It is tradition that every Christmas, Nonna (my Mum’s mum) and the girls in the family set aside a day for anolini making. Anolini are little filled pasta that are served in broth that we eat as a starter on Christmas day.
These anolini are hotly anticipated by all, given that we only really eat them once a year, maybe twice if there are leftovers, and the making of them is all part of enjoying the finished product. The day is spent kneading the dough, cutting out pasta shapes and trying to roll perfect sized balls of stuffing under the watchful eye of Nonna (‘too small, no no now that’s too big’). I won’t go into the ins and outs of anolini making now as we’d be here all evening… that can wait until December.
Last weekend Nonna came to stay as my eldest cousin on my Mum’s side was getting married. We decided on Sunday that she would teach me how to make the pasta dough so that I could do it by myself, without her guidance whenever the desire to do so arose. Our grand pasta plans seemed to become all the more unrealistic as the day went on and other jobs took longer than expected (notably my two attempts at making a ‘magic Japanese soufflé cake’ for work). By the time I was free to make pasta it was 9pm and I assumed we might have to leave it for another day but a tired looking Nonna got out the flour and the eggs and off we went. We opted out of our initial plan of making ravioli and decided on tagliatelle instead as it was far too late to start debating filling flavours.
Whilst Nonna and I fed sheets of dough through the pasta machine, the soundtrack to Les Miserables (certainly one of my favourites) belted out from the TV behind us. Whilst the lyrics may not have been quite in line with pasta making, the whole thing felt quite therapeutic. Who knew that cutting strips of pasta whilst listening to Russell Crowe belt out ‘One Day More’ would make up the perfect Sunday evening?
Apologies for the photos, I came home late on a very dark and rainy day (that’s the Great British summer for you).
Fresh egg tagliatelle
7 (makes about 700g)
500g 00 flour
5 small eggs (or 4 large)
Drop of water (optional)
First of all you need a relatively large surface to work on. Clean the surface thoroughly and flour it with some of your flour.
Next, measure out your flour by sifting it into a large bowl.
Make a well in the middle of the flour and crack your eggs in.
Use your fingers to break up the egg yolks and mix in some of the flour from around the edges as you go. Continue using your fingers until all of the flour and eggs are mixed together. You may need to add a touch of water to combine everything but be very careful with this. Add only a few drops at a time to help bring the flour and eggs together fully. Do not add too much water. A little of the dough will be sticking to your fingers but you don’t want the dough to be too sticky that it is impossible to work with.
Take the dough out of the bowl and put on to your prepared surface. Here is where the arm workout comes in. Kneed your dough for about five minutes by pulling it and pushing it back onto the floured surface (you may need to keep adding little bit of flour as you go to prevent sticking). Kneed the dough until you have a smooth and stiff ball.
Use a knife to cut the dough into smaller sections, 4 or 5 is fine.
Put your pasta machine to the lowest setting. Ours has settings 1-7 so start on 1.
Take one section of dough and feed it through the machine to flatten it out. Then work up the gears, so feed the same piece of dough through the machine on number 3, then 5, then 6. We found that 7 made the dough too thin so fed the same piece of dough through section 6 twice which resulted in a thickness we were happy with but each machine will be different so play around and see which is best. You will probably have to cut the sheet in half to make it easier to feed through the machine (they can get very long).
Lie your long sheets of pasta on your floured surface and continue to do the same with each section so you are left with lots of long, flat sheets of pasta dough (that look like long lasagne sheets).
Leave the sheets to dry for about half an hour as this makes them easier to cut.
We have a setting on the pasta machine that cuts tagliatelle so if you have this, attach it and feed your sheets of pasta through it to cut them into strips. Lay your strips on the floured surface to dry. After about half an hour, use your fingers to just pick up the tagliatelle and move it around a bit so that pieces don’t stick together.
Alternatively, you could cut the strips by hand but this would require a lot more patience and precision.
You can leave your pasta on the work surface over night to dry.
Store pasta in an air tight container.
Fresh tagliatelle with salmon, crème fresh and dill
200g fresh tagliatelle (see above)
2-3 tbsp. butter
120g crème fraiche
100g smoked salmon
Juice and zest of half a lemon
Boil a large pan of water and salt it heavily. When it has boiled, turn down the heat to a rolling simmer and add the pasta. Cook for about 5 minutes (fresh pasta doesn’t need long).
While the pasta cooks, melt the butter in a large pan. Turn the heat down to low and add the crème fraiche, smoked salmon, the juice and zest of your lemon and season with plenty of cracked black pepper and a touch of salt (you won’t need much as the salmon is salty). Cook for about 4 minutes on this low heat. Turn off the heat.
Taste it to see if the pasta is cooked, you want it to keep a bit of a bite (al dente). When it’s done, drain it (reserving a bit of the cooking water) and add it to the pan with the sauce. Use two forks to bring everything together; making sure all of the pasta is coated in sauce. You may want to add a touch of the cooking water to loosen the sauce a little and bring everything together nicely (although Nonna turned her nose up at this and said just add more butter!)
Divide onto two plates and sprinkle with chopped fresh dill.