Sergio’s Homemade Tagliatelle
(See photos under Portfolio)
On Palm Sunday our friends Sergio & Laura invited us over for his famous homemade tagliatelle. Serafino, Larry and I arrived at their door about 11:00 AM to be greeted by Sergio returning from a half-marathon run. The man is nothing if not driven. The house was filled with the aroma of a long-simmering sauce of tomatoes, two meats and sausages that Laura had started hours earlier (and has promised to share her recipe). We would be a party of eight as their daughter, Alice, was home and Sassi and Gianni would join us. Sasy brought what I would call a pineapple-upsidedown cake just like my mother and grandmother use to make (a definte warm-fuzzy feeling came over me). Gianni, a man of the earth, brought a variety of funghi (mushrooms) that he personally foraged from the woods and then had been gently sauted until tender.
I totally flaked on the homemade front and brought a chunk of parmesan cheese (half of the kilo Gianni had brought to our American Breakfast), a cold bottle of proseco and a Columba di Pasqua cake (Easter Dove) from Caffe Guido. This is a traditional cake made in a pan shaped like a dove. Ours was studded with chocolate chips and had a non-traditional chocolate frosting – although there are many different recipes.
Laura opened up a pasta table that I am sure has seen generations of pasta making. I had a front-row seat as Sergio dumped 1 Kilo (1 bag) of “0” grind farina on the table, made a well in the center, and cracked 8 fresh eggs into the well. He then added a pinch of salt and a couple teaspoons of olive oil. Just like on the television shows, with his hands he began to incorporate flour from the inner wall of the well with the eggs and (this is important) did not break through the outer wall of flour until enough was mixed with the eggs to keep them from bolting. Once he had incorporated “enough” of the flour to make a dough, he brushed the excess aside and began kneading the dough, and kneading, and kneading, and kneading, adding flour as necessary. This is just how his mother and her ancestors had made this pasta for generations. Speaking of which, the legs on that little pasta table were groaning. Once the dough was “right” he cut it in half and covered half with a towel. Sitting there sipping my proseco, I was beginning to feel tired after all that kneading but the hard work had not yet begun. (And that is why I buy my pasta from the shop.)
Knowing what was to come I am sure I saw that little table brace itself as Sergio pulled out an ancient rolling pin and began to roll out half of the dough. With Larry and Serafino (that’s two grown men) holding the little table so it would not walk across the room, Sergio rolled that dough so long and so hard was sure I heard the little table begging for mercy. The dough was now very thin and Sergio was sweating. Who knew that underneath those house dresses the nonni (grandmothers) of Italy have arms like Sergio? Or was this just “man dough?” Now I was totally exhausted and my arms so tired I could barely lift that glass of proseco to my lips.
Next he folded the dough over about six times and began to cut it into strips (narrow or wide – your choice). Then he unfolded the pasta strips and – ta da – tagliatelle was laid out on a floured surface. It was only with this last process that I was permitted to help. The little table was then returned to its original position, braced itself once more and the process was repeated with the other half of the dough. Now I needed a nap!
Laura now took over and the tagliatelle was gently picked up and put into boiling water for a brief time and then added to that incredible sauce (the meats now removed and put in a separate bowl). Oh, yeah, it was every bit as good as it sounds. Laura added a beautiful salad and some good wine, then we enjoyed the delicious cakes and caffe. What a treat!
It was agreed that we needed a walk but Sergio wanted to walk in the countryside and we are always game to get out of town. Unfortunately Serafino, Gianni and Alice had other obligations, but the remaining five of us piled into the car and headed, literally, for the hills. We made a couple stops to view the beautiful Sibilini mountains and take photos and then stopped in the valley below Castelluccio at a horse farm to stretch our legs. There were two foals in the field that were just a couple days old and wild crocus were sprouting from the ground. Beautiful! What a great spring day.