter or in the outside oven in the summer.
Okay so this first lunch we actually managed to get there early and Rosa was busy making the pasta so I watched and learnt. It seemed easy certainly until she then turned the rolled pasta into ear shaped orecchiette . I haven’t managed them as yet but this is how I make her pasta recipe at my place. It is in long strips but everyone calls lasagne here.
So you need 100grams of semolina flour or durum wheat flour per person and you shape it on a pastry board or table so it looks like a volcano .
Then break an egg into the middle of it
Easy isn’t it. Now scramble the egg in the volcano with a fork
Get a jug of lukewarm water ready . toss the fork and start to mix in the flour volcano with the scrambled egg with your fingers.
Now once the egg is used up add water to the mix to keep it moist and not too sticky. You will gradually form a ball by adding water to the mix and then flour as needed. If you overdose with the water add more flour and vice versa. You want to end up with a non sticky ball that you can knead.
Now knead away for 15 mins bashing the life out of it. All those frustrations , all that pent up anger, press, bash, press, bash, feel the tension leave you. Boy it’s good and while you are doing that how about a film clip on pasta from The Goodfellas
So once your 15 mins is over you need to gift wrap it in cling-film and pop it in the fridge for 15mins.
This gives you time to scrape the pasta gunk off the board and pour a glass of wine . The hard part is over it’s downhill from now on in.
Here is how not to strain pasta
Don’t you love the machine in his office as well. I never used a tennis racket for spaghetti but in my first London flat we did try to whack the mice with them without success.
So now cut the ball into slices
Take the slice and roll it flat until you can still turn it over without it tearing.
Now you place the strips on a tray making sure not to jumble them up and once the salted water is boiling pour them in and cook for a few minutes until al dente. Drain, pour on your ragu sauce and serve. Really easy and it tastes so much better than packet.
And so to the best spaghetti clip and my sister’s favourite film when she was young ( very very young I hasten to add).
Most recipes in the UK and North America call for loads of eggs and no water. This is much easier and much less filling and is certainly authentic Pugliese.
Buon appetito !