madonna del piatto

Italian family cooking


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the antimafia and other very good pasta

anelletti pasta

bronze drawn anelletti pasta from Palermo

“GO BUY  ME A KILO PASTA, WILL YOU?????”

This Italy here  is a crazy country and always will be, but important priorities are respected. A good bowl of pasta is  hardly ever refused. So easy,  so good, so comforting. It’s in our genes, in our blood, it’s the mother of foods. Pasta comes first, not for nothing we call it primo.

Eating store-bought dried pasta is so fundamental to Italian life that we have gotten organized. And I don’t mean grandma rolling fettuccine for the kids, I mean industrial amounts.

In Gragnano, South of Naples, artisan pasta makers have been producing high quality pasta for as long as 500 years. Until relatively recent times the whole town was decorated with kilometers of noodles hanging to dry outside the pasta workshops. In the late XIX century the town was even granted the right to open a train station to be able to “export” their product to Northern Italy.

From then on, industrially produced pasta became the cheap and convenient food that by now appears on the tables of a large portion of the world’s population.

If you look for good dried pasta make sure that what you buy  is made with 100% durum wheat semolina, not with tender wheat flour which is used for bread, fresh pasta and general cooking.

To make the pasta, semolina is first mixed in a dough and then extruded through a die -named trafila in Italian –  to obtain the desired shape. Dies are made of teflon or bronze.   Standard pasta is teflon drawn, it’s quite smooth and yellow. High quality pasta is bronze drawn – trafilata al bronzo – and has a lovely powdery surface like that one in the picture above.

The bronze extruder makes the surface of the pasta more porous so that the sauces clings to the uneven surface of it rather than slipping away.

Bronze drawn pasta is widely available in Italy. However, there is one brand, which in our house has been nicknamed the “antimafia”, that sums up all goodness of flavor and thinking.

The Libera organization produces organic bronze-drawn pasta using wheat that is cultivated on estates confiscated from the mafia lords. Volunteer work by young people who believes in future.

So next time you come on holidays you know one more thing about this country.

We have some really good pasta. Sometimes we have some real courage.

antimafia pasta

organic pasta made by the Libera organization


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making fresh pasta: ingredients

FLOUR is a fashionable ingredient nowadays. In the last couple of years a variety of flours has appeared  in Italian food shops, even here in the province!  Manitoba, spelt, rice, barley, chick peas flours. Flour for pizza, flour for flat breads, flour for… you-name-it-it’s-there.

However, the average Italian home cook uses two types of  white flour :

“00” flour :  finely ground, soft-wheat flour, suitable for cakes, pastry and pasta

“0” flour : relatively coarse white flour , suitable for pizza, focaccia and bread

regular Italian white flour

regular Italian white flour

Traditionally fresh pasta is made with “00” flour to obtain  a silky texture and delicate taste.  Durum wheat flour (semolina) is used to make dried pasta like spaghetti, penne, fusilli or homemade orecchiette e cavatelli.

Even though “00” flour might not be available outside Italy, it is still possible to make very good fresh pasta using pastry or cake flour.

Adding different flours will change the taste and texture of the pasta. To avoid disasters, it is better to start with no more than 20% of the new flour.

Fresh pasta made with 100% semolina is chewy and hard to work with.  Pasta dough made with regular baking or “0” flour is often sticky.  The resulting pasta lacks body even when dry and overcooks easily.

In my  family, the only other ingredient used to make pasta is eggs. Fresh organic eggs if possible. And a bit of time. That’s it.

making this beauties is actually quite easy, recipe will follow soon.

making this beauties is actually quite easy, recipe will follow soon.

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