Thursday, November 14, 2019

6mm Ridged Macaroni Die No. 169

A couple of weeks ago, Emiliomiti had a pasta die sale to celebrate World Pasta Day. I bought a bronze 6mm ridged macaroni die (catalog No. 169) for my Bottene Torchio Model B. Emiliomiti currently offers five different macaroni dies for the torchio with the No. 169 making the smallest pasta of the lot. I picked the No. 169 because its size works particularly well in both soup and sauce.  To my taste, elbow macaroni dressed in a tomato sauce, with or without meat, represents the ultimate in comfort food.

Here in the United States, say “macaroni” and most people, especially kids, will conjure the image of a elbow-shaped pasta that is often served in a thick, orangey cheese sauce. The English-language edition of Oretta Zanini De Vita’s Encyclopedia of Pasta defines maccherone (entry No. 140) as a “[g]eneric term for various types of pasta, both fresh and dry, which are boiled in abundant salted water or in broth.” Zanini De Vita writes:

“The story of maccherone on the Italian peninsula has followed tortuous paths that have not yet been fully charted. Today, the term generically indicates a dry pasta of various sizes made with durum-wheat flour and water. But in the south, the word maccheroni is used for some types of fresh pasta and, even more often, for any dry pasta, long or short, from penne to spaghetti to bucatini. In the north, once dominated by rice and polenta, the word maccheroni is the name of a specific type of pasta, usually tubular, short, and curvilinear, like conchiglie (see entry [No. 61]).”

I christened my new No. 169 die with a dough of 80 grams of Central Milling Organic Type 00 Normal, 35 grams Central Milling Extra Fancy Durum, 1.5 grams fine sea salt, and 65 grams of an egg mixture comprised of 1 whole egg and 1 egg yolk. I used a standing mixer fitted with a paddle to make a dry-ish, clumpy dough that I formed into a long, thin log. I tightly wrapped this dough log in two sheets of plastic and left it to hydrate at room temperature for 30 minutes. I then removed the plastic wrap, loaded the dough into the torchio fitted with the No. 169 die, and cut the pasta after a quarter-turn of the extruder’s handle. (Actually, my wife cut and I turned. When making a diminutive shape, operating a torchio solo is a real pain in the back.)

I look forward to enjoying these 6mm macaroni in lots of different types of pasta sauces and in soups such as sagne e lenticchie. I paired my freshly minted elbows with some leftover braised lamb shoulder, a little of the lamb’s braising liquid and some peas, all finished with a heavy-hand of Parmesan and Pecorino Romano cheese. I can’t wait to try the small macaroni with polpettine in a tomato sauce. True comfort food.

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Pasta Grannies & American Sfoglino

Let’s tip our hats to 2019: I cannot remember when publishers released as many outstanding cookbooks in a calendar year. American Sfoglino by Evan Funke with Katie Parla (Chronicle Books) and Pasta Grannies by Vicky Bennison (Hardie Grant) stand out even in this year’s stellar crop of cookbooks.

Funke, who learned his pasta craft at La Vecchia Scuola Bolognese, presents the lessons of Alessandra Spisni’s Il Manuale Della Sfoglina to an English-language audience. The only thing American about American Sfoglino is Funke; his cookbook is 100% Emilian through and through. Using the thickness of Post-its to help visualize how thick to roll la sfoglina to make tagliatelle (4 Post-its), strozzapreti (7 Post-its) and lasagna (9 Post-its) is a great idea. Let’s face it: Trying to teach someone how to roll out a thin sheet of pasta with a mattarello is no simple task. But Eric Wolfinger’s photographs make the challenge much easier. So if you want to learn how to roll la sfoglina with a mattarello and then make a host of classic Bolognese pasta dishes, then buy American Sfoglino. What a beautiful book!

Pasta Grannies belongs on the bookshelf of everyone who loves to make and eat pasta. If you are not familiar with Vicky Bennison’s project, type “Pasta Grannies YouTube videos” into your web browser and check out the growing collection of instructional videos. Pasta Grannies documents these incredible Italian makers thus preserving regional pasta traditions that might otherwise fade away through the passage of time. What differentiates Bennison’s Pasta Grannies project from other efforts to memorialize la cucina della nonna (e.g., Carol Field’s 1997 In Nonna’s Kitchen: Recipes and Traditions from Italy’s Grandmothers) is that Bennison’s videos bring the unique talents and personalities of these amazing women to life. I admit that I wondered if Bennison’s cookbook would capture the on-screen charm of her Pasta Grannies. It does! I like that, with a modicum of effort, you can find Bennison’s video of a Grannie making a dish featured in the cookbook. O brave new world…