Paladini Potpie

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Babette’s Pasta

For the last few days I’ve been away from my computer on a Babette Stint.

John calls me “Babette” because I love cookery almost as much as the heroine of that wonderful film! “Babette’s Feast” is one of my favourite movies…because some of my favourite experiences are when I’m in the kitchen preparing a half a dozen dishes at the same time. Totally over my head! A sinkful of dirty measuring cups, mixing bowls and wooden spoons…no square inch of counter space available to set anything down…and a beautiful row of delicious finshed projects set proudly off to the side. Pure delight!

So imagine my excitement when I got a note from my 15 year old niece asking if she could come down and spend a couple of days with us, and if I could teach her how to make pasta! (One of my most special memories is a day about 25 years ago when John’s mom and I made pasta. She told me and showed me exactly how her mom, Caterina, used to do it.)

Alexandra is an adorable young lady, and this empty-nested auntie has had the time of her life! Not only did we make pasta – we made pasta sauce (John’s Italian family calls it gravy), pizza, egg salad, biscotti, and simple garlic bread. We made jewelry and went on a hike, and went shopping and played cards and played Scrabble, but most of our time was in the kitchen. Alex has a true Babette heart, and we had our Feast on Friday evening when we invited David, Amanda and baby Nathan to join us. Between mouthfuls David said, “Mom, I hope you’re planning to do a blog and talk about how you guys made this pasta!”

So here it is!

Pasta Noodles

1 lb 2oz flour
4 eggs
About ¼ cup cold water

Pile the flour in the center of a big clean space, and make a well in the center of the mound of flour.

Gently break the eggs into the well in the flour. (Note:We made a double recipe so you see 8 eggs in the well of flour. I don’t recommend this because it was hard to control so many eggs and it was hard to work with so much noodle dough. Besides, as you can see, they sort of started to leak and it was a bit of a mess.)

Begin to mix the eggs gently with a fork, incorporating the flour, until you have a smooth workable dough. You might have to add some, or all, of the cold water in order to get a smooth dough. Let the dough rest for 30 minutes while you clean up your work area. This rest period is important to make the dough easier to work with.

Clean and dry your work area and sprinkle it with flour. Divide dough into two portions for easier handling. Place dough on flour and sprinkle flour on top. Roll until it is about 1/4 inch thick. For rolling the dough, Alex and I used a long closet pole, which is what Grandma Catherina used 70 years ago when she made this pasta. (A rolling pin works fine too though.)

Fold dough in quarters, dust it with flour, and roll it out again till it’s 1/4 inch thick.

Do this eight times. Fold and roll, fold and roll, fold and roll. On the final rolling, roll it to less that 1/8 inch – the thinner the better.

The sheet of pasta dough will be strong and moist and flexible.

You can cut the pasta into thin strips – linguini – using a pasta cutter or a sharp knife. If you use a knife you can roll the sheet (like an “Aram sandwich) and cut it in thin strips. Make sure the dough is well-floured so it doesn’t stick together.

Alex came up with the great idea of making some of the pasta into bow ties. Just cut squares and pinch them very firmly together in the center.

Hang the noodles to dry. We hung them over the trusty closet pole, laid across two chair backs. The bow ties dried on cake cooling racks. (Allow at least 24 hours for it to dry completely.)

To cook the pasta, bring a big pot of water to a boil. Add some salt and about a tablespoon of olive oil. The oil makes the noodles glossy.

Our pasta was al dente in 15 minutes.

Join me in a future blog and I’ll tell you how to make Babette’s pasta sauce – or I should say, Mama Paladini’s Gravy.