It was the middle of July. Rome’s muggy summer air filled my lungs as I walked out of the metro station at Laurentina. Fascist buildings paying tribute to a bygone era were just down the road, among them the Italian Parliament and the famous Mussolini building. Anonymous people, busy with their lives were pouring out of the metro and rushing about their business as I waited for Giuseppe from Rome’s “Pizza and Pasta School”. Giuseppe, originally from Naples, moved with his family to Rome where he runs his private cooking school. He has taught for the past four years during which he hosted students from all around the world, including some TV crews from American food programmes, and now me.
Recently, he was invited to Mauritius to one of the resorts to teach hotel guests how to prepare pasta and pizza, something Giuseppe knows inside out. Whenever he visits friends, he prepares hand-made tagliatelle, dries it and gives it as a gift to his hosts. We were eight students that day, eager to learn every secret of pasta and pizza making. Giuseppe took us to his house just 20 minutes drive from Laurentina metro station where we cooked in his garden, in a big tent erected to be used as a kitchen.
I remember my Polish grandma making pasta at home to go with a Sunday soup. I have never made it myself though and didn’t know what to expect. The process was harder than I thought and required much more strength than I imagined. “In Italy we make two types of pasta: with egg and only with water. Egg pasta is usually for the weekend as it’s quite heavy and you may gain a few kilos if you eat it too often. It can be stored in a fridge up to two days after preparation” – explained Giuseppe – “for every day, I’d recommend light pasta made only of semola, not to be mistaken for semolina flour, and water. This type of pasta can be easily dried and stored in the pantry or any cool dry place.”
To make pasta, we simply placed semola flour in a dish, made a deep hole in the middle of it and added either water or egg. Afterwards we mixed everything with a fork and transferred to a flat surface. My grandma had always used a wooden board designed specifically for pasta, dumplings and Polish gnocchi (kopytka). Giuseppe explained that the best way to knead the dough was to pinch it strongly three times, then fold it in half and repeat the procedure until it is smooth and elastic.
Using a pasta machine or a roller is the best way to flatten the dough. Shapes like cappelletti or tortellini didn’t really require rolling as they can be molded by hand. If the dough got too dry, Giuseppe would spray it with water that he kept in a sprayer like that which I use for flowers. As in every Italian house, wine and time was flowing while making pasta. After a while, everyone became more cheerful, chatty, and tipsy. No one noticed how much time had passed and having perfect pasta shapes didn’t matter that much anymore. Giuseppe ensured however, that we got our rigatoni and tagliatelle right. We dealt with a real professional: the quality was everything even if the students were tipsy. After we finished, and using the pasta we had prepared, Giuseppe cooked beautiful tagliatelle carbonara and rigatoni with pesto. We sipped on our host’s home-made wine and devoured these simple yet tasty dishes. Afterwards, the eight of us parted ways, perhaps to never meet again.
Below you can see the recipe for Giuseppe’s pasta, which you can also find on his website. If you would like to book a class with Giuseppe, contact him through his website.
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