Ever wonder what goes into making real egg pasta? We were invited to partake of Walks of Italy’s Pasta-Making Class: Cook, Dine & Drink Wine With A Local Chef. Here’s how it went. The scene is Rome.
We gathered at the pickup spot beneath the somber statue of a hooded Giordano Bruno in the center of Campo dei Fiori. Our aspirations were more modest than those of poor friar Bruno, who was burned at the stake right in the middle of what has become a market because his defense of the freedom of thought ticked off the church (and his subsequent martyrdom likely booted the Renaissance into high gear.) We, by contrast, were invited to discover the alchemy of transforming a simple combination of flower, water and eggs into perfect pasta.
Federica of Walks of Italy found us in the shade like the lost and grazing sheep we were and herded us toward a table whereby she grabbed a Broccolo Romanesco and asked us if we knew what it was, then began to explain the seasonal produce available in Rome and why she chose the combination of tomatoes that would go into the puttanesca she’d sauce our noodles with. We were off. With a bang.
Once the particulars of the ingredients were engraved on our minds, we began a meandering journey toward the upper floor apartment where we’d make this perfect pasta on the terrace below a billowing canvas protecting us from the elements. Chef Marco poured some Prosecco, the necessary grease upon which the cogs of great cooking seem to depend.
Then the elements made themselves known. The wind blew. The skies emptied. The gods were not happy.
To appease them, we attacked the work at hand. We each had an egg, some flour and water. Federica would be our chef. If you didn’t know the difference between a chef and a cook, you would learn.
Each of us piled flour onto a board, made it into a big crater with high walls. Then we broke an egg into the crater.
“Watch me!” Federica admonished. Some of us thought we could carry on without further instruction. “Take just a small amount of flour from the wall…Watch me!” Yes, we were raw recruits to this pasta making thing. The boss would whip us into shape. The chef. The chief of the kitchen.
We incorporated the eggs. We would learn how the ball of dough should feel. We let it rest. We flattened it and sent it numerous times through the hand-cranked pasta machine until it was silky, almost sexy. The next step was fascinating.
Each of us was given a Chitarra. Yeah, a contraption like a boxy guitar. We’d take our sheets of pasta and place them on the steel strings and then force them through by running a rolling pin over the sheet of pasta. (Here’s why you need a good Chitarra. You push hard to get the pasta cut into ribbons. A lesser machine would crack up in seconds.)
And if the pasta hangs on to the strings? Well, you just “strum” the strings as if it were a real guitar! Then they drop through, and the slanted bottom allowed you to let the strands of pasta out of the box. Thus fettuccine alla ghitarra:
The rest of our pasta sheets were used to make ravioli.
While we were performing the tasks of the makers of the perfect pasta, Chef Federica coached the coming together of it ingredients for the condiment, the puttanesca sauce that would be melded with our perfect noodles.
Then she married the pasta and the condiment, the spicy sauce of the women of the night. (Be aware that the women of Rome’s night evidently like garlic in their pasta, in Tuscany, not so much…)
In short, we had a great time. We laughed, we got flour all over us, and then we ate what we made.
It was darned good. I was proud.
Over our self-prepared feast, everyone’s noodles lazing in the sauce, we exchanged stories and got to know each other over a glass or two of wine. It made for a great half-day in Rome.
I’m no stranger to making pasta, but you can never seem to amass enough tips that allow you to make it like an Italian grandmother could in her sleep. In fact, if they’d rented Italian grandmothers, I’d take two for dinner parties.
On the other hand, even if you never make pasta at home, it’s still a great experience.
Walks of Italy Pasta-Making Class: Cook, Dine & Drink Wine With A Local Chef.
Rome: Campo dei Fiore
Cost at time of writing
Walks of Italy provided this tour free of charge to us for purposes of review.
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