Sunday, February 6, 2011

Torchio Revisited

This post contains updated die information from January 2022.

The first post on A Serious Bunburyist featured my sturdy Venetian pasta press called a torchio da bigoli or a bigolaro. The press came with two bronze dies: one to create a thick spaghettoni called bigoli and the other to make a ridged, tubular pasta called gargati. Both dies work perfectly with a dough that I make with Extra Fancy durum and all-purpose flour.

Over time I began to wonder if I could find other bronze pasta dies to use in my torchio. An illustration in Giuliano Bugialli’s outstanding cookbook Bugialli on Pasta [1988] gave me hope. The book’s section on regional pasta of the Veneto pictured an antique torchio with multiple dies.

I started my bronze die search by contacting Bottene, the torchio’s Italian manufacturer, but didn't receive a response. I then tried Emiliomiti, a US pasta equipment supplier, from whom I purchased my torchio. Yes, on occasion they receive different dies for the torchio. But more importantly, Emiliomiti discovered that the bronze dies used in an electric Italian pasta press called the Lillo also fit in the torchio.

A willing guinea pig, I ordered die No. 464. After some fieldwork, I am pleased to report that die No. 464 worked perfectly in my torchio.

A little background on die No. 464. Based upon my research, it makes a Southern Italian pasta called casarecce. Caz Hildebrand and Jacob Kenedy’s The Geometry of Pasta [2010] describes the shape: “Casarecce means ‘homemade,’ so it is somewhat ironic that this semolina pasta is industrially produced by extrusion to create an s-shaped section in short lengths of pasta.”

Although commercial producers make dried casarecce using only durum flour, you can make fresh casarecce with a durum and all-purpose flour blend. Why make casarecce? This twisted pasta, which is typically between 1- to 4-inches long, expertly holds a range of sauces. (Hildebrand and Kenedy pair casarecce with an arugula, tomato and onion sauce.)

Here is my recipe to make fresh casarecce in a torchio:
  • 150 grams Giusto’s Extra Fancy durum flour
  • 150 grams Giusto’s Baker’s Choice all-purpose flour
  • 2 large eggs (approximately 63 grams each)
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • Approximately 2 tablespoons cold water
  • Sea salt

Because it is winter and my hens are not laying, I used large, store-bought eggs in place of the smaller, fresh eggs I typically use to make bigoli and gargati. To compensate for the larger eggs I reduced the amount of water in the dough to approximately 2 tablespoons. This dough is hard, which is what you want when making pasta with a torchio.

Since I originally penned this post in early 2011, I have developed a number of different torchio dough recipes that, in truth, I use more often than the one above. My current favorite (circa 2014) calls for 220 grams Central Milling type 00 normal pizza flour, 100 grams Central Milling Beehive malted all-purpose flour, 6 grams kosher salt, and 164 grams of an egg mixture comprised of 104 grams whole eggs, 40 grams egg yolks and 20 grams of water (or use egg whites instead of water). I wrote about this recipe here. My point in sharing an alternative recipe: feel free to experiment. When I work on a new torchio dough recipe, I try to avoid a dough that is too soft or too hard. Note that my latest "house dough" is pretty close to 2 parts flour blend to 1 part egg mixture. Depending upon what I want in terms of pasta texture, I add or subtract liquid. The type of pasta I make and the sauce I want influences my direction.

The Lillo bronze dies are thicker and heavier (and more expensive) than those supplied by Bottene for its torchio. Bottene makes both the electric Lillo and the manual Torchio Model B extruders.