Pasta & Gnocchi
In Italy we have two main kinds of pasta, one made with flour and eggs, the other with just flour and water. What you call “fresh pasta” in America is made with eggs.
I’m not a great fan of commercially produced fresh pasta. It’s only the word fresh that sells it, but what you’re buying is a lot of water. “Fresh” pasta is 60 percent water; the same pasta dry is only 11 percent water.
If you make your own pasta dough at home, it will be delicious and perfectly safe to use.
Any 60-year-old Italian remembers this soft pasta as something made only at home.
The dough was rolled out by hand into big, very thin sheets. My aunt , who isn’t young anymore, can still roll out by hand a dough made from 16 eggs and 4 pounds of flour – a mixture of regular flour and hard durum wheat flour. And that dough is rolled and rolled until it is very thin.
That’s the secret of good egg pasta – it has to be worked and worked until it is very thin, then cut into narrow noodles (tagliolini or tagliarini) or wider ones (tagliatelle, fettuccine or tagliardi) and cooked in lots of boiling salted water.
Gnocchi might seem like something only a professional chef could master, but the italian style potato dumplings are simple to prepare.
Like many italian dishes , gnocchi have considerable variation in recipes and names across different regions. For example Lombardy and Tuscany malfatti (literally poorly made) are made with ricotta flour and spinach as well as the addition of various other herbs if required. Tuscan gnudi distinctively contains less flour but some varieties are flour-based, like thee Campanian strangolapreti, the Apulian cavatelli the Sardinian malloreddu and so on. Gnocchi are commonly cooked on their own in salted boiling water and then dressed with various sauces depending on the type of gnocchi and recipe used.
Some gnocchi can be made from pieces of cooked polenta or semolina which are spread out to dry, and then layered with cheese and butter and finished in the oven.
TAGLIATELLE WITH SAFFRON
• 2 slices of fresh speck, cut into strips
• 1/2 teaspoon of saffron
• 250 ml of cream
•50 g of butter
• 1 level teaspoon of curry powder
• 250 g of tagliatelle
• 1/2 onion
• 100 g of grated parmesan
(Enough for 3 people)
Prepare a base with the onion and butter.
Add the strips of speck and brown them slightly. When everything is wellmixed, add the cream and continue to mix with a wooden spoon. Then allow it to colour, adding the curry powder, saffron and a few knobs of butter. Add salt to taste (but the speck is already very salty).
Keep the prepared sauce warm.
Cook the pasta in plenty of water with a tiny amount of salt (the quantity depends on the saltiness of the sauce you will have prepared).
Drain the tagliatelle well and flavour them in the cooking pan with the speck sauce. Sprinkle with grated parmesan.
TRADITIONAL POTATO GNOCCHI
(makes about 21/2 cups – 625 ml)
• 10 old potatoes (of the floury kind – about 1 kg)
• 3 heaped dessert spoons of flour
• 2 egg yolks
• 2 knobs of butter
• 2 dessert spoons of olive oil
(Enough for 4 people)
3 dessert spoons of grated parmesan (then what you need to serve dish at table) Sage 1 teaspoon of salt
Put the potatoes into a large saucepan, cover them with cold water, bring to the boil and cook for about 30-40 minutes, or until they are soft.
Peel them and pass them through the vegetable mill. Turn the purée into a bowl and add the flour, the grated cheese and a teaspoon of salt. Work the mixture well with your hands. Add in the egg yolks and keep working the mixture until you get a soft and elastic paste.
Taste and adjust for salt.
Sprinkle a work top with flour. Take the paste and shape it into a ball, pass it through the flour and let it stand on a plate for about 10 minutes. Take small pieces from the dough ball and, with your hands floured, shape out a long narrow roll to cut into little sections. As soon as the gnocchi are made, lay them on a tea towel and sprinkle then lightly with flour.
Set on the flame a large saucepan of salted water with 2 dessert spoonfuls of olive oil and have a colander ready, lying on top of another pan.
Throw the gnocchi 5 or 6 at a time into the boiling water.
When they rise to float, leave them on the surface of the water for another 1- 2 minutes, then gather them gradually with a strainer and put them in the colander. Finally turn them into a very warm oven-proof dish and flavour them with melted butter and sage. They should be eaten sprinkled with a good measure of grated parmesan.