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Traditional Pasta Making in Puglia

Pasta is the real star of Mediterranean cuisine and the undisputed symbol of the “Made inItaly” designation. Pasta came with the first great civilizations to the Italian peninsula. In constant evolution, this dish has conquered the most discerning palates and families. Already in the Roman Republic Empire,Cicero enjoyed sharing it with his friends. The discovery of wall paintings from 4th century BC portrayed tools and more pasta items, showing that this dish has been popular throughout history.

In 17th century, thanks to the invention of the mechanical lathe, pasta became the daily food, especially among the lower classes. At the end of  19th century, Thomas Jefferson, President of the US, was the first to bring to America a machine to make spaghetti. In 1830 tomato sauce became popular – tomatoes boiled with a pinch of salt and a leaf of basil, especially in southern Italian markets, for seasoning macaroni.

In Italy there are many varieties of short pasta (pasta piccola) inspired by objects of everyday life and nature: shells (conchiglie), butterflies (farfalle), wheels (ruote di carro), ABCs (alfabetini), tubes (tubettini). Its length, shape and thickness determines the nature of its cooking style and seasoning.

Other varieties include whole wheat pasta (pasta integrale), rich in fibre, vitamins and minerals, produced from semolina or wheat flour.  There is also colored pasta (pasta colorata), which is made when natural ingredients are added to the dough like eggs, tomatoes, milk and spinach. Filled pasta (pasta ripiena) contains a filling, which can be meat, cheese, mushrooms, spices or vegetables. Homemade pasta should ideally be consumed within a week from its preparation.

For those who do not yield to the temptation of putting the dough through a pasta machine, making homemade pasta with a rolling pin, and pulling it, can be really fun. Once the dough is ready, you simply divide it into pieces and shape it energetically with a rolling pin. Ever seen Nonna making homemade pasta for the family? What a symphony of gestures, what a devotion in making the best-ever dough and pasta to make everybody “felice e sazio!”

Nonna are the keepers of such extraordinary culinary simple traditions. Still now, in southernItaly, Nonna making fresh, handmade pasta with their expert hands and it’s always wonderful.

In our Salento Nonna’s homes (especially in villages) you will always find a rolling pin and a wooden board to work the dough. It’s part of their history, of their daily taking care of the family and habits. For our Nonnas, making pasta is just as easy as drinking a glass of water!  For them, buying and cooking industrial pasta is not good at all. They will certainly tell you that there’s no reason for buying it once you learn how to make it, which, furthermore, is so easy to do and so incredibly genuine!

And yes, I have to admit that Nonna is always right.

Unlike other Italian regions, where eggs are often added to the dough, Puglian grandmothers make a lighter dough from “00” flour (Editor’s Note: this refers to the fine texture of the flour and is part of a designation system for flour that is used in Italy), whole wheat / barley flour and water to create shapes of pasta that are so delicious when seasoned with tomato sauce and Cacioricotta, or Rape (broccoli rabe) and chilled.  If you go and visit Nonna on a Saturday morning in our little Puglian village, you’ll probably find her making Orecchiette, Minchiareddhi, or Sagne ‘Ncannulate. Orecchiette and Minchiareddi in the same dish are called “Maritati,” which in Italian means married.

Nonne are wonderful in teaching one how to make authentic homemade pasta according to traditional Italian methods. The dough should always be made on a wooden board with the so called “fontanella,” that is a hole in the flour just in the center, where you will add a pinch of salt and pour some warm water. Nonna kneads vigorously until the dough is smooth and homogeneous, and then lets it rest for about 30 minutes.

As always, every dish is perfect when it’s made by the loving hands of a Nonna!

Ylenia is a Lecce native with over 10 years of tourism and organisational experience in the heel of Italy. She very well knows the area and selects the very best cooking lessons, yoga retreats, painting and photography tours, winery and gourmet tours, excursions to artisan food and producers as part of your vacation in wonderful villages throughout Salento and Puglia. Visit her website atwww.yltourcongressi.com


Posted by on Feb 29, 2012