Secret Nonna Business – The Art Of Pasta Making

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I get it now, when Nonna tells me ” I don’t have a recipe, I just know.” Why?, because this weekend I learn’t how to make ravioli with brother No 2’s girlfriend.

Her background is Maltese and her family makes pasta quite often. She needed to make a big batch for a family function of hers that was coming up and I mentioned how interested I was in learning how to make it from scratch.  She said great and  was very happy to have a second set of hands in the mix. I offered to get the filling and bring wine for dinner for the ‘after the pasta making’  session and she said she would do the rest. The filling for the ravioli was ricotta, parmesan and parsley…simple, yes,  but I was assured that if we have the best quality ingredients we wouldn’t need anything else. She got parsley from her parents garden and I knew of a place that makes fresh ricotta that I could buy direct from the producer – word also got out and I ended up getting extra for family – a total 9kg of ricotta and some parmasen in fact. The Italian lady I ordered it from gave me a quizzical look for ordering that much but as soon as I held that ricotta, I knew it was worth coming here, it is was so fresh and still warm. We set up at her place with another extra set of hands from the youngest sister,  so we were ready to begin. We started with mixing the filling which was done by hand so you can feel and taste when it is ready. Extra pepper and parsley was added to really give it a punch of flavour.

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Then it was onto making the dough. We had a basic recipe to follow and at first I was just following her step by step but after a while I got used to how it is meant to be –  the feel between my fingers, if it needed more flour or water and thin enough to just be able to see my finger tips through the pasta.

During our dough session, the eldest sister arrived and offered to help and if she could enjoy it when we were done. We had a little factory going now, we filled and cut out the pasta like an old Nonna, one that had done it a thousand times, our job made easy with the pasta cutters. We needed to portion and freeze them, flouring each piece so they wouldn’t stick. Pasta making is definitely a workout…no wonder there was no need to go to gyms in our Nonna’s time.

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We made a Neapolitan sauce to go with the ravioli, well the type we made is called Agnolotti the difference being instead of being made from two squares of pasta, ours were made from one round piece and folded – they were named after a cook Angiolino from Monferrato, known as ‘Angolot’ and they had different fillings for different feast days.
Sitting down to dinner after making it all day was such an achievement and a joy watching our loved ones eat it. I can imagine this is what the Italian and Maltese women feel when they make it for their own families but on a weekly basis.
The fresh Riccota made a huge difference, it was so creamy that the pockets of pasta oozed in your mouth like honey.

I am so blessed to have this knowledge to pass down to my own friends and family. Bellisimo!

 

Visiting Nonna and Nonno

Nonna and Nonno's garden

My Italian man and I went to visit Nonna and Nonno this week. We look forward to going to their place they always have something to show and teach us. We arrived at around 10 am not wanting her to have to put on lunch because we knew she had things to do and didn’t want to keep her. She still said we made her upset not coming for lunch because we were leaving with empty bellies. We went in through the back door, you never go though the front if you are family, its just her way. We were greeted with big hugs, double kisses, sat at the table as she had already starting to make coffee and bring out fruit from the garden and biscuits she had made earlier. She insisted they were not her best but we knew they would be beautiful. They were made with yoghurt, oats, cranberries, coconut and almond meal. They were thick, dense and even great biscuit for an on the go breakfast. She gave us as many as we could eat and some to take home seeing as we weren’t having lunch.

Male and Female

After chatting for a while we went into the garden they had lots of excess fruit and veggies they wanted to share. I love walking through their garden it is so well loved and looked after. This time I did come across this huge zucchini (courgettes) plant, it had lots flowers growing from it and I asked if she had gotten many from it this season she said yes but these ones coming up were no good. All the flowers were “female” and she said there had been no bees around to pollinate them to give her zucchinis and that they had finished.  She then proceeded to tell us a story about the time she went on a bus trip and one of the ladies were complaining about how many flowers she had on her plant but no vegetables. Nonna told her that it sounded like no bees were pollinating the flowers. Her advice was to find the male flowers the one with the stamen and pollinate the female flowers or as she said “help the flower make love” we all laughed and it was even more funny with her Italian accent. She said the bus trip group made jokes with her after that about her Zucchinis being the biggest around.

We went home with a bag of goodies from the garden and lots of chillies to make chilli olive oil once we had dried them out.

A few helpful words from Nonna on this visit. See if they are useful to you.