Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Abbotta Pezziende

The Encyclopedia of Pasta [2009] by Oretta Zanini De Vita contains 310 entries beginning with abbotta pezziende, a short, flat, rhombus-shaped pasta from Italy’s Abruzzo region. To make this shape, use a wooden rolling pin to roll out dough into a sheet of pasta. Then, after wrapping the pasta sheet around the pin, draw a knife down the pin’s length to slice the sheet into a pile of long, multi-layer strips. Cut the pile into narrow strips that measure about 4 cm/1.5-inches in width. With a bias cut, section the narrow strips into diamondesque-shaped pieces and you have abbotta pezziende.

Pictures help illustrate the process.

If you want to make a traditional version of this shape, Zanini De Vita writes that abbotta pezziende contains durum-flour, water and salt. As is the case with most traditional shapes, variations evolve overtime. I found contemporary recipes that call for equal parts durum and soft wheat flour; some of these recipes use whole eggs in place of water. I use a dough made with 100 grams Caputo tipo 00 flour, 100 grams Giusto’s Extra Fancy Durum flour, 2 medium whole eggs and a large pinch of salt. Depending upon the size of the eggs and other variations inherent in making fresh pasta (e.g., temperature, humidity, flour), you may need to add a bit of water to bring the dough together. After kneading for about 10 minutes, I wrap the dough in plastic to rest for about 30 minutes at room temperature.

Abbotta pezziende serves as a great introduction if you want to try making fresh pasta with a rolling pin because the shape is rather on the thick side (about 2mm, which is just a little thicker than a US Quarter). As for the hand rolling of the dough, I use the technique described in Marcella Hazan’s Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking [1992]. Don’t be discouraged if your first efforts fall short of success. Hand rolling pasta takes practice, but, once mastered, becomes a thing of beauty. Case in point, take a look at Eric Wolfinger’s short film of Thomas McNaughton of Flour + Water hand rolling pasta. The Ten Speed Press will publish their yet to be titled cookbook in the fall of 2014. Mark your calendar! (Update: Ten Speed published Flour + Water Pasta in September 2014.)

The one common thread you find when researching abbotta pezziende is its sauce: almost every source suggests dressing the pasta in a simple, soupy tomato sauce flavored with garlic, basil and pecorino cheese. I found variants that add chickpeas, lentils, fava beans and even asparagus. Guanciale occasionally shows up as an ingredient, too.