Pasta Making... in the Tuscan Hills

It should be crystal clear by now that I am a pasta fiend.  So much so that I am a walking rendition of pasta. My thighs can be categorized as part of the rigatoni family and my gluteus maximus are definitively classified as raviolo maximo.  Truly, I am what I eat. Yes, I am a Rubenesque kind of woman. I've come to accept that.   If I could, I would eat pasta every day. As a matter of formal record, when I lived in Miami, I did... more exactly, twice a day.  That is how much I adore pasta. So when I learned that I had a wheat, yeast and egg sensitivity I wanted to roll around in some flour one last time.

Fret not my fellow pasta hounds, I did find some great brown rice pastas that I have come to love. So, major pasta eating dilemma solved for when I'm in the U.S.  However, when I am in Italy (or Europe) I don't have any of the wheat, or yeast, issues that I do here in the states. Thanks to our government supporting Monsanto, and harvesters who don't properly pick and process wheat.   (Do NOT get me started...).  

Alas, I digress.  This post is about me making fresh pasta overlooking the Tuscan hills with the owner of the villa where we stayed during our last visit.  I was in my glory, and that pasta back story was essential in setting the tone for just how much glory I was feeling. 

Far warning folks.  This post is chock full of photos as I wanted to take you on a small journey of the breathtaking vistas of that day.  These are just a small smattering of the images we captured but enough to whet your whistle.

 The view hilltop to our villa. No other description necessary.

The view hilltop to our villa. No other description necessary.

Making fresh pasta is not difficult.  It takes but a few ingredients.  And one important one. As with anything you want to turn out well it needs to be stirred with love.  If you rush it or don't take care and time, well then, quite frankly it will suck. But with gentle hands, a smile on your face and love in your heart, it will turn out divine.

Claudia, the owner of the villa, teaches cooking classes.  Due to some family emergencies and time restrictions, we only had a short amount of time for a lesson. So when she gave me a choice of what I wanted to do, I naturally chose pasta making.  Duh! We had just the morning to turn out some fresh pasta that would be served to friends, us included, later that afternoon.  Imagine my sheer joy at the thought of me making pasta for Italians. 

Ingredients

700 grams flour (3 c)
200 grams semolina (.8 c)
8 eggs

Instructions

1. Mix the flour and semolina in a bowl.  
2. Make a hole and crack the eggs in the center.  

3. Then using a fork, slowly work it together into a dough.

4. Knead until all the eggs are absorbed by the dry ingredients. The dough should feel as pliable as the thick part of your hand just below your thumb. If it's too dry then add a teaspoon or two of water.  

 Once all together turn it out onto a board and begin the kneading process.

Once all together turn it out onto a board and begin the kneading process.

 Ours was dry, so we needed to add water.

Ours was dry, so we needed to add water.

5. Wrap it in plastic wrap and let it rest for 15 minutes.  

6. Cut small pieces, flatten with your hand and place through a pasta machine on the first turn.  

 Claudia showing me how it's done.

Claudia showing me how it's done.

 You... beginner luck!

You... beginner luck!

7. Then pass it through again on the second notch.  You will have a smooth swath of noodle.

8. Let the pasta sheets dry, preferably under the Tuscan sun, or just on a towel in your kitchen or dining room table.  

 These long doughy strips are like me, basking under the Tuscan sun.

These long doughy strips are like me, basking under the Tuscan sun.

9. Once dry, cut them into spaghetti or fettuccine or as I did, into tagliatelle.   

 Cutting the pasta intro strips.

Cutting the pasta intro strips.

10. As with any fresh pasta, it takes but a few minutes to cook in salted boiling water.

They looked so beautiful. I must admit that I was tickled pasta pink with how they turned out.  

We tossed these long, luscious beauties with fresh pesto.  Oh, the taste of the basil in Italy... Oh, the taste of everything in Italy!

 Lots of zucchini

Lots of zucchini

When in Italy, pasta is the primo piatto, which is the dish after antipasto and before the secondo piatto, or second/main plate. So when Claudia showed me her marble sink full of zucchini, I was quick to jump in and tackle them. (Can you believe it!? Once again I was faced with the dilemma of what to do with the ubiquitous zucchini.)  It was no time for cooking as the day was hot and we had plenty else going on.  A few nights earlier I enjoyed a raw zucchini dish, so I decided to prepare one similar to that.  This was my version of zucchini crudo with shaved parm and mint oil. (I promise there will be a future post on my new summertime favorite.)

 My version of raw zucchini.  It was a big hit.

My version of raw zucchini.  It was a big hit.

 The simplest of dishes; cannelini beans dressed with garlic cloves and olive oil.

The simplest of dishes; cannelini beans dressed with garlic cloves and olive oil.

There is a way a life in Italy that imparts a sense of what is truly important. It's not about work. It's not about rushing. It's not about what you have or don't.  It's about breathing in life.  All of it. The landscape. The people. The food. The moment. That afternoon was one of the most treasured gifts of our trip.  What an enormous honor it was to not just share a meal with the family but help to prepare it.  I was in my element. I was in my glory; cooking, setting the table and relishing in the genuine joy of spending time with interesting people who appreciate the simple pleasures of life. We devoured it all; the food, the company...  the view.  Take the journey with us and breath in the calm that is Tuscany.

 On the hilltop above our villa.  See the yellow house on the bottom left? That's where I made pasta.

On the hilltop above our villa.  See the yellow house on the bottom left? That's where I made pasta.

 I could get used to this... Will you come visit if we move there???

I could get used to this... Will you come visit if we move there???

 Dry cured meats for antipasto.

Dry cured meats for antipasto.

 Il primo piatto and the star of the lunch, if I do say so myself.  As a side note, and an important one.  In Italy, pasta IS consumed daily (just as I did) but in small portions.  That is why it is the primo piatto, a small plate before the main meal.  So eat like an Italian and enjoy your pasta daily, like taking vitamins. That's how I see it!!

Il primo piatto and the star of the lunch, if I do say so myself.  As a side note, and an important one.  In Italy, pasta IS consumed daily (just as I did) but in small portions.  That is why it is the primo piatto, a small plate before the main meal.  So eat like an Italian and enjoy your pasta daily, like taking vitamins. That's how I see it!!

 Braised shanks, fall of the bone good.

Braised shanks, fall of the bone good.

 Cheese plate for dessert.  My favorite kind of after dinner snack!!

Cheese plate for dessert.  My favorite kind of after dinner snack!!

 I kid you not, these strawberries' flavor were as bright as their glorious color.

I kid you not, these strawberries' flavor were as bright as their glorious color.

In the end, all the food was thoroughly enjoyed. Imagine my sheer joy when all my pasta and the zucchini was polished off.  Remember my glory?  Well, I was truly in it, and I think I had some accomplices. 

 Paola, our friend Tecla's dad. Who was also our guide and host.

Paola, our friend Tecla's dad. Who was also our guide and host.

 Nothin' left

Nothin' left

 JC, under the Tuscan sun

JC, under the Tuscan sun

 No matter where you look, there is beauty.

No matter where you look, there is beauty.

Since traveling to Italy may not be possible, hopefully these images whisked you away for a moment. If you can, take the trip. If you can't then I would highly recommend making your own fresh pasta at least once in a Tuscan moon.  I recognize that our lives are busy and this method is best played when overlooking rolling hills and valleys of the greenest countryside.  But when you do have the time, do it. You won't regret it.   It will carry you away to a time long ago when we all had more time to make things truly from scratch.  It will transport you to another land, where the air will make you feel alive and grateful.  Yes, pasta can do all that, and more.