Sunday, April 24, 2011

Tajarin


This is the fifth post in a series on making fresh pasta. Using Oretta Zanini De Vita’s Encyclopedia of Pasta [2009] as our guide, we examined pappardelle, toppe, cavatelli and maccarones inferrettati. Each of these shapes introduced a different dough or pasta making technique. I planned on ending this series with agnolotti, the magnificent Piedmontese filled pasta. But, logically, we should first explore another Piedmontese pasta, tajarin. Many agnolotti recipes use tajarin’s rich dough. Making tajarin also allows us to reference a wonderful Italian regional cookbook by Luciano De Giacomi entitled Nonna Genia’s Classic Langhe Cookbook [2007].


Tajarin is the Piedmontese dialect’s name for tagliarini, a thin, flat noodle. Although it can be made with whole eggs, tajarin is often created only with egg yolks. Zanini De Vita writes: “[t]he standard formula of one egg per 100 grams (3½ ounces) of flour is regarded with disdain by Piedmontese gastronomes: whole eggs or even just the yolks are added with abandon, twenty yolks and more per kilo of flour.” Yes, with abandon and perhaps with a bit of one-upmanship among epicures. In Made in Italy [2007] Giorgio Locatelli writes about an egg dough that he made with 52 yolks to a kilogram (approximately 35 ounces) of flour.

It is unlikely that you will find this opulent ratio of yolks to flour in a Langhe farmhouse. The tajarin recipe in Nonna Genia’s Classic Langhe Cookbook calls for 4 eggs to 5 cups of flour. Many food experts, including Carlo Petrini, the founder of Slow Food, regard Nonna Genia as “The Bible of Piedmontese Cooking”. So if you choose to make tajarin with only a handful of eggs, you are in good company.

So why make tajarin with copious amounts of egg yolks? Perhaps bravado, but taste is the best reason. Pasta rich in egg yolks has a luxurious taste and texture. Consider that the standard large egg weighing 50 grams has a yolk that contains approximately 4.5 grams of fat. Increasing the number of yolks adds a significant amount of flavor to your pasta dough.


Using only egg yolks also creates brilliantly colored pasta. If you are fortunate to have access to excellent quality fresh eggs, your tajarin dough should be bright yellow or orange.

Making tajarin is not appreciably more difficult to make than a whole egg pasta. Because yolks, like whole eggs, vary in size, you may need to adjust the amount of flour and water that you use to create your dough. I use a local “00” flour because the results taste great and its fineness (thus increased overall surface area) helps to absorb liquid. Here is a recipe to make a little over a pound of tajarin.
  • 300 grams Giusto’s Organic “00” Flour
  • 12 egg yolks from large eggs
  • Water as necessary
  • Salt

The steps to make tajarin are similar to those set out in our examination of pappardelle. Other than using egg yolks in place of whole eggs, the major differences  are how long you knead the dough and how you cut the pasta. I knead tajarin dough for 20 to 30 minutes. This effort produces a noodle with a wonderful, firm bite.


Tajarin is as narrow was pappardelle is wide. After rolling the dough through your home pasta machine’s penultimate setting (No. 6 on an Atlas 150), cut your pasta sheet into three equal pieces. Feed each sheet through a thin (e.g., 2 mm) cutting attachment made for your pasta machine.






Using a pasta machine’s cutting attachment makes quick and easy work of creating noodles. If you are up for a bit of fun (and have the time), you can hand cut your tajarin. After dividing the pasta sheets into three pieces as described above, lightly flour the front and back of a piece and roll it maintaining the sheet’s width. With a very sharp knife, slice this roll into very thin ribbons approximately 1/16” (2 mm) in width. Unfurl and fluff the cut pasta, flour lightly and place on a tea towel. Cover the tajarin with another towel to prevent the pasta from becoming dry and brittle. Producing uniform, hand-cut tajarin takes practice, but, for me, there is something exciting about practicing and trying to perfect this skill.




Zanini De Vita writes that every farm in the Lange has its own recipe for tajarin and an accompanying ragù. A classic sauce for tajarin is “made strictly with chicken and rabbit innards…cooked for a long time on the corner of the stove until it is brownish.” (Note: this type of ragù tastes appreciably better than it sounds.) Nonna Genia’s recipe for tajarin also features a liver sugo. If you do not like offal, consider enjoying your tajarin with another classic sauce: melted butter flavored with fresh sage leaves and freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano.