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Warming an unseasonably cold kitchen OR, Papardelle-but-not-papardelle

July 21, 2011

The first time I made fresh pasta I was at Loren and Mary-Ruth Wilkinson’s home, on a little farm on Galiano Island.  The Wilkinsons have been incalculably influential in all things home and garden for me; they are some of the rare breed of courageous teachers who let students not only glimpse but intimately participate in their home life.  My husband and I have more than once commented on all that we’ve learned on Hunterston Farm–and even some of it from books and lectures.

Loren and Mary-Ruth are known for some certain meals in particular.  Among them are breakfast crepes (and the lazy Susans on the extended dining table filled with scrumptious fillings including Mary-Ruth’s savoury Peruvian Sauce), Pacific Northwest salmon served on planks of cedar, fresh loaves of cinnamon-swirl bread, and handmade gnocchi and pasta: some nettle-studded; fettuccine; capellini; served with walnut pesto and a creamy artichoke sauce.  Among their students the most coveted spot in the kitchen is beside Loren, catching the pasta as it is rolled out and hung to dry on the clothes-drying racks.  In the end, the kitchen is hot from so many eager bodies gathered round, all wanting a hand in the boisterous preparation, a veritable mountain of Parmesan is grated, and the floor is liberally dusted with flour.  Wine is drunk as we cook, and the table is set.  Somehow the pasta is not overcooked, in spite of the fact that it is prepared for 10 or 15 or 25 people.  We heed our instructions and trot to the table promptly.  Candles are lit.  We look at each other expectantly.  Something special is about to happen…has already happened.

My in-laws are in town for the week.  We are savouring generally slow days what with Jacob’s napping (still, amidst the excitement, he is napping–glory be!), time to read, and time to check the weather forecast again…and again…and again…in hopes that that little round, yellow disc indicating a decent chance of sunshine will appear and inspire our plans for the day.  We look out the window and it is gray.  And drizzly.  Not at all mid-July-ish.  But this is Vancouver.  And.  John and Patty brought me a gift: A Made-In-Italy Ampia pasta machine.  Glory be indeed!  Whether or not there is sunshine there will be warmth–there is warmth–in the kitchen.  Last night we made pasta, fettuccine and capellini, and John prepared a good red meat sauce.  We uncorked a bottle of red.  We were happy.  I want to make pasta every day.  I want to try every fresh pasta recipe out there.  I want to join the generations of nonnas in the kitchen and learn their secrets for silky-smooth noodles, noodles that retain a nice bit, noodles for every type of sauce and occasion.  We started with the once noodle recipe I had–no, not the Wilkinson recipe.  How I’ve spent as much time under foot in their kitchen and not come away with that recipe, I do not know.  We used nonna Daria’s pappardelle recipe from Jessica Theroux‘s Cooking With Italian Grandmothers, which in the end was not pappardelle at all (which would have been hand-cut into noodles over an inch wide), but it was a start with what we had, and a tasty one at that.

Papardelle (well…papardelle dough that is) from Jessica Theroux’s Cooking With Italian Grandmothers

15 ounces type 00 or all-purpose flour

4 large eggs, at room temperature

1 TBL olive oil

1-2 tsp water

Place the flour in a large bowl, and make a well in the middle of it.  Add the eggs, the oil, and the water to the well, and scramble them together with a fork or your fingers to combine.  Slowly incorporate the flour, mixing until the dough becomes a shaggy mess.  Turn the dough out onto a clean surface and knead for 5 to 10 minutes, until it’s smooth and springs back after you press in a thumb.  (I had to add a little more water–I think the pliability of the dough will depend on your flour).  Cover with a clean cloth and set aside to rest for 45-60 minutes.

Roll out by hand or with a hand-cranked pasta machine.  If using a machine, cut the dough into four pieces and pass each piece through the widest setting of the machine.  Dust with additional flour if the dough feels damp or sticky when you cut it.  Pass it through this setting three times total, folding the rolled dough into thirds prior to each rolling.  Once you have completed this, pass the dough through once on each of the successively smaller holes in the machine, until you reach the second to smallest hole, number 5.  Pass the sheets of pasta through the number 5 setting twice.  Cut the pasta into long strips, 1 1/4 inches wide, and store them spread out on a floured surface until you’re ready to boil them (or on a clothes-drying rack as we did!). 

More fresh pasta recipes soon….

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