Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Pasta: a love story

We moved to Barcelona in December, 2001, in the wake of 9/11. We were leaving Argentina in the midst of the economic, and eventually political, crash. It was a tumultuous time. South, people were losing their homes, their livelihoods. North, they were planning a war. Here in Barcelona, Andrés and I spent those first months wandering the streets alone. We had nowhere to go, no here to call home.

We decided to get married. When you’re far from home and sharing your life with just one other person, you do crazy things. You form a family. A family of two. And you create your own home. You stuff your home with things you love: noises, smells, words, texture--things that remind you where you come from, where you are, where you’ve never been.

Sunday in Buenos Aires means one of two things: asado or pasta. Pasta used to mean homemade; for some houses it still does. For others, however, it means the pasta factories. Each neighborhood has its own. Every Sunday, neighbors queue down the block and around the corner, looking to buy tallarines, spaghetti, tagliatelli and linguini by the kilo, ravioli and sorrentini by the dozen. The barrios bustle. Neighbors hurry home with tallarines carefully wrapped in paper, raviolis lining boxes like petite-fours, to tuco simmering on the stove.

Sunday in Barcelona means five-on-five football matches and the cañas that follow. It means the book fair at the Sant Antoni market. It can also mean a coffee at Caelum. It rarely means church and it never means pasta. Spain means rice, paella. Spain knows nothing about pasta.

Sunday is a day of ritual. In many European countries, shops and shopping centers close on Sundays. People infuse their Sundays with meaning--we spent our first few years here looking for one.

Last Christmas, I finally gave Andrés a new Sunday: A pasta maker.

Now, each Sunday, he engages in the same ritual his grandmother used to, kneading love into eggs and flour, transforming the resultant sticky mass into food. And so, as it does for millions of other porteños so many miles away, Sunday in Barcelona now means fresh pasta. It means spaghetti and homemade meatballs. It means linguini and cream sauce. It means penne and sun-dried tomatoes. And lots of fresh basil. For two.

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Sunday Pumpkin-Ricotta Ravioli (for a Family of Two)

Pasta
300 grams fine flour (about 1 1/3 cups, or 10 ounces; Andrés uses 00, though 000 is better)
2 eggs
Fresh Spring Water

Filling
500 grams roasted pumpkin or butternut squash (about 2 cups)
1 tablespoon tightly packed brown brown sugar
250 grams ricotta cheese (about 1 cup)
1 tablespoon fresh sage
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
Salt and pepper to taste

1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan
Extra Virgin Olive Oil (for drizzling)

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For the pasta:

Measure the flour out on your kitchen scale. Then transfer to a clean surface.

Make a small crater in the pile of flour with your first. Crack the eggs into the crater and beat them with a fork. Once the egg is beaten, use the fork the mix it into the flour, gently bringing flour in from the sides. It will soon have a consistency similar to that of cornmeal.

Once all the flour has been mixed with the egg, it is time to knead. You may need to add water to make this process easier. To add the water, merely dip your hands into a small bowl of water and knead. Repeat this as often as necessary to create a workable blob. Knead.

Wrap the dough in a damp kitchen towel and let sit for a short while. Meanwhile, set up your paste maker and prepare the filling.

For the filling:

In a small bowl, mash the roasted pumpkin with fork. Add the brown sugar and mix well. Now add the ricotta and mix well again. Add sage and turmeric, and salt and pepper to taste.

Divide the dough into smaller bowls. Roll each one out with a rolling pin and send it through the pasta maker till you have the desired thickness. (Andrés says his grandmother did this by hand--she had no pasta maker. She would roll the dough out and then cut it to the desired width with a knife. It's a bit easier with the machine.)

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Once you've got the dough where you want it, add the attachment to the machine. In this case, we added the ravioli one.

Spread the filling on two sheets of pasta dough. Crank it through the pasta maker.

Boil 4 quarts water in a large pot. Throw in some salt and a laurel leaf for good measure. Add the pasta and let it cook till it rises to the surface. This should take less than three minutes. Drain.

Add freshly grated parmesan and a drizzle of olive oil.

7 comments:

Rachael said...

This is a wonderful piece, Suzanne, crammed with life and nostalgia. You're right, Spain knows nothing about pasta, and fideuá doesn't cut it.

Thank you for the recipe! I'll be trying that one as well, and asking for a pasta maker for Christmas.

Seth said...

I had a brief, torrid romance with my own pasta-maker.

Coincidentally, Karen bought me a pasta-maker for Christmas too. I used it, without shame, every night for five nights.

Then I made the ridiculous mistake of inviting 17 people over for a fresh pasta/New Year's Eve party.

It seemed as if I was making fresh pasta all night long--kneading, cranking, kneading, cranking. Everyone was complaining. I was bitter.

I think fresh pasta for two is much better.

Stephanie said...

This is one of the most romantic stories I've ever read.

Steve said...

If I were to write a story like this it would be called hot pastrami on rye: a tragedy

Jennifer Sowden said...

Oh, I love homemade pasta!!! My grandmother and my mother have pasta machines. I've helped make it a few times. Delicious!! Thanks for sharing your story. I loved it!

netmw said...

Great recipe, have to try it. I found using the Pasta n' More saves me so much time in the kitchen. I found it at www.harrietcarter.com

xysea said...

This is a great blog! I love fresh pasta! I hope you guys all had wonderful holidays!

Here's to a blessed and fruitful 2009! Cheers!