Sunday, December 5, 2010

Maccarones Inferrettati

This is the fourth in a series of posts on making fresh pasta. Using Oretta Zanini De Vita’s Encyclopedia of Pasta [2009] as our guide, we examined pappardelle, toppe and cavatelli. To make these shapes we enlisted the help of some simple household pasta machines. We now put away the machines and take up the knitting needles. Maccarones inferrettati is a short, tubular pasta that is made by rolling a small piece of dough on a thin wooden stick (such as a knitting needle), a piece of metal (such as an umbrella rib or bicycle spoke) or, historically, a narrow plant reed.

Zanini De Vita categorizes maccarones inferrettati as a Sardinian version of a type of pasta called fusilli. Fusilli is a tubular form with roots in Sicily and Sardinia where the practice of shaping dough on a thin reed arrived with the Arabs. This pasta making technique spread through the south and center of Italy where a host of different fusilli variations now exist. These pastas are made with durum or tipo 00 flour (or a combination of both) with or without eggs. Some versions begin with a small piece of dough, others with a thin strip of pasta. Whatever the starting point or final shape, the shared characteristic of these tubular forms is that they are all made using a long, thin tool. Blacksmiths used to create these utensils called ferretti. Although you can still find fusilli irons for sale today, wooden knitting needles have become the tool of choice.

The key to making any number of the pastas in Zanini De Vita’s outstanding treatise is having a suitable dough recipe. The following dough is easy to roll and to work with using a wooden knitting needle. This recipe makes approximately 450 grams of dough.
  • 200 grams Extra Fancy durum flour
  • 100 grams tipo 00 flour
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Approximately 6 to 7 tablespoons water
  • Salt

1) Weigh out each flour, mix them together and then sift the combined flour into a large mixing bowl.

2) Make a well in the flour and crack the egg into the well. Add the olive oil and salt. Beat the egg mixture with a fork and incorporate the beaten egg mixture into the flour with the fork until the eggs disappear and a crumbly mixture forms.

3) Clean the dough off of your fork and add this dough to the bowl.

4) Holding the bowl with one hand, reach into the bowl with your other hand and continue to mix the dough by hand. In small increments, add the water to incorporate all of the flour in the bowl into a rough dough that holds together.

5) Turn your dough onto a clean work surface. Wash your hands to remove any dough before kneading.

6) If necessary, lightly dust your work surface. Knead the dough for approximately 5 to 6 minutes until the dough is smooth.

7) Lightly flour the dough and wrap it in plastic. Let the dough rest at room temperature for ½ hour.

8) Unwrap the dough. Cut the dough into equal eights. Remove one piece to roll and cover the remaining pieces to prevent the dough from drying out. Make sure the pieces are not touching one another or they may stick together.

9) Make sure your work surface is clean and free of any trace of flour. (Flour takes away the tack necessary to roll the dough.) With your hands, roll the piece of dough to form a rope the thickness of a cigarette. Cut the rolled pasta into ½-inch long pieces.

10) Place a piece of pasta on your work surface. Lower the middle portion of a 2.0 mm/ 20 cm /No. 0 knitting needle down into the center of the pasta. With your fingers, gently roll the dough forward so that the pasta wraps itself around the knitting needle. (Pressing down too hard while rolling increases the chance of the pasta sticking to the knitting needle.) Gently roll the pasta back and forth on the needle until the pasta is approximately 3-inches long. Slide the pasta off the knitting needle.

11) Repeat until all of the pasta is shaped. Lightly dust the pasta with flour and spread out on a lightly floured surface. Let the pasta dry for at least one hour before cooking so that the pasta’s hollow center doesn’t collapse during cooking.

12) Cook the maccarones inferrettati in a large pot full of salty, boiling water. When you add the pasta, the boil may slow or disappear. Mix the pasta in the water to help prevent the pasta from sticking together. After the water has returned to a full boil for approximately 3 to 4 minutes, start testing the pasta. It is ready when it loses its raw taste yet is still firm to the bite. Drain the pasta into a colander and shake the colander to remove excess water. Add the pasta into your ready sauce and cook the two together for a minute or two.

Zanini De Vita writes that fusilli-type pastas, including maccarones inferrettati, are “generally served as pastasciutta with a piquant ragù especially of lamb or pork, but also with vegetable-based sauces, and plenty of grated local pecorino.” Pastasciutta is pasta served with a sauce as opposed to pasta served in a broth or soup.