Thursday, December 14, 2023

Best Cookbooks of 2023

I read a lot of 2023 cookbooks. My takeaway: what a great year for Japanese cookbook fans! In alphabetical order, I share my picks for the five best cookbooks of 2023.


Japan: The Vegetarian Cookbook by Nancy Singleton Hachisu (Phaidon)


Love Japan: Recipes from Our Japanese American Kitchen by Sawako Okochi and Aaron Israel with Gabriella Gershenson (Ten Speed Press)


Pasta: The guide to the most loved Italian food by ItaliaSquisita


Rintaro by Sylvan Mishima Brackett with Jessica Battilana (Hardie Grant)


Scandinavian from Scratch: A Love Letter to the Baking of Denmark, Norway, and Sweden by Nichole Accettola with Malena Watrous (Ten Speed Press)


Japan: The Vegetarian Cookbook  When I survey Hachisu’s oeuvre—from Japanese Farm Food to Food Artisans of Japan—it strikes me that she consistently presents simple and refined Japanese food. Japan: The Vegetarian Cookbook treads this same path with dishes distilled to a featured ingredient’s essence. She organizes her latest cookbook into these chapters: Prep; Before the Meal; Dressed; Vinegared; Deep Fried; Steamed & Simmered; Stir-Fried & Grilled; Soup; Pickled & Preserved; and Sweet. Recipes that standout: Spring Cabbage Soup; Yuba and Sesame Salt Nori Rolls; Simmered Turnips with Negi; and (surprise!) Potato Chip Salad with a curry vinaigrette. Phaidon produced a lovely book with beautiful, elegant, wow photographs by Aya Brackett.


Love Japan: Recipes from Our Japanese American Kitchen  Okochi and Israel own a Brooklyn restaurant called Shalom Japan. Love Japan covers the food that they cook for their family, primarily homey Japanese dishes sometimes with a nod to Jewish cuisine (e.g., Rolled Cabbage in Dashi). What a wonderful cookbook! Almost all the recipes tempt, but especially the classic poultry offerings:  Tsukune (Chicken Meatballs); Karaage (Japanese Fried Chicken); and Oyakodon (Chicken and Egg over Rice). The chapter on Sandos covers making Shokupan (Japanese Milk Bread) and then shares recipes for a majestic Veggie Deluxe Sando with Shiso Pesto and for a Tamago Sando. If you want a cookbook on Japanese comfort food enhanced by two chefs, then buy this excellent book.


Pasta: The guide to the most loved Italian food In April 2023 the English-language version of Pasta arrived, so this newly translated cookbook makes this year’s Best Of list. Technically two separate books, entitled Fresh Pasta and Dry Pasta, these paperback volumes fit cheek by jowl in a bright yellow open-sided book sleeve. Pasta contains “more than 100 recipes by the great Italian chefs”. Its publisher, ItaliaSquisita, asks and answers “among the pasta dishes by chefs in Italy today, which are the most interesting and celebrated?”  Pasta presents an Italian pasta masterclass with recipes geared to cooking professionals and advanced makers. The Dry Pasta volume explores some really interesting cooking techniques rarely covered, such as Infusion and Passive Cooking. What’s Passive Cooking? “This technique, also known as ‘off-fire cooking’, has origins as early as 1700 when Benjamin Thompson—one of the founding fathers of the principles of thermodynamics—declared that pasta reached its cooking point not for the water boiling, whilst the more for the continuous heat (between 70 and 80C) it managed to keep for a prolonged amount of time even after reaching a boil.” If this type of knowledge floats your boat, you will love ItaliaSquisita’s Pasta. Yes, this collection is not for everyone, its translation wonky and it’s certainly not cheap at $75.00 (especially for two thin-ish paperbacks), but I’m glad to add it to my cookbook library and recommend it to advanced pasta makers and anyone interested in high-level Italian noodle craft. 



