I had many regrets when my adorable Italian Nonna passed away several years ago. But, the one that still haunts me today is that I didn’t give her my undivided attention while she was making all of her traditional recipes that she brought to America from her tiny village in Northern Italy. I vividly remember her sweet, stubby fingers rolling potato gnocchi and stuffing fresh raviolis for hours in the early afternoon. Though I received some sporadic lessons, all of her delicious Italian recipes were never written down. Today, I would give anything to taste one of her specialty dishes again.
It was now too late to be taught pasta making by my Italian grandmother, but it wasn’t too late to be taught by someone else’s.
While staying at the Palazzo Donati palace, in the Northern Italy town of Mercatello sul Metauro in Le Marche, I got a tagliatelle lesson from Nonna Lina Mazzanti.
Lina started making pasta at the age of ten, which is not terribly uncommon in Italy. She has won top awards at the pasta competition in the village for the past ten years. If a pasta lesson couldn’t be given by my actual grandmother, Lina was definitely qualified as a substitute teacher.
photo by Palazzo Donati
The class was being taught in the rustic, downstairs kitchen of Palazzo Donati, as wood burned in the open fireplace in the background.
Lina, working on a table in the center of the room, started with making the dough. The recipe was simply 1 egg per 100 grams of flour.
That’s it. No salt. No water. No semolina. No big secret.
She mixed the two ingredients together and kneaded the dough by hand for twenty minutes.
There was no such thing as a Kitchenaid mixer in her world.
Then, Nonna Lina rolled the dough out entirely by hand using a long, wooden rolling pin.
There was no metal pasta maker in sight.
It took at least fifteen minutes to roll it to the perfect thickness on the wooden board that she kept accusing of being way too small for what she was trying to accomplish. Once it was flattened perfectly, it was left alone to dry for an hour.
It was then folded in half, then half again, and cut by hand into thin strips of tagliatelle. She floured and haystacked each portion making neat little packages that were now ready to turn into a meal.
We ate a lunch at Palazzo Donati using this uncomplicated pasta recipe, which was turned into a delicious tagliatelle with a bolognese sauce. I would never disrespect my Nonna by saying Lina’s was the best, but let’s just say I can understand why she has been the pasta competition winner over the last several years.
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You can have a pasta cooking lesson arranged by Luisa when staying at Palazzo Donati which is in the Le Marche region of Northern Italy.