Recently, we at Dievole have started making fresh pasta every day for the guests of our restaurant. Considered a fundamental part of Italian cuisine, fresh pasta maintains the mystique of being time consuming to make, something connected to a world of bygone traditions. But really, home made pasta is simple to make, fresh and delicious. Is fresh pasta better than dry pasta? Both are excellent, but here are some reasons we love home made pasta.
Choice of flours
When we purchase fresh or dried pasta in Italy from producers or at the supermarket, there really are a lot of choices nowadays for high quality pasta, including those made with different kinds of grains. You’d be surprised that dry pasta at the supermarket now, at least in Italy, is easily available from corn, spelt, rice, whole grain as well as white flour. Fresh pasta is more likely to come in many shapes, but often just with white flour.
We at Dievole love experimenting with organic ancient flours which we source from small, local producers. The truly distinguishing feature of ancient grains is the absence of GMOs and chemical fertilisers, features that we value as part of our philosophy and search for authenticity and excellence. Making our own pasta, we can experiment with these flours, blending them to create new flavours and textures that create original and inventive dishes.
Easier than it looks
If you ever get to take an Italian cooking class, especially here in Tuscany, chances are the first thing they’ll teach you to make is tortelli. This is the easiest pasta to make because you can do it without a pasta machine, because filled pasta doesn’t have to be as thin as say, tagliolini.
All you need is a clean surface – your kitchen counter is fine but a wooden pastry board is best – and a few ingredients to make a small portion of pasta (for 1-2 people): 100 grams of 00 flour (or partially cut with other flour of your choice), 1 egg, some cold water.
Make a mound with your flour, and create a crater in the middle where you put the egg. Start working this with your hands, and where necessary, add a bit of water until you’ve absorbed all the flour and are able to knead the dough. Knead for 10 minutes, periodically tossing the ball onto the board to maintain elasticity and get out any air bubbles. Then, roll it out with a rolling pin on a floured surface. That’s all! Of course, from there, you’ll be either filling it, or cutting it into various shapes. For long pasta, you’ll want to use a pasta machine rather than a rolling pin.
Quick to cook
For the busy home chef, fresh pasta has a further advantage over dry pasta: put simply, it cooks faster! Though be careful: if you’re buying it at a supermarket, make sure it contains no more ingredients than flour, egg, water and possibly salt. If you can find 15 minutes to make your own, you can store it in the fridge for a few days by wrapping it tightly in plastic wrap.
In a busy restaurant like at Dievole, speedy boiling is a plus for our clients, who enjoy the freshness of pasta made the same day, but also the faster service – as everything is always cooked singly upon order.
We love the way it holds a sauce
In Italy, there’s a keen awareness of how there are certain combinations of pasta shapes and sauces that just go well together. In our area near Siena, the most traditional pasta is pici, a kind of thick spaghetti that is always a fresh pasta, and it’s ideal to hold a meat ragu, often heavier game-based sauces like hare sauce. Short fresh pastas like maltagliati go great with beans or with vegetables like mushrooms or zucchini. Pesto adheres well either to long pasta, or to short textured pasta like trofie. To each shape, his sauce!
Working on a wooden board, fresh pasta acquires a wonderful texture that helps certain sauces adhere, making it particularly pleasing in the mouth. With the right combination of pasta and sauce, fresh pasta makes for a satisfying and balanced meal composed of a complex carbohydrate and complemented by proteins and vegetables.