I grew up making, eating, talking about and hearing about homemade pasta. It might sound ambitious but the first kind I learned to make was ravioli, specifically meat ravioli. The recipe – and I use the term loosely – came from my aunt Angela who really was the master, but I picked it up pretty easily and I think mom and I did a really great job each time we made them. When you learn how to make ravioli before you have time to decide it’s too daunting a task, you never even consider that it’s a daunting task. It was just something we did. And we really only did it because there wasn’t an easier store-bought substitute to be found when I was a kid. I realize now that my mom probably wouldn’t have bothered if she could have just purchased meat ravioli from some little old Italian lady. I’m glad we didn’t have that option and I’m grateful that she taught me how to make pasta even if it wasn’t exactly something that she did for fun like I do now.
If you’re a regular here at BBTK you might remember that we’re not big on recipe keeping in my family nor are we sticklers for exact measurements. So the “recipe” for the ravioli filling never matched the “recipe” for the dough and we never attempted to correct it (TO THIS DAY). I know. Don’t judge me. If you knew the whole story though, you’d probably agree that there really wasn’t any incentive to correct this problem. As a result of having too much dough (is there really such a thing?) we would simply turn the excess into tender strands of long golden pasta, usually fettucine which my dad absolutely loved! As I write this it occurs to me that my dad, who loved a math problem, could have easily corrected the mismatched recipes, but again there was no incentive.
So you might have guessed by now that the second pasta I learned how to make was fettucine. Mmmmm if you never make any other pasta, please try your hand at fettucine. I promise to provide you with a reliable recipe and walk you through it. You won’t be disappointed and you will have the distinct satisfaction of completely impressing your friends at dinner parties! And as if that wasn’t enough motivation, there’s a serious, secret short-cut you can take advantage of to make absolutely perfect fettucine. I have to confess my secret. I use a pasta machine. It actually belonged to my aunt Angela. She brought it with her from Italy when she came to this country in the 60’s. Years later on a trip back to Italy, she bought herself a new and improved machine and gifted the old one to my mom. Last year my mom gave it to me and Mike. It’s priceless to me and not just because it’s such a solid well-made machine. I love the history it holds. I love that my aunt used it in her little hometown of Savona in Italy, and that my mom used it for years before I ever saw it. But in the absence of a sweet and generous Italian aunt, you could easily find a well-priced version online. In the long run it could turn out to be the cheapest and most delicious hobby you ever invest in. And of course you will look like a rock star to your friends and family.
I never considered pasta making difficult or complex or even above my skill level, but I did have it in my head that it was cumbersome and time consuming and that you needed an entire free day if you wanted to do it. Thanks mom (what’s a blog post about pasta making without a little mom blaming?). My mom believes that to do anything, anything at all you have to wake up at 6 am (minimum) to start and then have an entire day open to dedicate to said task. This subconscious belief stopped me from attempting so many projects over the years. I bought into this philosophy (against my will I might add) my whole life. It has only been in the past few years that that I’ve started to actively rebel against it. I have Mike to thank for this revelation. He’s even less of a morning person than I am and in a way because of that he taught me that things like pasta making do not have to be a whole ordeal unless you want them to be.
In our early days together his lack of getting up early to go places or do things used to stress me out. I couldn’t silence my mom’s voice in my head telling me that it was 10:30 so now the whole day was wasted. Wasted. You read that right. And here’s the best part. Whenever my mom exclaimed to me that it was 10:30, it was really five after ten at best! She added at least 25 minutes to the real time as a rule whenever she was trying to get me out of bed in the morning. I hated it! I still hate it, but still I found myself imposing this philosophy on Mike whenever I had my heart set on a particular weekend project. Luckily I had met my match when it comes to morning resistence.
You have no idea how liberating it is to make pasta at three in the afternoon or at night (God forbid)! Instead of sabotaging my attempts at pasta making, this supposedly lax attitude did the opposite. I’ve never made so much or so many kinds of pasta as I have in the past year. This newfound view on time has provided me with so many more opportunities to whip up some dough and decide on a shape. I think most people never try things like this because of the hype they create in their heads around what is essentially a fairly simple task. You don’t actually need an entire day and you don’t have to make a whole bag of flour. You can carve out a couple hours and just make a batch of your favorite (or easiest) shape. But that said, I can’t deny that my mom does more before 10:30 am (real time or mom time) than most people do all day! It’s probably why she can whip up a mouth watering dinner for as many people as you can fit around her table with next to no notice.
My mom is astounded at the many different things that Mike and I concoct in our tiny kitchen, especially the various kinds of homemade pasta. She probably just doesn’t understand how it can be accomplished after 6am! All joking aside, my mom grew up at a time when these things were done out of necessity, when buying a box of dry pasta was a luxury that they couldn’t afford to indulge in too often. Sometimes it’s difficult for her to see the point in all of the time and effort I put into this endeavor. She still sees it as work but I see it as pure joy. Her first instinct when I tell her of the new pasta shapes I’ve attempted used to be to discourage it and save me the time by reminding me barilla makes a great version that I could just pick up at the store. Lately however I notice her changing her tune and offering me praise instead.
She’s come around to the idea that for me, it isn’t work it’s the same luxury that buying a box of dried pasta used to be for her. I bet she also remembers all the fun we’ve had together over the years creating amazing meals from flour and water. She must remember how excited I was to learn, and the progress I made so quickly and how accomplished it made me feel. She must take pride in the moment when she could honestly tell me that my dough was better and that she’d leave that step up to me from now on. It’s been a few years since we’ve made pasta in her kitchen together. The last time was with Mike and my aunt Angela’s son Mark. I remember that morning and how good it felt to be together carrying on the tradition of such important women, far more than I remember the finished product. I think when I tell my mom stories from our tiny New York kitchen, she’s glad she passed down such traditions to me and that I so willingly accepted them. It might be time for me and Mike to visit mom’s kitchen and remind her what a joy this process can be. I suddenly feel compelled to get up early and not waste the whole day!
Let’s not waste any more time. Wash your hands, clean off your work surface and get ready to make fettuccine from scratch!