Pasta cooking for beginners
The Italian Insider
- Isabel Sawkins
MONTESCAGLIOSO - At the agrifarm L’orto di Lucania, I was invited to partake in a cookery course to learn the hallowed secrets of making authentic pasta such as cavatelli and orecchiette.
The course was run by one of the chefs at the agrifarm, which is part of an estate of 250 hectares on the banks of the Bradano river. They grow their own organic wheat, corn, tomatoes, aubergine, artichokes, olives and fruit on the property. It has also been ranked in 2011 as amongst the best five farmhouses of Italy by The Times of London.
Three journalists taking part were myself, a 20-year old Brit, and a Californian couple, Martha Bakerjian and James Martin, who had both had experience in making pasta before. I, on the other hand, had not. Buying Barilla and putting it in boiling water for approximately 10 minutes was always my go-to solution for Italian pasta.
To make the pasta, approximately two hundred grams of semolina flour was taken, and water was poured gradually into a small crevice that we made in the middle. Once all of the flour was mixed into the water, the dough was then ‘worked’ or kneaded, until it had a smooth texture, which was a surprising workout.
The dough was then cut in four, and rolled out to be approximately 1 centimetre thick. The first pasta shape that we tackled was cavatelli. These were made by cutting the pasta dough into pieces approximately an inch long, and using your first three fingers, rolling the pasta towards you. However, we had to be careful not to apply too much pressure, as otherwise you would end up just pushing the dough into the chopping board. This seemed relatively easy to me, not so much to the other two journalists I was with. Nonetheless, they would have their time to shine. The next pasta shape that we tackled were orecchiette (little ears), which involved much more delicate hand work. Being a pianist myself, I thought that this would be ok for me, but I soon got very confused about which thumb or finger I was putting the dough on. The couple I was with had previously made orecchiette 3 times, so they were much more accomplished than me. Thank goodness for the kind chef, who was very understanding, patient and helped me out.
We were then treated to lunch, which consisted of bread with their homemade melanzane rosso paste for antipasti. Our pasta was then cooked for us by the chef with a sauce consisting of tomatoes, aubergines and grated ricotta cheese.
This was followed by beef for secondo, and a chocolate cake for dessert. It may not have been the most aesthetically pleasing pasta, but it tasted delicious and I kept on telling myself that it’s the thought that counts!