Rintaro Brackett subtitles his restaurant cookbook “Japanese Food from an Izakaya in California”. The Golden State subtly informs rather than transforms the cookbook’s collection of classic Japanese dishes. Rintaro’s recipes mostly play friendly in a home kitchen. Brackett divides his cookbook into ten chapters: Dashi; Sashimi; Dressed Dishes; Tofu and Eggs; Yakitori; Fried Dishes; Simmered Dishes; Rice; Udon; and Desserts. I’d rather Rintaro the restaurant source pristine seafood for sashimi, but I’m game for making Brackett’s udon noodles (and I have, based upon a udon recipe that he shared in Sunset magazine in 2014). I recently wrote about tsukune-inspired meatballs (here). Brackett provides his restaurant’s recipe (which includes skin-on whole chicken legs for the perfect ratio of meat to fat). Finally, I love Rintaro’s fun, bold graphic design and handsome photographs by...Aya Mishima Brackett.



Scandinavian from Scratch: A Love Letter to the Baking of Denmark, Norway, and Sweden  I’m always on the hunt for a great baking book. This year I recommend Nichole Accettola’s Scandinavia from Scratch. Accettola’s book focuses on bakes and smørrebrød from mostly Denmark, but also Norway and Sweden. Don’t expect the breadth of Magnus Nilsson’s epic The Nordic Baking Book (2018) which, in addition to Scandinavia covers Finland and Iceland. Rather, Accettola penned a home-baking friendly book that includes recipes from Kantine, her Scandinavian bakery and café in San Francisco. She divides her book into six main sections: The Cookie Tin; Simple Cakes and Celebration Desserts; Let’s Fika!; Rise and Shine; Rye Bread and Smørrebrød; and Winter Therapy. To my taste, the Simple Cakes and Celebration Desserts chapter stands out with offering like Coconut Dream Cake; Lemon Moon Cake; Blackberry Tosca Cake; and Royal Party Cake. The open-face sandwiches look amazing, too, especially the Egg and Shrimp Smørrebrød. Lovely, clean design and type selection add to the cookbook’s appeal.


For want of diversity, I left Emiko Davies’s Gohan – Everyday Japanese Cooking (Smith Street Books) off the list, but think it a beautiful book and highly recommend it if you want a book on Japanese home cooking. I also enjoyed reading Paul Fehribach’s Midwestern Food (University of Chicago) and share his Chicken and Noodles recipe (here). The Simple Art of Rice by JJ Johnson with Danica Novgorodoff (Flatiron Books) warrants a look. And I like The Food of the Italian Island by the self-proclaimed prolific (and, in the case of this title, self-published) Katie Parla.


And that’s nearly it for 2023. Looking forward to 2024! If I don’t get another post up, here’s to A Merry Christmas and A Healthy and Happy New Year.  

Sunday, December 3, 2023

Pembroke 2021 Soft Red Winter Wheat

Most flour milled for pasta, whether fresh or dried, comes from hard wheat. However, in pasta making, exceptions prove the rule. Certain soft wheat varieties and even seeds (e.g., buckwheat) also make delicious pasta (e.g., Red Russian soft red wheat (here) and buckwheat (here)).

I recently received a large bag of Pembroke 2021 soft red winter wheat from my good friends at the Manley Farm in Lexington, Kentucky. Pembroke 2021 takes its name from the Pembroke silt loam soil series prevalent in the main wheat-producing area of Kentucky. Because regional farmers often grow wheat in rotation with corn and soybean, their wheat and corn crops become susceptible to Fusarium head blight (FHB), a disease that overwinters in corn stubble. Researchers developed Pembroke 2021 to resist FHB yet have high yield potential.


The Manley Farm’s Pembroke 2021 wheat berries make great flour for pasta. I milled 300 grams of Pembroke 2021 in my Komo mill set to fine. I then sifted the ground berries with a No. 40 and No. 50 screen producing approximately 100 grams of flour. I used a medium egg and a little milk to bring the dough together and kneaded by hand for 8 minutes. After resting at room temperature for 30 minutes, the soft wheat dough easily rolled out with a pin with no spring back.


I used my hand-cut noodles to make Chicken and Noodles based upon a recipe in Paul Fehribach’s new cookbook Midwestern Food (2023). The soft noodles had a yielding texture and mild wheat flavor in this homey, comforting dish.


Here’s Fehribach’s recipe that makes between 3 and 4 quarts serving 6 to 8.


