Who wouldn’t love traditional great tasting pasta that cradles its sauce when your toddler waved it in the air, instead of it splatting onto the plate? Apparently the key is semolina, which adds texture, taste and shape.
Being British, once upon a time I used to believe semolina was just gloopy porridge-like milk mass ladled into bad school dinners and finished by a dollop of coloured industrial syrup. I was finally put right on what exactly semolina is during a 1-day Italian cookery workshop in Abruzzo, hosted at the friendly organic Casale Centurione, (restaurant and B&B) in Mannopello Abruzzo with some great views out to Italy’s mother mountain, the Majella.
My very useful getting-to-grips-with-pasta lesson was provided by Lorisa & Guilia from the Casale, Abruzzo4Foodies’ Emiliana and over from NY the Italian-American cook, Michelle Capobianco. They all provided expert tips, and I loved Michelle’s injection of wonderful New York humour to accompany each part, such banter and refusal to be overly earnest is often an overlooked commodity on some of the cooking courses I have attended! Anyone in the NY area looking for Italian home catering or for authentic regional and Italian cookery lessons should stop by her website Majella Home Cooking.
Back to semolina, imagine visiting the beach and trying to make a sandcastle out of the super fine sand…it’s the same with making pasta; if you want it to keep its shape, hold together and have bite you need this pale yellow durum wheat flour that is granulated rather than dusted. Depending on the delicacy of your sauce you add more or less semolina to your pasta dough, this is what makes it porous and clings to your sauce, rather than the slip & slide affect.
- 3 large eggs
- 200g 0 flour, look for Durum flour if this is unavailable locally buy 00 but it will be a softer pasta – see here for a flour guide
- 150 g Semolina Flour
- Of course you can do this the traditional way like we were taught, making a well in the centre of your sieved flour and with a fork working the flour slowly into your well, but it is quicker to use a food processor for the beginning part so...
- Add all you ingredients into the food processor until you have fine breadcrumbs.
- Put your breadcrumbs onto a clean table, form into a lump and begin to knead the dough. Because this is a hardy pasta it is going to take quite a bit of kneading to get the gluten going which is what holds your pasta together. Great therapy! You’ll know when it’s ready as this traditional southern Italian pasta dough will no longer be rough but silky smooth.
- Like after any good massage, leave it to rest! Ideally covered in clingfilm for a minimum of half an hour.
- Cut into pieces and roll out. Again this is a hardy Grandma-style pasta, it can take a bit of rolling and end up looking like something that resembles vellum with the same wrinkly edges...
- You can put this through all the settings of the pasta machine or alternatively if you don’t have one, you can continue rolling it, folding it and rolling it till it’s skinny (2mm or ⅛ inch thick). Fold your pasta over into thirds and cut it and then re-cut it into strips for tagliatelle (tagliare meaning cut in Italian) or using your favourite cutter on your pasta machine.
- We used a chitarra to cut the pasta on our cookery day, which is Abruzzo’s transportable pasta maker that is named after a guitar from its strings that cut the pasta. Once cut dust it into flour, cover with a tea towel.
- This traditional egg pasta is perfect with ragu, and for smoother sauces like alla Trappettara, a rich cherry tomato sugo with olive paste and a little chilli that we made on our Abruzzo cook-in, or my son’s favourite a chunky walnut pesto.
For more details on 1-Day Italian & Abruzzese Cookery Days in Italy and New York
- Casale Centurione – A Manopello based (province Pescara) 6 room B& B & organic restaurant run by Giulia Scappaticcio and her extended family
- Abruzzo4Foodies, 1-day English language food and wine tours in Guardriagele and Ortona conducted by Emiliana Dell’Arciprete
- Majella Home Cooking (New York) – Italian home catering company in Queens NY run by Michelle Capobianco and gives Italian cookery lessons on request
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