Italy, October 10, 2014
Written by Roxanne
I was, what I consider, one of the lucky kids that was raised by grandparents. My Grandmother was the typical Grandmother; full of love, hugs and baking. At Christmas she would make pajamas for my sisters and me. For birthdays she would make our favorite birthday cake. Sundays she would make a big pot of chicken noodle soup. We were lucky growing up. Every day after school I would come home to fresh bread, sweet sticky cinnamon buns, warm brownies or cookies. She was always trying new recipes, but made sure to make our favorites too. She is the person that made me one of the popular kids at school because everyone wanted to come to our house to have a taste of what Grandma had made that day. Now you must know that living with my grandparents was not always a cake walk. There were times when my Grandma would get in her mass production phase of baking or cooking that required my sisters and me to help out. At Christmas it was baking cookies, summer it was making jam, and in the fall it was canning tomatoes. Then there was the pasta making times. Oh, these times could happen anytime throughout the year and were painful for my sisters and me. We were rarely warned of the pasta making days, but we quickly learned when those days were. First we would see her making the dough; then we’d see her pulling out the noodle maker. We knew we were doomed when she began putting the tablecloths out on the tables and any other surfaces. There was no escaping. We would be spending the day making noodles. Not just a little, but enough noodles to feed an army. My sisters and I would take turns rolling the dough or cranking out the pasta with the little machine; passing it on to be spread on the table cloths so it could dry before being put into storage containers. But noodles don’t dry quickly, they take hours. The house would be filled with noodles that you couldn’t move. They were everywhere. Once the noodles were dried, Grandma would package them up and give much of it away to friends and family. We know through these baking and noodle marathon days she was trying to teach us how to cook and bake; but what she may not have known is that she was also teaching us about generosity. I thank you for that Grandma. Now, my Grandma is too forgetful and not well enough to be able to teach my kids how to make noodles, so while in Italy, we took a pasta making class. When I first mentioned the idea to Len and the kids, they were all game for the adventure. The class was in an old Tuscan farm home, surrounded with lush green rolling hills and vineyards. We were met in the parking lot by Luca, our English speaking assistant, Ester, the chef, and another group of 5 from Israel. I was partly expecting to see a noodle maker and tablecloths spread throughout the kitchen when we stepped into the kitchen. But instead we saw a very large table in the middle of the kitchen with 6 workstations setup. On a smaller table were complementary aprons, chef hats and little cookbooks. We all put on the aprons and hats and got ready to crank out the pasta. We were making three different pasta dishes: Tagliatelle ai porcini (handmade tagliatelle with porcini mushrooms; Ravioli buro e salvia (stuffed ravioli with butter and sage); and Gnocchi al pomadoro fresco e basilica (handmade gnocchi with fresh tomato and basil). We started by preparing the tomato and basil sauce. Some chefs diced tomatoes, while others minced garlic. We peeled potatoes and boiled them for the gnocchi and minced sage. While the sauces were simmering, Ester had us make the pasta. The kids each made a small amount of pasta dough. Breaking the eggs, mixing the dough; rolling the dough and then finally cutting it to make round ravioli. Everyone had a turn at making all three types of pasta. We rolled dough for the tagliatella and learned you don’t need a pasta maker to make pasta. With a rolling pin we rolled the dough to just the right thickness, sprinkled a little flour on top, lightly folded the dough over, then cut it into thin slices, and once cut, unfolded the noodles. As easy as that. No cranking it through a pasta maker over and over again. After making all the wonderful pasta dishes, we had the opportunity to go outside and enjoy our meal with good conversation and wine, which was made right at the Tuscan home. We had such a fun day making pasta and meeting new friends. I thought of my Grandma many times throughout the day, as we made pasta. She would have been proud to know that I didn’t forget everything she had taught me during her marathon noodle making days. I only wish it could have been her teaching my kids how to make pasta.