1 medium fryer chicken, about 3½ pounds

2 to 3 quarts water

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 large eggs

2 tablespoons whole milk

3 teaspoons kosher salt, divided

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper


1. Rinse the chicken under cold running water in a clean sink. [See note below.] Place in a 4-quart sauce pan or small stock pot and add enough water to just cover. Bring to a boil over high heat, skimming any foam or scum that rises. Once it boils, immediately reduce heat to medium or medium low to maintain a low boil. Cook for 1 hour or more, until the chicken is starting to fall apart. Remove from heat and use a spider to remove the chicken to a platter and allow to cool for a few minutes.


2. While the chicken is cooling, make the egg noodles. Place the flour in a medium mixing bowl, and make a little well in the center big enough to hold the eggs. Crack the eggs into the well, along with the milk and 1 teaspoon of salt. Using a fork, beat the eggs, then gradually begin pulling flour into them little by little. When the mixture becomes too thick to work with a fork, finish mixing with your hands. Continue mixing until all the flour is incorporated, then knead inside the bowl, adding small amounts of flour if need to prevent sticking, for a minute or two until you have a smooth ball. No need to knead any longer than that. Cover with plastic wrap and rest for 15 minutes.


3. On a well-floured surface, roll out the noodles to the desired thickness; about 1/8 inch is usually ideal. Use a pizza cutter to cut them into the desired shape. I usually cut them about ½ inch wide and the full length of the rolled dough. But make them any width and length you like. Leave them liberally floured to prevent sticking while you pull the chicken and finish the broth.


4. Pull the meat from the chicken bones, removing and discarding the skin as well. Shred the chicken with a fork and reserve on a platter. Return the cooked broth to the heat, making sure you have 2 quarts or slightly more. Add a little extra water if needed. Add the remaining 2 teaspoons salt and pepper, and bring to a rolling boil. Drop the noodles in at once and give a quick stir to make sure they don’t clump. Reduce heat to medium low and cover the pot. Steam the noodles for 5 minutes, add the chicken, stir, replace the lid, and steam for 5 more minutes. Remove from heat, stir, and allow to steam off heat, covered, for 10 more minutes. Then serve!


Note: The Food and Drug Administration recommends against washing raw chicken due to the risk of transferring dangerous food-borne pathogens through splashed water. Another warning: even though Fehribach clearly writes “steam the noodles” and not boil the noodles, I advise not turning your back on a covered pot of cooking noodles, even whilst on a medium low heat. The starchy mixture might choose to boil over.


I plan on using home-milled Pembroke 2021 flour to make other pasta shapes suited to a soft wheat dough. Oretta Zanini De Vita’s Encyclopedia of Pasta (2009) offers some suggestions. One piqued my interest: ciriole, a long noodle made with soft flour and water, hand rolled into a sheet, cut into strips that are rolled again by hand to form “long irregular spaghettoni”. Zanini De Vita writes that ciriole, “an old name for a small thin white eel”, is found in Tuscany and Umbria and served with local sauces. In Terni, find the noodles served in a sauce of pioppo mushrooms. Butter-cooked mushrooms, by-the-way, make a delicious additional ingredient in Chicken and Noodles.

Tuesday, November 21, 2023

Tsukune-inspired Chicken Meatballs

This post does a quick dive into the world of Japanese-inspired chicken meatballs. We’ll look at Angie Rito and Scott Tacinelli’s recipe for Mortadella & Chicken Meatballs in Italian American: Red Sauce Classics & New Essentials (2021). Then I’ll share a recipe that I developed incorporating Rito and Tacinelli’s use of a cooked sausage to improve the flavor and texture of a chicken meatball. Definitions first.


In A Dictionary of Japanese Food (1995), Richard Hosking defines tsukune as meatballs. Although associated with chicken, tsukune includes ground or minced fish, fowl or other meat served grilled, simmered or fried.


Even when using wing, thigh or leg meat, chicken meatballs often benefit from additional fat and other ingredients to increase flavor and improve texture. When I make meatballs—whether pork, beef, chicken or shellfish—I typically add a number of ingredients to increase richness, such as finely minced onions sautéed in butter, grated cheese and whole milk. I add breadcrumbs for texture.


Even with these additions, I’ve never made a ground chicken meatball that tasted exceptional. To get better results, I tried incorporating traditional ingredients used in yakatori recipes. For example, Matt Abergel’s tsukune recipe in Chicken and Charcoal (2018) includes minced cartilage from the chicken’s soft breastbone. Other recipes add ground chicken skin (sometimes along with cartilage). In my household, these ingredients and their texture met resistance.


