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 components complementing each other perfectly.

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, you may chop some garlic and chilies, sauté them in a splash of extra virgin olive oil, aka the only kind conservatives approve of, stir in the now cooked and draines pasta, sprinkle parmiggiano on top of it – et voilà: Soul food at its best. And: you will 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 – their names alone are poetry and by all means NOT TO BE OVERCOOKED. Looking at you, Mom. My favourites are paccheri (al pesce spada, mhmhmh), rigatoni and tagliatelle, or Nudelneschdle, noodle nests, as we like to call them.

With many shapes come many shames. No fat shaming, no, but wiht the rise of the low carb movement began the downfall of pasta. As with any food, pasta, too, does no harm consumed in moderation. More importantly, it fills you up quite nicely and hugs you from the inside. A life without pasta is sad. Look at all those health hipsters instagramming their overpriced Quinoabowls whereas I get to munchmunchmunch my bowl of penne for half the price and twice the satisfaction. Not really news: 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 assured me exactly that despite my disbelief. You were right). So here’s to the carbs, here’s to pasta, here’s to the bread to nibble on before dinner is served and to soak up the last bit of sauce from your plate. No sauce to be wasted!

Now that you’re all convinced (if that was necessary in the first place) of the greatness of pasta, it’s about time we make some! Last summer, in Italy, in the back of beyond in a small town called Broccostella, Frosinone, I learned from a real Italian nonna the secrets of pasta-making. First of all, we need the right soundtrack:

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

This is the perfect music because it is a) Italian, b) entertaining, c) easy listening and d) overly dramatic, like the Italians. And e),you can ballet dance through the kitchen, conductiong and tiptoeing and feel like il maestro of music and mangiare. Any Rossini ouverturre will do that for you.

Now we need the following INGREDIENTS:

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

Now the problem was that nonna’s foreign language skills were as bad as my Italian. But since the language of pasta is love, and universal, and with a practical approach and lots of overly dramatic (s. d)) hand gestures involved, we managed. And this is how it goes:

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

Take a fork and whisk the eggs with the flour, afterwards use your hands to knead. Knead knead knead. Stretch and spread the dough with your hands, fold it once, use your thenars to spread it again. Repeat indefinitily. WARNING: You’ll need lots of force and pressure. Pasta (making) is not for the weak. Nur die Harten kommen in Garten. Only the tough can make that stuff. Once you’re convinced there’s no strength for kneading and spreading and stretching left, you may put the dough aside. Sprinkle some flour on a big wooden board. Now we need a mattarello. Which sounds like warfare, like a machine gun rattling, like the angry arrabiata moglia waiting for her marito to dare come home late and drunk again…. So treat her kindly. She’s got a weapon and really strong arms. In our realms, we refer to il mattarello as rolling pin or Nudelholz. So peaceful. Instead of violently, we use our mattarello to carefully drag and stretch the dough even more in all directions. For this, we wrap the dough around the mattarello, place our hands in the middle, apply light pressure and slide our hands slowly in opposite directions, away from each other, towards the ends of the wood. Keep pressing and stretching and stroking the dough towards the outside, basically. Like a cat that wants SERIOUS cuddle, not the cute one. 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, unwriggle them, put them in 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!

Bella Italia

Italia – the land of pasta, vino e tiramisu; of sole mio e la dolce vita. And where I spent most of August 2018. Needless to say, wherever you are in Italy, it is beautiful. At least, wherever I have been so far. Castagneto Carducci, Cecina, San Gimignano, Volterra, Pisa, Napoli, Sorrento and Pompeji for instance have already been on my traveller’s log throughout my life.

This summer, I decided to go south and explore Amalfi Coast, and then back up till Lago di Caldonazzo, and eventually visiting Roma, la città eterna, and, to the east from there, Frosinone.

Four completely different areas, all beautiful in their own ways. And some of those beauties I will share, occasionally. This is a promise.

Until then: ciao, bella italia, o bella ciao ciao ciao with a nostalgia photo sneak peak.


View from Ravello towards to Tyrrhenian Sea, 08/2018.