Thursday, February 28, 2013

How to Make Pasta

Tonight I got to see how pasta is made! We took a trip to this little shop in Florence that makes bread and pasta. The same company owns an organic farm just outside of Florence where they have a vineyard, an olive grove, pigs, cows, and chickens. Every morning, the baker makes fresh pasta for local restaurants. He only makes bread every other day, because he uses the traditional method so the bread lasts longer. Italian families didn’t use to have oven in every home, so they would make bread only once a week (usually on Sundays) and that would last the family until the next trip to the bakery.

In all his baking, he uses very basic ingredients, never even using salt. The lack of salt also goes back to an old Florentine tradition. The northern regions of Italy used to get salt from the south, however the Medici family (who essentially ruled Florence in the Renaissance) had bad relations with the region salt was bought from, so Italians began cooking without salt.

This likely explains the very plain bread served in most restaurants.

Despite the lack of salt, the bread was really good and we got to try it with his Laudemio olive oil. Laudemio is a certified brand (even higher quality than extra virgin) that his farm produces. In order to package it under the name Laudemio, the oil is thoroughly inspected every season.

Making pasta is quite a process. Two different types of flour are used: one traditionally used in Italy (which provides flavor), and flour more typical of northern Europe (this provides elasticity in the dough). The only other ingredients added are eggs and water. Then you mix it all together!

After the dough is mixed and kneaded, it’s stretched. This process has no exact measurements. The baker kept saying you could hear the pasta tell you it was ready.

When the pasta speaks to you, it’s time to shape it! 

For every step, there are complicated, antique machines in operation. Most pasta makers use more modern equipment, but San Michele a Torri is dedicated to tradition.

Wines from San Michele a Torri
After watching the pasta being made, we all got to take home a sample and try a glass of their signature house wine. The best way to get a good wine for a reasonable price in Italy is to bring empty bottles in to wine shops and refill it. That way you get wine directly from the maker (essentially cutting out the middleman) and you can avoid costs of the bottle, cork, and packaging. Also, you’re recycling! I seriously wish we had this in California. Needless to say, I think I know where I’ll be getting my chianti from now on! I even got a student discount.

Cookin' up the pasta for dinner!


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