Then I came across Rito and Tacinelli’s tsukune-inspired mixture. Rito and Tacinelli turned chicken meatballs into something exceptional. They introduce their recipe in Italian American like this:


“We developed this dish as part of a special-occasion Japanese-inspired pasta omakase menu, feeling inspired by tsukune, the juicy ground chicken skewers popular as a drinking snack in izakayas. But it was so delicious that we now make these meatballs all the time, mixing ground chicken (ideally dark meat) and mortadella, the Italian-American version of bologna, which adds an extra dose of fat and flavor.”


Here’s their recipe for Mortadella & Chicken Meatballs, which makes about 28 meatballs.


2 cups nickel-sized chunks bread, crust removed (from about half an Italian-style loaf or baguette)

1 cup whole milk

½ pound mortadella, roughly chopped

½ pound ground chicken (preferably dark meat)

3 tablespoons Roasted Garlic Puree (on page 300 of Italian American)

1/3 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

1 tablespoon kosher salt

½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/3 cup thinly sliced scallions, whites only (4 to 6 scallions)

1 large egg


1. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and spray the paper with nonstick cooking spray.


2. In a medium bowl, combine the bread and milk and soak until the bread is thoroughly saturated, about 15 minutes. Squeeze the bread in a clean kitchen towel to wring out as much milk as possible and discard the liquid. You should have about 1¼ cups of wrung bread.


3. Meanwhile, in a food processor, process the mortadella into small pieces, the same size as the ground chicken.


4. In a large bowl, combine the chicken, mortadella, bread, roasted garlic puree, parmesan, salt, black pepper, cayenne, scallion whites, and egg and mix by hand until well incorporated. Form into 1½-inch meatballs (about 2 tablespoons each) and place on the lined baking sheet.


5. Bake the meatballs until golden brown and firm, and a thermometer poked in the center reads 160°F, about 15 minutes.


Leftovers keep, tightly covered in the refrigerator, for up to 3 days.


Now, as delicious as these meatballs are, to my taste, they boarder on being almost...too rich. I’ve made Rito and Tacinelli’s recipe four or five times but now dial back the amount of mortadella. To my palate, the meatballs taste better with less added fat.


This made me wonder: what if, instead of mortadella, I made a chicken meatball kneading in a slightly leaner, lightly smoked, coarsely ground Japanese-style sausage called arabiki? I gave it a try and really liked the result. The pre-cooked arabiki sausage added just enough extra fat and a subtle, smokey flavor. Adding a cooked sausage with an almost crunchy bite to ground chicken also helps with the meatball’s texture.


After a lot of fine tuning, here's my take on a Japanese-inspired tsukune. You’ll see I use a few timesaving shortcuts. Replacing fresh bread with finely ground panko does away with the need to wring out milk-soaked bread with a kitchen towel. And hand-mincing the pre-cooked sausage eliminates the need to use (and clean) a food processor. The finished mixture weighs approximately 325 grams, which I use to form a dozen meatballs weighing about 27 grams each.


40 grams finely minced white onion

15 grams salted butter

pinch Diamond Crystal kosher salt

20 grams panko, finely ground

57.5 grams whole milk

5 grams finely grated Pecorino Romano cheese

5 grams tomato paste

2 grams mushroom seasoning powder

1 gram toasted onion powder

1 gram garlic powder

4 grams Diamond Crystal kosher salt

5 grams white sugar

1 gram ground black pepper

.35 gram yuzu shichimi togarashi

160 grams ground chicken, preferably leg meat

25 grams finely minced arabiki sausage


1. In a small pan, sauté the minced onion in the butter adding a pinch of salt to season. Put the cooked onions into a small bowl. Place the bowl into the freezer to quickly cool.


2. Put the finely ground panko into a medium size bowl and mix in the milk to make a slurry. Add the remaining ingredients. Add the cooled onions to the mixing bowl and knead the mixture by hand until well incorporated. 


3. Take a small amount of the ground chicken mixture and fry in butter or oil to judge for seasoning. If necessary, adjust the mixture by adding salt or sugar to taste.


