Perfecting My Pasta

Cooking this morning a family-owned restaurant in Montefollonico called 13 Gobbi presented an opportunity to refine my pasta-making technique. Under the careful watch of the family nonnas, I cracked neon-yolked eggs into a volcano-shaped mound of flour on a massive, weathered wood cutting board. As I carefully kneaded the eggs into the flour, feeling the sticky dough transform between my fingers, I thought about how many batches of pasta were mixed and rolled on this very board. And, how that pasta was served to countless friends, family members and restaurant guests. Ah, if this board could talk!

There was something quite calming about kneading this dough. I was instructed to put my whole body into it, plating my feet firmly and kneading with my entire upper torso. I leaned into the board, felt my arms move rhythmically as I rolled and folded, pressed and rolled some more. I was focused and so incredibly happy to be in Italy, doing this very thing. It’s a full mind/body sense memory I will never forget.

The nonnas showed us how to roll pici, long hand-rolled thin ropes.

We flattened more dough and cut pappardelle and tagliatelle. Rolling, cutting and eating these fresh noodles gave me a whole new appreciation for the effort that goes into a humble bowl of pasta and, yes, fresh does taste better than dry packaged pasta. It just does. And truthfully, it doesn’t really take that much longer boiling up a box of the dry stuff. Aren’t ten to fifteen additional minutes worth the wow, and the sense of accomplishment?