Tuesday, April 19, 2022

Nettle Powder Pasta Revisited

For the last few years I’ve made paglia e fieno (“straw & hay’) pasta (here) for Easter dinner. I used 2 grams of stinging nettle powder (here) to make the green pasta. This year I wondered: how many nettle leaves do I need to pick to make 2 grams of nettle powder? Answer: between 15 to 20 young leaves.

When foraging for nettles, I carefully snip off the top third of young, medium-sized plants. I wash the nettles to remove any grit and insects, cut the leaves from the stems, and then gently pat the leaves dry before placing them in a dehydrator for 8 to 9 hours at 95°F/35°C.


This year I rolled my pasta with a mattarello (here). I used 100 grams of Central Milling 00 Normal flour, a medium egg and 2 grams of nettle powder to make the green pasta and the same amount of flour and egg to make the yellow. I found the green pasta a bit harder to roll out than the yellow, so next time I might play around with the green’s ingredients.


Things will be quiet here at A Serious Bunburyist for a while as my wife and I move. I packed up all my pasta gear and hundreds (and hundreds) of cookbooks. Stay tuned for new posts, hopefully soon.

Friday, January 28, 2022

Bronze Pasta Dies Revisited

I recently corrected a couple of my old blog posts that focus on bronze pasta dies, specifically dies that work in Bottene’s Torchio Model B manual pasta press. Here’s why. 

Back in 2011, I contacted Emiliomiti (here) to inquire whether it sold additional dies for a Bottene Torchio Model B that I purchased in 2010. My Model B came with two dies, one to make bigoli and another for gargati. Emiliomiti replied that although it occasionally receives different dies made specifically for the Model B, heavier bronze dies made for an electric extruder should also work in my hand cranked torchio. To test this out I purchased a No. 464 Casarecce die (here) and—yes—the die worked perfectly in my torchio.


In my 2011 post about this experiment, I wrote that this No. 464 die was designed for La Monferrina’s Dolly electric extruder. In fact, the die I received was designed for Bottene’s Lillo electric extruder and not the Dolly.

With hindsight, this makes perfect sense because Bottene makes both the electric Lillo extruder and manual Torchio Model B handpress (and not the Dolly). I should have picked up on this sooner because back in 2017 I bought a No. 171 ridged macaroni die (here) that didn’t quite fit my torchio. I know now that I inadvertently received a Dolly-compatible die instead of a Lillo die. No big deal: Emiliomiti replaced the Dolly die with a Lillo/Torchio Model B-compatible die.


All this die information came to light this January 2022 when I spoke to Emiliomiti about buying an electric extruder. I’m looking at La Monferrina’s Dolly III and Bottene’s Lillo Due. I learned that one benefit of buying the Lillo Due is that this electric extruder can use certain dies that that I already own and use in my Torchio Model B, specifically any die that has a round hole drilled into its back like the die picture below.

This hole seats the Lillo’s motor-driven auger. A Torchio Model B die that does not have a similar hole drilled out in the die's back will not work in the Lillo even though the die works in the Torchio Model B.

Simply stated, Bottene made it possible to use any Lillo die in its Torchio Model B, but not every Torchio Model B die will work in a Lillo.  Finally, dies made for La Monferrina’s Dolly extruders will not fit in either the Lillo Due or the Torchio Model B. The face of a Dolly die is too wide to seat properly in Bottene's Lillo and Torchio Model B die holders.

Wednesday, December 15, 2021

Pasticcini di mandorle

Let’s finish off 2021 on a sweet note. The recipe for these soft, chewy almond cookies comes from Rachel Roddy’s outstanding first cookbook, Five Quarters (2015). She also covered pasticcini di mandorle way back in 2010 on her food blog, Rachel Eats.


These pasticcini di mandorle contain only four ingredients: ground almonds, icing (aka powdered) sugar, lemon zest and egg. Roddy sampled the cookies while in Sicily, although versions exist across Italy. Carol Field’s The Italian Baker (1985, 2011) has a similar cookie recipe that hails from the Italian Alps. Bolle di neve (“Snowballs”) contain ground candied orange peel instead of lemon zest and egg whites in place of whole egg, but otherwise these Alpine and Sicilian cookies are kissing cousins. 


Here’s Roddy’s pasticcini di mandorle recipe, which makes 15 to 20 cookies.


350g ground almonds

200g icing sugar, plus extra for dusting

grated zest of 1 large unwaxed lemon

2 eggs, gently beaten with a fork


Preheat the oven to 180°C/160°C fan/gas mark 4 and line a baking tray with baking parchment. Mix the ground almonds, icing sugar and lemon zest in a large bowl. Add the beaten eggs and, using a fork or your fingers, bring the mixture together to form a soft, sticky dough.


Dust your hands with icing sugar and scoop out a walnut-sized lump of dough, then gently shape and roll it between your palms into a ball. Dust the ball with more icing sugar and put it on the baking tray. Continue until you have used up all the mixture. Make an indentation in the centre of each ball with your finger so that they cook evenly.


Bake for about 20 minutes, or until golden brown underneath and cracked, crisp and very pale gold on top. Transfer to a wire rack and allow to cool. They will keep in an airtight tin for up to a month.


I converted 180°C/gas mark 4 to 350°F and baked without issue. Roddy writes that the “mixture will spread from walnut-sized balls into 5-cm biscuits, so space them out accordingly….” The photo of pasticcini di mandorle in Five Quarters definitely look flatter than my bake, but I sort of like the looks of the rounder version better. I used Bob’s Red Mill super-fine almond flour, so maybe that accounts for the difference. Or I didn’t shape gently enough? Or…who knows.


Make sure you follow the recipe and dust your hands with powdered sugar to roll the cookies. This dough is so incredibly sticky! But employing a little powdered sugar takes the fight right out of the dough.


Wishing everyone A Merry Christmas and A Happy New Year. Fingers crossed that 2022 turns out better than the last few years.