4. Form the mixture into small meatballs. I keep a small bowl of ice water at hand to help form the approximately 1½-inch meatballs. Place on a small tray or plate, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour (or longer) before cooking. This refrigerator rest improves the meatball’s flavor.


Rito and Tacinelli bake their mortadella and chicken meatballs in an oven. I’ve never tried oven baking meatballs, but I see recipes that suggest this. Usually, I sauté meatballs. However, I’ve cooked these chicken meatballs in other ways (e.g., poached in a tomato sauce for pasta or simmered on top of rice and dashi in a Japanese donabe). I even pre-cook the meatballs by poaching them in chicken stock or dashi and adding the cooked meatballs into my dish of choice, such as an Italian timballo or lasagne. One constant: When using ground chicken, I always use an instant read thermometer to test a cooked meatball to make certain its center reaches 160°F. 

A little information on the ingredients.


I buy this brand of arabiki sausage at a friendly Japanese grocery called Yaoya-San on San Pablo Avenue in El Cerrito, California. Berkeley Bowl West also carries these sausages. (Look for them across from the meat counter.) These lightly smoked pork sausages come pre-cooked and one sausage weighs 25 grams. Yaoya-San also, conveniently, sells ground chicken and all sorts of sliced pork and beef for Japanese dishes like sukiyaki and shabu-shabu.

The recipe for the mushroom seasoning powder comes from Danny Bowien's Mission Vegan (2022). To make a half recipe I blend 21.25 grams dried shiitake mushroom powder; 44 grams MSG; 16 grams Diamond Crystal kosher salt; and 2.5 grams granulated sugar. I use this powder whenever I want to add extra flavor. The mixture keeps for a month or so at a cool room temperature.


Queens-based Burlap & Barrel sells an excellent quality toasted onion powder and garlic powder. It also offers an interesting selection of hard-to-find spices and ingredients. (If you enjoy cooking Indian food, check out their Wild Hing powder.)


And finally, I am truly addicted to the yuzu shichimi togarashi mixture imported by The Japanese Pantry and made by the Yamatsu Tsujita Co. Ltd. located near Osaka, Japan. It’s fantastic to finish ramen, udon and tamagoyaki. It is also delicious on a fried egg sandwich. As I type this post, The Japanese Pantry is out of stock of this blend, but look for it. 

I find these chicken and arabiki sausage meatballs as versatile as they are delicious. If you cannot find arabiki sausages, try the recipe with mortadella à la Rito and Tacinelli. This version tastes rich but not as decadent as a 50/50 mortadella/ground chicken blend. Of course, always feel free to adjust a recipe to your personal preference. 

Saturday, November 11, 2023

Armenian Arsig

I found the two recipe cards pictured above among my mother’s cookbooks.

I asked my mom about these recipes written out by her sister. My mom recalled eating both dishes as a young girl. She especially enjoyed Arsig, which the card spells phonetically. My material grandparents came from Chunkush (aka Chunkoosh), so my mother thought that recipe traveled from the region between the Sea of Marmara and the Black Sea to Chicago, and ultimately, to the San Francisco Bay Area. Being curious about family recipes, I set out to learn more about Arsig.


I searched my Armenian cookbook collection for a similar lamb and grape leaf stew recipe. No luck. I consulted Musa Dagdeviren’s outstanding The Turkish Cookbook (2019, Phaidon) which contains a host of recipes that I recognize as Armenian, but I didn’t see a dish comparable to Arsig. Nothing turned up when I tried various internet searches. Then fortune smiled upon me: I had Armenian Cuisine (2011) by Aline Kamakian and Barbara Drieskens sent from the Glendale Library, Arts & Culture (GLAC) to my local library. This cookbook contains a recipe for Gertembourt that the authors translate as Vine Leaf Stew. Although not identical to Arsig, the recipe for Gertembourt looks pretty darn close. When I google Gertembourt, my search returns a single hit: Kamakian/Drieskens’s cookbook on


The found Arsig recipe card lacks detail. I’ve cooked the dish, which serves 6 to 8, a number of times now. Here’s how I make Arsig.


