Pasta alla Nonna

Pasta is the best. Period. There’s absolutely no arguing about it. Fuck low carb. Fuck zoodles. Zoodles. I mean come on. I love zucchini. But I want them WITH my pasta not AS my pasta. That’s just not right. Talking about zucchini, why are the Brits the only one calling them courgettes? French cuisine, o là là, bon appétit, mais pourquoi? It’s like their fable for gâteau (pronounced more like ghetto, in the Brummie accent that is. I’m from the Black Forest Ghetto, yo, and please, love, can I have a cuppa with that?). Brits equate French expressions with haute cuisine. Alors, back to topic.

Pasta. An art in itself. Pasta means simplicity and elegance. Pasta is designed to be flawless in its raison d’être – transporting sauce to mouth in the best manner possible. Pasta and sauce is legit the perfect combo. An al dente dream of two lucullian partners complementing each other to perfection.

It’s a bargain. Even expensive pasta is still incredibly cheap. Pasta is easy to obtain, easy to prepare, easy to share. It takes 10-15 minutes to boil and cook some pasta, in the meantime chop some garlic and chilies, sauté them in some olive oil, add the pasta and some parmiggiano et voilà – a simple yet obscenely luscious dinner. Priceless in every single sense. And, as an inevitable rule: you shall always cook too much pasta. And eat it all anyway.

Pasta comes in many shapes. Linguine, fettuccine, orechiette, farfalle, conchiglie, parpadelle, penne rigate, tagliatelle. spaghetti, rigatone, vermicelli and so on and so forth. Their names are pure poetry not to be overcooked.

Alas, pasta was unjustly discredited by the rise of the low carb movement. But, as with any food, pasta in moderation does no harm and more importantly, it fills you up quite nicely. A life without pasta is sad. Look at all those health hipsters instagramming their overpriced Quinoabowls that neither leave them happy nor satisfied whereas I contendly munch on my bowl of penne al tonno for a a quarter of the price and twice as good in taste. Low carb is not about eating healthy. It’s about being skinny. Also: Pasta bellies are the cutest. At least mine is. It’s been a long path till I learned to accept and embrace my little food pouch. And sometimes I forget that it’s actually cute (shout out to all my exes who told me exactly that and I refused to believe. You were right). So here’s to the carbs, to the pasta, to the bread to nibble on before dinner is served and to dip into the last bit of sauce from your plate. No sauce to be wasted!

I guess it’s safe to say that I have successfully established the fact that I love pasta. It’s about time we make some! Last summer, I travelled to Italy, and in the back of beyond in Broccostella, Frosinone, I learned from a real Italian nonna the secrets of making pasta from scratch. For this, we first of all need the right music:

When the phone rang I was in the kitchen, boiling a potful of spaghetti and whistling along with an FM broadcast of the overture to Rossini’s The Thieving Magpie, which has to be the perfect music for cooking pasta. – Haruki Murakami, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle

It’s entertaining and light yet occasionally overly dramatic, and will turn your cooking into a unique, artsy, and epic experience and yourself into a self-assured chef and star of your own cooking show. Dancing and fake conducting are welcome side effects, too. Any Rossini ouverture will do nicely. Really, there’s no better soundtrack.

Then we need the following INGREDIENTS:

400g flour (80% Spätzlemehl, 20% plain white flour) / 4 eggs. Yep, that’s all there is to it.

Now the problem was that nonna’s English (and German) was exactly like my Italian: pretty close to non-existant. But since the language of pasta is universal, and with a practical approach and lots of gesturing involved, I learned the secret of pasta making after all and for your convenience put my experiences into written word and proudly present you with the following INSTRUCTIONS:

Form a flour crate and crack the eggs into the middle/pit.

Take a fork and mix eggs with the flour, then use your hands to knead. Knead knead knead. Kinda spread the dough with your hands, fold it once and use your thenars to spread it again. Repeat indefinitily. WARNING: You’ll need lots of pressure. Pasta making is not for the weak. Nur die Harten kommen in Garten as the German saying goes. Only the tough can make that stuff. After a while, about the time you’re convinced you’ve used up all your strength, put the dough aside and sprinkle some flour on your vintage wooden board. Now a device comes into play that you call rolling pin, in German Nudelholz (literally pasta wood so especially made for that purpose), and which in Italian bears the wonderful name mattarello. Which, if you say it out loud, sounds like a machine gun rattling and thus compasses the famous imagery of the arrabiata housewife threatening to show her up-to-no-good marito who’s really in charge. So treat her kindly. She’s got a weapon and really strong arms from all the kneading. In this scenario however, peacefully use the mattarello to carefully spread the dough in all directions. Roll it up and then place your hands in the middle of the rolling pin, apply a light pressure and move your hands away from each other, all the while pressing and stretching the dough to the outer sides. Repeat indefinitely. Once the dough is thin enough, roll it up once more r e a l l y lightly, then remove the mattarello.

Take a knife and cut slices of 3mm.

Put these squiggly, curly cracknel strings into a bowl and give them a flour shower.

Ta-daa! You’ve made your own pasta!
Now al dente it, serve it with a high-quality truffle pesto, and enjoy!

Buon Appetito!

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