Two summers ago yer man and I went to Italy with our friends Colm and Eilish. We stayed in a villa in Emilia Romagna for a week. It was a beautiful location… Very rural, surrounded by vineyards and trattorias and with our own, private swimming pool. The plan was to laze in the sun all day supping on cocktails and having the occasional dip in the water, before taking our glowing selves into town to sit among locals in the warm squares watching the sun go down.
The reality… It rained for the entire week. We swam once, during a gap in showers. We couldn’t fit into the restaurants because the locals were taking shelter, and I’m pretty sure the villa was haunted.
However, we did do a pasta-making course! We contacted Gabriella, who has a cookery school in the local hotel, and she was happy to entertain us for the day. She taught us how to make pasta from scratch, and lots of different sauces and ravioli fillings. Afterwards, she served it all up to us in her restaurant with a different bottle of wine or lambrusco paired for each dish. It was brilliant! She was great fun, the food was delicious and we learnt loads.
The following day, I bought a pasta machine in the local market. You could make pasta using a rolling pin, but I think it’s much easier using the machine. We picked ours up for about €40, and it was definitely worth it.
I rarely buy dried pasta anymore. Making fresh pasta is time consuming, but it freezes really well and can be cooked straight from frozen. Gabriella informed us that even the top restaurants in Italy spend one day a week making pasta, and then they use that up from the freezer in the subsequent days.
I made tagliatelle this time, but it’s the same recipe for lasagne sheets, spaghetti, ravioli etc. You always do 100g flour for each egg. I find it hard to knead if I do bigger quantities than below, but go for it if you’re feeling adventurous!
Serves 6 (main course)
- 300g flour (‘tipo 00’ if possible. Otherwise, plain flour is fine)
- 3 fresh, free-range eggs
- Pour the flour into a big metal bowl, make a well in the centre and drop the eggs into the middle
- Put your fingers in the middle of the eggs and combine them, gradually circle your fingers (and the eggs) around the inside of the well, gathering more and more flour as you go, until all of the flour and eggs are combined. When it has come together as a rough dough, turn it out onto a floured surface (wood if possible*)
- Knead the dough vigorously for at least 10 minutes. Gabriella says the pressure should come from the shoulders, not the wrists or elbows
- When it is ready, it should be very, very smooth
- Wrap it in cling film and put it in the fridge for at least 30 minutes
- After 30 minutes, remove it from the fridge and cut off a chunk. Make sure that you wrap the rest of the dough back in cling film and put it in the fridge so it doesn’t dry out
- Feed the dough into the pasta machine on the lowest setting (0)
- Keep adding the dough to the machine, turning up the setting every time (you may need to cut it, if it gets too long)
- When you have reached the desired thinness, put it through the cutting part of the machine
- Hang the tagliatelle out to dry. It is important to separate the strands, or they stick together. I hang it on the clothes dryer usually, but it was occupied this time, so I used the backs of some kitchen chairs
- Use immediately, or freeze in batches
*A few years ago, the Italian government banned the use of wooden surfaces in professional Italian kitchens. After a while, the chefs realised that they could not achieve the same pasta results on stone and metal surfaces, so the government back-tracked and allowed the use of wood again… Food always wins in Italy.