8th of March: International Women’s Day. I am going to make this one the month dedicated to the women in my life publishing posts about them and their lives. I love you all.
In my life I have been lucky enough to meet and love my great grandmother; her name was Amalia. She lived till the age of 99, in her last years she was meticulously looked after by my generous, good-hearted nonna.
Ada, this is my nonna’s name, loves exploring her memories as a child growing up in the 30’s and she clearly remembers that pasta was never missing at my great grandmother’s table. At that time pasta was the main and often the only course of the meal, since the poverty was an everyday issue and flour, olive oil, salt and eggs very available at their house (or even directly produced by the family) most of the times. Therefore pasta represented a good solution: homemade, not expansive, it even filled you up quickly. With the passing of time my nonna has inherited and acquired the knowledge and skills to make the perfect homemade pasta. She is the family’s pasta queen!
These days my nonna uses her wonderful pasta-making skills on important occasions of family gatherings like birthdays, Christmas, Easter. From being the everyday need fresh pasta has now become the symbol of special family celebrations. My nonna is really proud to be the one who keeps the tradition alive and it is clear from her expressions that making fresh pasta really pleases her. Besides, for her it is a sign of caring and affection towards all her family. She also believes it is very healthy, genuine and tasty, so does everyone of us to be honest!
When I think of her making fresh pasta the image that appears in my mind is still: she’s been using the same equipment, same technique, same ingredients, and working in the same spot basically since the day I was born! Seriously. She probably even wears the same clothes! Joking 😉
A typical memory of a pasta based meal at my nonna’s would be a Sunday lunch… I feel loved and a bit spoiled, but I am loving the parmigiano cheese that she is making me grate on my plate on top of the hot pasta, I like seeing all my family around the table chatting, yelling, pretending to watch tv. My favorite is the egg fettuccine with tomato sauce and basil, simple and delicious. I also love when she makes ravioli filled with ricotta cheese and spinach… This Sunday ritual has been with me for my entire childhood and teenage years, today my mum and sister remain faithful to it and me…every time I return to Italy for my holidays I make sure I stop by to say hello to my nonna and nonno for our usual lunch together…not only on a Sunday but every day.
In the history of Italian classic cuisine, egg pasta is definitely a benchmark in the tradition of the most typical and tasty dishes. The origin of pasta cannot be positively defined but we know for sure that Cicerone and Orazio wrote about this preparation over 100 years B.C. In the regional Italian tradition you can find tens of recipes and variations to prepare egg pasta, the one that follows is my nonna’s recipe.
On a worktop form a fountain with the flour to have enough room in the centre to add eggs and other ingredients. Put inside the fountain eggs, oil and salt. Mix well the liquids with a fork till they look creamed. Start adding some of the flour from the rim around keep mixing with a circular movement. When the majority of the flour has been incorporated in the dough start working with your hand to get a smooth mixture. If the dough cannot absorb all the flour get rid of some of it, if on the contrary the dough is too soft or too sticky you can add a bit more flour. Now work the pasta with your hands until you get a smooth and elastic mixture. Form a ball with the mixture and let it rest under a cloth for an hour. When the time’s up the dough is ready to be stretched and cut. When this has been done you can put your pasta on a tray dusted with some flour or semolina until you’re ready to cook it.
For cooking keep in mind the following ratio: 1 liter of water, 100gr of pasta and 10 gr of salt. The ratio between water and pasta is essential to let the starch flour dissolve in the right quantity of water without turning it into a solution saturated with starch that would make the pasta gluey and not digestible. While cooking the pasta you can add some olive oil in the water to prevent the pasta strips from sticking together. Egg pasta has a very short cooking time, only a few minutes depending on the thickness of the pasta.
When it’s nice and ready add it to your favorite sauce: ragù, tomato sauce, or a white cheesy sauce maybe with some pecorino.
My nonna making gnocchi with my mum:
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