A guide to remedying holiday nostalgia through food…
The cover photo was actually taken way back in 2017, when I spent a weekend with my parents swanning about Northern Italy. Naturally, recent events mean that spontaneous trips to Verona are impossible, so I think we should all indulge in a little bit of nostalgia and imagination. Such as pretending you’re in Italy, when actually you’re living in your freezing student house in Canley, that comes with regular power cuts instead of nights eating antipasti and aperitivi. The easiest way to do this, naturally, is through food. Specifically pasta.
Of course, you could just buy your 27p fusilli from Aldi and serve it with some pesto. But I believe a much better way to distract you from your woes is to make the stuff from scratch. What’s more, you could even turn it into a flat-night, because, let’s be honest, you’ve probably exhausted the typical games-night, quiz-night, or pizza night, and are desperate for some new ways to socialise.
What you’ll need to make enough for 6:
360g of White Flour (make sure it’s the double ounce stuff)
140g of Semolina (look for it in the dessert decoration section of Tesco, and not in the flour section)
6 large eggs (3 whole + 3 yolks)
Bit of water and salt
Naturally, I am no expert in making homemade pasta, despite having pranced about Italy for 6 months last year. Therefore, if you are an Italian nonna reading this in horror, please feel free to comment your better recipe below. What I will say, in my defense, is that pasta is surprisingly varied, with pretty much every town having their own variation of the recipe. For instance, the quantity of semolina usually increases the further South you go; the flour adds the smoothness to the pasta, the semolina adds the bite, so try various amounts and see how you like it. I personally, like a third semolina, particularly for tagliatelle.
To begin, whisk the flour, semolina and salt in a large mixing bowl until its combined, and then make a well. Traditionally, you should pour the flour mix onto your work surface to do the next bit, but let’s be honest, despite how much you clean a uni kitchen, it’s never truly clean, so perhaps it is safer to keep the bowl in use.
Add your whole eggs and two of the eggs yolks to the mixture and start to combine. Use a spoon if you’d like, but hands are best here.
Keep combining it. It’ll be hard work, and you’ll doubt that there is enough liquid, but just keep working the flour into the eggs. Of course, if there truly is not enough liquid (perhaps you’ve only got medium eggs), feel free to add the final yolk, and a little bit of water. But only a tiny amount.
Once it’s become dough-like, steal your flatmate’s rather large wooden chopping board, and cover it with flour. Now it’s time to kneed. Push the heel of your hand into the dough and push it away from yourself to stretch it length-ways. Then turn the dough and fold and start again. Continue this for 10 minutes (a wonderful arm workout), until it becomes a smooth, springy dough. If you push your finger into the dough to dent it, then the dough should spring back.
When it is ready, wrap the dough in a damp tea towel and place it in the fridge for at least an hour. This is a wonderful moment because it will be the only time in your university-life where you will be grateful that the tumble-dryer didn’t entirely dry your washing. Don’t worry if there are a few lumps in the mix, they’ll smooth out in the fridge.
When you’re ready, take it out of the fridge and here we go. You’re ready to roll. Luckily, my family have a fancy pasta roller (we do this a lot) which also has an attachment that cuts out spaghetti or tagliatelle. I appreciate this isn’t common in a uni-kitchen, therefore I would advise doing tagliatelle. Simply roll out your pasta with a rolling-pin (if the dough is sticking, throw more flour on it) and then take a knife and cut. Remember to roll it super thin, otherwise your tagliatelle will resemble udon-noodles. Of course, if you have a lot of time, or maybe all your flatmates have got involved, then you can attempt spaghetti: pull off a small piece of dough, and with your fingers, roll it lengthways. As you roll, splay your fingers so that the dough stretches. This takes ages, but is satisfying. And, if you give up and roll it quite thick, you can just call it pici, a fatter version of spaghetti, which is the regional pasta of my beloved Siena.
And that is it. Simply cook it for around 3 minutes (depending on how long you’ve dried the pasta for- I recommend testing regularly) in salty water, and serve with whatever sauce your flatmates have mutually agreed on before. My house went for carbonara:
Style it how you like: with bacon, like normal, or with fake bacon and sprouts if you’re like me, and not like other girls. And that is that. A recipe for a delightful evening with your flatmates. I also advise setting the table nicely and maybe adding candelabra to really get the fake-Italy vibes going.