Sunday, November 05, 2006

Do You Knead?

Even to this day in some of the most traditional Italian homes, when a son wants to marry a girl, the future mother-in-law will ask the prospective bride something along the lines of “Ammassi?” Now, maybe that isn’t the exact word they use, but it’s the verb I’ve heard in Rome to describe the act of kneading dough, or rather, making pasta all’uovo (egg pasta), also known as pasta fatta in casa (homemade). I’m not making this up: I myself know of one Italian girl in her late twenties who just got engaged and whose mother-in-law asked her this very question. (The answer of course, was an enthusiastic sì! Let's not kid around with things this serious.)

Luckily, my Roman mother-in-law is about as hip and modern as they come, and this question never passed her lips. She accepted her nuora americana with open arms and hasn’t ever pushed me to be anyone or anything I’m not. But, maybe there’s something to be said for homemade pasta in the family blood, because my future hubby, the undisputed chef of the house, has been mentioning lately how much he wants to try his hand at pasta all’uovo.

Since today is said future spouse’s birthday, it was the perfect occasion to bestow him with—behold—(cue the trumpets): the Imperia.

Ain’t she a beaut? Ale was so thrilled with his gift that he insisted we try it out for lunch today. I’m not kidding you folks, this was literally like the Italian grown-up version of the Play-Doh Fun Factory. You start with a little mound of flour and crack some eggs into it, like so:

Then you just dig in and start mixing it all up with your hands. After an incident with a bit of a rebellious runaway egg, Ale got the dough together. And despite some first-time trial and error, adding a little more oil here, a little more flour there, and a whole lot of “ammassar-ing”, whaddya know? The little thing works!

It is a bit time consuming but there’s a special satisfaction in enjoying pasta you’ve made yourself. It only takes about 5-7 minutes to cook once you finish. All told, for our first time out, I think it took us less than an hour, and next time it will probably take about a half hour. I even bought some cutters for making ravioli (pumpkin ravioli, anyone? Mmmm….)

And of course, I can’t leave you without the token "utter kitchen destruction/king of the house a.k.a. Pavel the Cow Cat" photo:

Today’s extra-special destruction involved a full vacuuming and mopping of the kitchen floor! What a treat!

So, if you’ve ever had an itch to make pasta from scratch, I can testify that not only is it fun, but incredibly delicious. Have any of you ever tried this before? What’s your favorite type of pasta?


Anonymous said...

Sounds delicious! You've inspired me to try making pasta at some point. Maybe for Christmas! My favorite pasta is oriccheitte (sp?). It's hard to find here but I did buy a big bag in Rome and it was delicious! I make it with olive oil, seasoned bread crumbs, pepper, a little salt, proscuitto, parmaggiano regiano cheese, and some parsley for garnish. Yum!
I can make the Mexican equivalent though.....tortillas! So yes, I do knead!

anton said...

I only like homemade pasta in ravioli or lasagna. When it's used as regular pasta with sauce, it feels weird on my tongue. I'm too used to dried pasta, I guess.

I did find and buy a 'chitarra' up in Vancouver once. That's an Abruzzes'/Molisan' contraption for cutting string pasta (fettucine, spaghetti). Haven't used it yet tho. I may have bought it just for the novelty! :-)

Oh and the reason you can't read my blog is because I haven't started writing it yet. Good intentions...

Michelle said...

Ciao, I'm an American living in Calabria with my Calabrese fidanzato. I swear that just yesterday he sprung on me that he wants to make homemade pasta. (Incidentally, La Mamma has never asked me whether I knead, thank goodness.) However, I used to help my Nonna (in America) make it, so I kind of remember the routine, but I hadn't taken the idea the extra step that you've just inspired: the fidanzato's birthday is next month. Grazie mille (and love your blog) :)

Ms Adventures in Italy said...

Wow, you have just heaped my Nonna guilt on...husband's mother gave us Nonna's pastamaker (just like yours) over a year ago and I still haven't brought it out to play. I don't have one of those "kneading" boards like you have (the omnipresent wooden board) so that's been my excuse. I better get on it.

I like making gnocchi, and I'm sure this is much easier.

Shelley - At Home in Rome said...

Ebony: I love tortillas and would love to make them from scratch. You should put the recipe up on your blog.
Anton: See, you already have a topic for your first post--I would love to see the chitarra in action!! ;-) Ale has Abruzzese relatives and I always saw those contraptions on the walls of the rustic mountain restaurants in Abruzzo, and was curious how they worked.
Michelle: Thanks for joining in! I've heard Calabrese mammas can be "tough", but sounds like you've got a good one ;-)
Ms.: I have a terrible confession to make. The omnipresent wooden board (LOL, good one) is actually the cover to a box of champagne I got as a present when I left my last job. I do not recommend this tactic as I discovered (lightbulb!) it's not really ideal for pasta-making. So, less nonna guilt for you now...

Anonymous said...

I love love love my pasta-machine. I got mine as a result of my crush on Jamie Oliver a couple of years ago, and there is nothing better to a saturday evening than making pasta with Hubbie. Jamie Oliver has some great recipes for home-made pasta. One of my favorite is "pink pasta" where you use some beet roots to color the pasta dough. Very beautiful and tasty!

African Kelli said...

Wow. Such great photos! Was that contraption super expensive? I've never made pasta with a machine. I've made it by hand before. I used to make olive and mushroom ravioli in college. It would take hours to make, but was so worth it. Look at you go!

Anonymous said...

Thank you. Now there is another Italian contraption I have to devise an explanation for because I must have one, too. At least with the Mokka I could appeal to Bubba's lust for coffee. But he does love ravioli.... I think the pumpkin type sounds LOVELY. Try it and put up your photos and recipes. Or, Ale's, rather. Oh, and your photos are looking beeooteeful!

Sassy said...

Wow! Thanks for the inspiration. I've had a pasta maker in my cabinet for over 3 years and keep telling myself I'm going to make some. Now I have great visual clues, thanks to your good pictures.

Have a good day.


Expat Traveler said...

that looks so yummy. I actually made that for dinner last night, minus the making it from scratch. But when you have too much going on at 6that hour, it's hard to do stuff that is time consuming.