1.4 liters / 48 ounces lamb stock

454 grams / 16 ounces brined grape leaves, cut into ¼-inch slices

1000 grams / 2.2 pounds boneless lamb shoulder stew, cut into 1½-inch cubes

794 grams / 28 ounces whole peeled tomatoes, cut with scissors into ½-inch pieces

0.5 grams / ¼ teaspoon ground cayenne pepper

Kosher salt to taste

120 ml / ½ cup lemon juice from 2 large lemons

400 grams / 14 ounces bulgur wheat


In a 7.25 quart round Dutch oven, add lamb stock, sliced grape leaves, lamb, tomatoes with juice, kosher salt and cayenne. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, reduce to low heat, cover and cook. After 15 minutes, add lemon juice, cover and continue to cook at a low simmer for 2 hours.


After 2 hours, bring contents to a boil over medium heat, add bulgur wheat while stirring. Return to stew to a simmer over a low heat, cover, and cook, stirring occasionally. After 15 minutes, turn off heat, season to taste and let stew rest, covered, for 10 minutes.


Some notes. I use Karkazian Ranch Fresno Grape Leaves to make this dish. I sometimes use grape leaves imported from Armenia and from Bulgaria but think the Karkazian Ranch leaves tastier and much easier to handle. I do not rinse these leaves before slicing them for Arsig.


Food manufacturers grade bulgur wheat by size (e.g., extra fine, fine, medium, course and very course). In this recipe I often use Bob’s Red Mill Bulgur, which the company grades as medium. I also like Duru stone-milled bulgur from Turkey.


I buy both my lamb shoulder and lamb stock from The Local Butcher, located near the corner of Shattuck Avenue and Cedar Street in Berkeley. I’ve purchased a lot of lamb for Armenian dishes from this shop; its butchers do a great job sourcing and cutting meat. The Local Butcher sells frozen lamb stock that makes Arsig much faster and easier to prepare. I prep the cubed lamb by sprinkling them with a heathy amount of Crystal Diamond kosher salt and placing the meat on a rack and tray to sit overnight, uncovered, in the refrigerator. 


As grandparents and parent pass away, it can become increasingly difficult to save a family’s food history, especially of people forced into diaspora. Through serendipity I stumbled upon these two cards. Otherwise, my family’s history of these dishes would have vanished.  When I spoke with my mom about Arsig, she remembered her family eating it with lavosh bread and thinly shaved red torpedo onions.


This lamb and grape vine stew deserves to live on. Arsig tastes bright and delicious. I made a vegetarian version of the stew for my daughter using chickpeas in place of lamb and 4 cups chickpea stock (here), 2 cups water and 40 grams of butter. This version tastes delicious, too!

Tuesday, October 17, 2023

National Pasta Day 2023

17 October 2023 is National Pasta Day! And World Pasta Day quickly follows on 25 October 2023. The good people at Emiliomiti are offering 20% off standard pasta dies from 11 October through 25 October 2023. Definitely worth checking out if you have an extruder. Go to Emilio’s PastaBiz site here.


To mark National and World Pasta Day, here are some photos from A Serious Bunburyist’s pasta vault. Enjoy some pasta today, everyone!

Saturday, September 16, 2023

Baked Macaroni and Cheese

In my 11 February 2023 post, I promised to share a quintessential American recipe with historical ties to the Venetian torchio pasta press. This recipe for Baked Macaroni and Cheese comes from Jubilee – Recipes from Two Centuries of African American Cooking (Clarkson Potter, 2019) by the Julia Child Award winning author Toni Tipton-Martin.

In the recipe’s introduction, Tipton-Martin highlights James Hemings’s role in establishing macaroni and cheese’s American roots. She writes:


“Hemings was an enslaved chef in Thomas Jefferson’s home who mastered the sophisticated techniques of French classical cooking in Paris, including the operation of a ‘maccaroni’ press. As Monticello’s chef de cuisine, Hemings handwrote his recipes; the ones whose records have survived include fried potatoes (French fries), burnt cream (crème brûlée), and ‘Nouilles a maccaroni’ (macaroni noodles). It’s known that he prepared a ‘macaroni pie’ for a White House dinner in 1802. The macaroni recipe turns up topped with grated cheese following its publication in The Virginia Housewife published in 1845 by Mary Randolph, a Jefferson relative.”


