Sunday, February 10, 2013

Gramigna



Gramigna, like toppe (here), traditionally contains a blend of durum-wheat flour, type 00 flour and eggs. In her Encyclopedia of Pasta [2009], Oretta Zanini De Vita writes that you find the fresh version of gramigna (“little weeds” in Italian) in Emilia-Romagna and in its neighboring regions of the Marche and Friuli-Venezia Giulia. Outside of Italy, the small, sprout-like shape rarely appears as fresh pasta. Even finding the dry, factory made version can prove difficult here in the states. Why seek it out? The shape has an affinity with its traditional sauce—a sausage ragù—and makes a unique and deeply comforting dish. As Lynne Rossetto Kasper writes in The Splendid Table [1992], gramigna is “Emilian coming-home-to-mother food.” Who wouldn’t want to eat Bolognese comfort food?

Like many Italian pasta shapes, gramigna evolved over time. The earliest homemade version was shaped by rubbing a hard dough over a large-hole grater. Graters gave way to home pasta presses mounted on walls or tables. When extruded, the fresh homemade and dry factory versions look similar, but expect the homemade pasta to look less uniform.


Luckily, making fresh gramigna at home is remarkably easy with a torchio or other type of pasta extruder. The bronze die does all the tricky work of creating a thin, curvy tube. Emiliomiti (here) in San Francisco sells a number of gramigna dies; I use No. 138. The only real secret to making gramigna in a torchio—like most extruded shapes—lies with the dough: it must be dry or the gramigna will stick to each other when extruded and cut.

The following dough represents somewhat of a departure from other torchio dough recipes I have shared on this site. The ratio of flour to liquid for my gramigna dough is 2 to 1. This mixture starts out extremely dry and I only knead the dough for 20 seconds or so. The approach in a nutshell: mix the flour and eggs together and wrap the dough in plastic wrap to hydrate for approximately an hour. Here are the ingredients and a detailed description of the process that I use to make gramigna in a torchio.

150 grams Caputo tipo 00 flour
50 grams Giusto Extra Fancy durum flour
100 grams of a beaten egg mixture comprised of 1 medium egg and 2 medium egg yolks

1) Weigh out the flour and sift into a heavy mixing bowl.

2) Place a cup on a scale and tare the scale. Crack and add the whole egg and two egg yolks into the cup. If the eggs weigh less than 100 grams, add egg whites or water to reach a weight of 100 grams. Remove the cup from the scale and mix to blend the whole egg and egg yolks (and water, if using).

3) Make a well in the flour and add 100 grams of the egg mixture. Incorporate the mixture into the flour with the fork until a crumbly mixture forms. Clean the dough off your fork and add it 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. The goal is to incorporate all of the flour in the bowl into a rough dough that holds together. (If this mixture remains too dry and will not come together, add a quick spritz or two of water from a spray bottle.)

5) Turn your dough onto a clean work surface. Knead the dough a couple of times and tightly wrap the dough in plastic wrap. Let the dough rest at room temperature for about 1 hour.

6) Attach your torchio to a work surface and insert your gramigna die. Unwrap the dough and lightly dust it with flour. Roll the dough into a thick cylinder and slide this into the torchio’s chamber. Insert the torchio’s piston into the machine’s chamber and turn the torchio’s handle until the pasta extrudes from the die. (Don’t be surprised by the amount of effort necessary to operate the press. The dough that travels through the bronze die is hard and dry.) Cut the gramigna into approximately 1½-inch long pieces and place on a baking tray covered with semolina flour. Continue turning and cutting until the dough runs out. You will have enough pasta to serve 4 as a starter or 2 to 3 as a main course.

To cook the pasta, bring a large pot of salted water to the boil. Add the fresh gramigna, stir the pasta and when the water returns to the boil, cook for approximately 3 minutes. Taste to determine if the pasta is ready. If so, drain and add the gramigna to your ready sauce, mix the two together and cook the pasta and sauce for a minute or two.


More often than not the sauce accompanying gramigna contains pork sausage. Kasper’s The Splendid Table contains a recipe for Gramigna alla Salsiccia e Vino (Gramigna with Wine-Braised Sausage). Giuliano Bugialli’s Bugialli on Pasta [1988] features a recipe for Gramigna al Sugo di Salsicce (Gramigna with Sausage-flavored Sauce). In The Geometry of Pasta [2010] Jacob Kenedy serves gramigna in a cabbage and sausage sauce made with milk and butter.  The Italian-language La Pasta [2010] from Slow Food Editore includes a recipe from Trattoria da Gianni a la Vécia Bulàgna in Bologna entitled Gramigna al Ragù di Salsiccia (here) that features—surprise—sausage. Vegetarians take heart: Zanini De Vita writes that during the summer the pasta may be cooked directly in a light (sausage-free) tomato sauce.