Last month, I attended the World Gourmet Summit in Singapore. This must be the most important event in Asia for all those who love great food and are associated with it professionally. Peter Knipp, a man of great vision and passion, is the creator of the event and the concept, and has been organizing it for several years. It is a gargantuan task, involving some of the world’s greatest chefs, and tying them up with Singapore’s best restaurants to produce fabulous gourmet dinners (open to the public at a price). The chefs also conduct master classes where they demonstrate a couple of recipes.
Mama mia: Pasta can be frozen after it has been cut into shape.
The master classes are an excellent way of getting little tips from the chefs and educating yourself at a reasonable price. I attended a master class by Carlo Marengoni from the Ristorante Bologna. His speciality is home-style pasta and, although I thought I knew a great deal on the subject, I came away with some precious gems of information. The Italians use what is known as “00” (doppio zero) flour for fresh pastas and cakes. They use “0” flour for bread. In addition to this flour (which Carlo reliably informed me can be replaced with Indian maida), he adds durum wheat, which is ground to a fine semolina. This is very much like our finest grade of rava. The bread also distinguishes Italian pasta from Chinese noodles.
By the way, it is now almost conclusively proven that Marco Polo did not introduce pasta or noodles to Italy from China. He did not arrive in Venice until 1298 and there is evidence that some kind of macaroni was already being made in Genoa 20 years before this. There is also evidence that ravioli-like pasta existed in West Asia in the ninth and 10th centuries.
In Italy today, most fresh pasta is traditionally made with eggs. However, spaghetti is always made without eggs. If you would like to add flavours to your pasta, such as tomatoes or pureed spinach, add it along with the eggs into the flour.
Making pasta is not as hard work as I imagined. You can pre-portion and freeze it once it has been cut into shapes or noodles.
Carlo also mentioned that there are very few prescribed pasta sauces. The Italians seem to throw together whatever is local and seasonal into their pasta and most of them are quite dry, and not drowned in sauce, as we see in many restaurants here. In Molise, an area south of Rome and north of Naples, he demonstrated that it is quite common to make a pasta with some local pork sausage, a few sun-dried tomatoes, artichokes, a lot of extra virgin olive oil and grated pecorino (a southern Italian version of Parmesan, made with sheep’s milk).
4 to 6 persons
8 eggs (plus an extra egg yolk, optional)
700g flour “00”
300g semolina flour
45ml extra virgin olive oil
Sift the flour on a clean working surface, then use fingers to make a well in the centre. Add all other ingredients into the centre and mix it in carefully to form a firm, hard dough. Using the back of your hand, knead the dough for about 7-10 minutes. Cover the dough and leave it to rest for 30 minutes. Next, roll the dough thin with a rolling pin or a pasta machine into a large sheet, about 30cm in width, and cut into three rectangles, 10cm each. Cut into shapes or noodles like tagliatelle, fettucine, etc. Store in a dry place, never in the fridge.
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