Tipton-Martin goes on to document macaroni and cheese’s development by Black chefs, but for our pasta-making purposes, let’s peel off here. To create Nouilles a maccaroni, Hemings used a torchio that Jefferson purchased in Europe. The Library of Congress holds Thomas Jefferson’s drawing of a macaroni machine and instructions for making pasta, ca. 1787.


Here is an image of an antique torchio attributed on Flickr to the collection of the Museo di Serravella.



And, finally, Bugialli on Pasta (1988, Simon and Schuster) contains a photograph of the great Giuliano Bugialli using an “antique Bigolo”.



Tipton-Martin’s recipe for Baked Macaroni and Cheese serves 8 to 10. 


Softened butter, for the baking dish

1 pound elbow macaroni

2 cups shredded Cheddar cheese

2 cups shredded Jack cheese

1 stick (4 ounces) butter, melted

½ cup sour cream

3 large eggs, well beaten

1 (12-ounce) can evaporated milk

½ teaspoon salt, plus more to taste

¼ teaspoon white pepper

1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper



1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Generously butter a 13 x 9-inch baking dish.


2. Bring a large pasta pot or saucepan of generously salted water to a boil. Add the macaroni and cook until al dente. Drain.


3. In a large bowl, combine the Cheddar and Jack cheeses. Measure out 1 cup of the cheese mixture and set aside for the top of the dish. Layer the remaining combined cheeses and macaroni in the buttered baking dish, beginning and ending with the macaroni.


4. In a medium bowl, whisk together the melted butter, sour cream, eggs, evaporated milk, ½ teaspoon salt (or to taste), white pepper, and cayenne. Pour the cream sauce over the macaroni and cheese. Top with the reserved 1 cup of cheese and sprinkle generously with paprika. Place the dish on a rimmed baking dish to catch any juices that spill over.


5. Bake until the cheese is bubbling and the top is browned and crusty, 30 to 45 minutes. Remove from the oven and let stand 10 minutes before serving.


Using dried commercial pasta speeds up the dish’s preparation. However, if you own a torchio, you can make approximately one pound of pasta using the following ingredients: 300 grams “00” flour, 2 medium eggs, and 2 medium egg yolks. (I weigh the eggs and egg yolks shooting for a total egg mixture weight of approximately 150g.) Back in 2019 I wrote about a bronze 6mm ridged macaroni die (here) that I bought from Emiliomiti during its World Pasta Day sale. Although a little on the small side, this shape definitely works in this dish. I’ve also made this recipe using pasta from my lumache die.

Saturday, February 11, 2023

La Monferrina's Dolly III

In my last post of 2022, I wrote that I recently purchased an electric pasta-making machine from Emiliomiti: La Monferrina’s Dolly III Pasta Extruder. What is a Dolly? La Monferrina’s website says:

“DOLLY is a small ‘counter top’ machine, compact and reliable; it is suitable both for restaurants and for people who like good home-made pasta. DOLLY can knead by using any kind of flour and it produces long and short pasta shapes by simply changing the die. The machine can be supplied (on request) with a rotating cutting knife for short pasta shapes.”


I thought about buying a Dolly for—as the patient and helpful folks at Emiliomiti can attest—a very long time.  Did I need an electric extruder when the torchio has served me well for over 12 years? Ultimately I decided that the electric Dolly augments rather than replaces my torchio. The Dolly will allow me to explore a range of pasta shapes, especially buckwheat noodles which can be extremely hard (i.e., physically difficult) to extrude with a handpress.


The Dolly will also speed up pasta making when feeding a crowd. I typically use my Kitchen Aid standing mixer to make my torchio-bound pasta dough. After mixing, I transfer the dough to the press to extrude and hand cut. The Dolly combines a mixing/kneading bin with an extruder and a cutting attachment. Making pasta with a torchio to serve 8 or more people can take some time (and, if your dough is hard, muscle). What the Dolly lacks in charm, it makes up in brawn. Push a button and the electric Dolly creates up to 6 Kg of pasta (i.e., a lot of pasta) in an hour. 


I’m very excited to work with the Dolly and write about it in this year’s upcoming posts on pasta making. And speaking of pasta, my next post will feature a recipe with historical ties to the torchio: Baked Macaroni and Cheese from Toni Tipton-Martin’s excellent cookbook, Jubilee – Recipes from Two Centuries of African American Cooking (Clarkson Potter, 2019). Stay tuned.