CHIUSDINO, Italy— A tiny mound of delicate flour laid on the marble counter; a cracked egg, olive oil and salt rested in the crater inside. With the smooth whisking motion of the fork, thick dough began to form. The gummy mixture molded itself between my fingers and I found it difficult to separate the sticky dough from my hand. We each had our own ball, eventually combining them into one perfectly kneaded jumble ready to be rolled out. The effortless mixing of these simple ingredients shattered my previous thoughts of how hard making homemade pasta must be.
We watched Loredana Betti, former chef and long-time resident at Spannocchia, gracefully work the pasta dough until it held the perfect consistency throughout. There was something natural to her movement. It became instantly obvious she had a firm grasp on not only this recipe, but of all cooking that took place in the kitchen. Her timing was precise but never rushed. In a one fluid motion we made pear and pecorino crostone, Gardner’s sauce, baked zucchini, thin beef rolls, tiramisu and fresh tagliatelle noodles.
The dough was ready and the pasta equipment was set up. We divided the dough again into pieces perfectly sized for a three-inch wide strip of pasta. Bette placed one chunk into the machine and quickly churned the knob. A thinner block emerged from the other side. She turned the dial to an even thinner setting and repeated her process. We each took turns spinning the wheel and flattening our dough. Eventually we were left with uniformly thin, wide strips of pasta that stretched to great lengths.
The flexible noodles quickly hardened and maintained their form. This indicated their readiness to be cut into their ultimate noodle shape. The noodles cooked in boiling water just long enough to soften.
The freshness of the pasta paired with the newly picked vegetables in the sauce created a meal fit for the Tuscan countryside.