May 13th, 2011
by Victor Rallo
Homemade pasta is like a fluffy white cloud: light, soft, tender and delicious. Good pasta makes the sauce come to life and if done correctly, forms a beautiful harmony like a great Beatles tune. About 10 years ago during a visit to Italy, I stopped at the Bottene factory in Vincenza then at Molino Caputo in Napoli. After seeing the facilities with my own eyes, I knew I could make homemade pasta, gnocchi and ravioli with the same ingredients and machines used in Italy.
I was told by all the pundits it could not be done but I would prove them wrong and succeed in making the best homemade pasta, ravioli and gnocchi in New Jersey, and possibly the entire East coast.
Pasta has been made by hand “fatto a mano” for many, many centuries with one simple recipe: flour, water, salt, and eggs if desired. But its simplicity has inherent complexities. What type of flour? Why that flour? How much water? Eggs or no eggs? Then comes the choice of machine, of which there are plenty to choose from, but only a few that process the dough with hand-like movements.
So I am going to reveal some of my own research to help pasta lovers around the world.
- Use Caputo flour. I use Caputo “00” pasta fresca e gnocchi flour mixed with Caputo semolina flour. Based on your water, mixer, etc. you will have to judge what’s best for you. Caputo has many flours, with different millings and protein contents.
- The machine: clearly doing it by hand with grandma’s Imperia hand crank machine is the preferred method, but when you are making pasta for busy restaurants you need something automatic. I love the Bottene machines (we own 6) because they are made very well and priced very fairly, but maybe not so well priced right now with the euro at 1.48 at the time of this writing. Bottene machines are work horses and they have a 100 different dies. The magic here is the dies (the piece that the pasta extrudes from) are all brass, a very soft metal that dings and dents and gives the pasta its identity, and more importantly makes the pasta rough so the sauce sticks to it, yummy. Buy Bottene the machines, they are worth every penny.
- Always use sea salt.
- Don’t be shy, an egg or two makes great pasta better.
- Leave the dough wet, it is hard to handle and work with but makes lighter pasta.
- When making gnocchi use impastata ricotta. It is drier than regular ricotta, so you need less flour, and use less flour for lighter gnocchi. My trick: use 1 egg per 3 pounds of cheese. Please only use Caputo gnocchi flour.
The sauce choices are unlimited: pesto, pomodoro, puttanesca, bolognese, marina, alfredo, carbonara, norma …. Sit down and decide to do it right! Bring some wholesome goodness to your family and friends. Make some homemade pasta with your favorite sauce, open a bottle of wine and float up to pasta heaven.