Thursday, March 17, 2011

Italian Unification marks 150 years today..Celebrate with Tagliatelle Tricolore

Viva l'Italia! 
Tri colore pasta
The party started Wednesday night with a nostalgic and patriotic musical extravaganza on television and in all three of the former and current capitals of Italy, Torino, Florence and Rome. Fireworks  for the grand finale, which for some was enjoyed in the steady drip of rain, but from the looks of it the piazzas were full to over flowing everywhere and a sense of unity pervaded, even if it might only be for a fleeting moment. 150 years, not all that long for a country with thousands of years of history, brought together by a desire for a common language and freedom from foreign rule that exploited them without understanding them. Unification came and still 150 years later most Italians usually identify themselves first from their region and it's culinary traditions, secondly as Italians with a broader alliance.
It is a time to celebrate when perhaps not everyone feels like celebrating, for the oh so many reasons too easy to enumerate. It's turbulent uncertain times in the world and here is no different. Italians have as many challenges that separates as opposed to uniting. United they are however, in spite of their differences, they all love their homeland with fierce pride and sometimes with idealistic longing for a grander day. I think most countries and people are feeling the same these days. So let us celebrate our common ground and put aside our differences. For me and I think most Italians as well, the best way to do that is to share a meal with drink and animated conversation. It's the balm that unites and gives us the strength to debate, laugh and love.
mixed pasta 
This home made three colored tagliatelle recipe was put forward by Alessandra Spisni, a frequent guest on a popular daytime cooking show in honor of the World Cup football matches last year. She hails from the Bologna region whose rule of thumb for hand rolled pasta is for every one hundred grams of flour, you add one egg and after mixing, roll.  I adapt this recipe to use the pasta machine by substituting some of the plain flour with a some semola or durum flour to give the pasta a bit more tooth. I have given her original recipe and not made the substitutions for the metric measurements, as they can vary so greatly from cook to cook. For me, 1 c flour =150g, no matter what converters usually say (usually 100g = 1c, but for me it taint so) Be that as it may, if you find your dough too dry, wet your hands and soften it up and conversely it it;s too wet, add more flour. You dough should be pliable and firm earlobe texture.  This pasta  will go with just about any of your favorite sauces. You want to use a clearer sauce for the colors to show through though. The sauce I have given below is a typical light handed coating for the pasta's colors and subtle flavors to shine through. Many of our guests tell us that they are surprised at the lack of sauce on pasta here in Italy. Italians like there to be a balance of sauce to pasta so that all the flavors shine through. You, however may find this to be a bit on the dry side for your taste, so you could add some chicken stock or light cream for a saucier version. It's also not quite full on zucchini flowers season, so feel free to substitute enough julienned zucchini  or fresh artichokes slices to make a great tasting colorful pasta, sure to brighten anyones day.
Buon appetito and  Viva l'Italia!!
Three color pasta in a light cream sauce
Tagliatelle Tricolore
Serves : a bunch of hungry people 15 or so

For the pasta:
Rosso/Red
500g flour, plain/all purpose
5 eggs, room temperature
2 t tomato paste


Bianca/White
500g flour, plain/all purpose
5 eggs, room temperature

Verdi/Green
500g flour, plain. all purpose
4 eggs room temperature
100g spinach, cooked, liquid squeezed out

Simple light sauce

2 shallots, diced
20 zucchini flowers, large ones roughed chopped More if yours are the smaller type
or 3 (or so)good sized zucchini shredded into about 1 1/2-2" thin, thin strips, julienne
Parsley, chopped, a big handful
Olive oil to saute
Parmesan, grated, to taste, figure about 100g/ 1/2 c or so

2 T butter

Salt and Pepper
Mixed plain, spinach and tomato pasta

For the Pasta
I start with the white, by placing the flour in a bowl.
Make a well in the middle and crack your eggs into the middle.
Whisk the eggs with a fork, whisk or our fingers in a circular motion till the yolks and whites begin to emulsify. Gradually bring in  the flour little by little until you get a shaggy mass of dough.
Dump the dough on to a generously floured wooden board or table.
Begin to knead your dough until you reach a smooth pliable dough, adjusting your flour or adding a bit of water by wetting your hands, if needed.
Cover your dough with a plastic bag or film when the dough is smooth and set aside. This allows the dough to relax, usually about 15 minutes, which will be about the time  it will take you to get the other doughs finished.
Important to keep the doughs covered so they don't dry on you making it more difficult to roll out.

Repeat the process for the other two colored varieties.
Purists will mix the chopped spinach and tomato paste respectively directly in to the well with the eggs.
I like to use a small mini food processor attachment, that fits on my hand emulsion mixer, to blend a couple of the eggs with the spinach and later the tomato paste to get a smoother green and red mixture.
I find especially with the spinach, that it makes for a less ragged speckling of the dough, but it's entirely up to you whether you feel like dirtying another utensil.
Roll out your dough till thin enough to make nice rustic pasta. (1/4mm/ 1/8"or thinner)
By hand you will get approximately a 90cm x 60cm (30"x 24") rectangle.
You can roll each dough in two batches for more manageability, as it is a very large rectangle.
If using a pasta machine, divide dough into at least six sections and roll each dough section out to the next to the last setting.
Let the dough strips dry for about 15 minutes before cutting in to the tagliatelle shape.
It will be the wider setting on the cutter that comes with your machine.
Let the tagliatelle air dry 15 minutes before cooking to insure that the strands don't stick together.
You can hang them on a broom handle suspended between two chairs.  If you don't want to make the full batch, you can dry part of the pasta over night for a later date.
 If you live in a dry climate, the pasta will stay well indefinitely. If you live in a humid climate, don't leave it too long before using. Store in an air tight container when thoroughly dry.
The unrolled dough also freezes well for rolling out at a later date.  Roughly 100g of pasta for a servering per person, depending on your appetites and if there are other courses to the meal.
Get your salted water boiling.  Fresh pasta only takes a few minutes to cook. You will probably need to cook this large amount of pasta in several batches.
Mix your three colors of pasta when cooking so your colors are mixed when adding to the sauce.
Make sure you have a large pot of water boiling and  fish out the pasta on each batch adding it to the sauce pan, so you don't need to bring a second batch of water to a boil.
Male zucchini flowers
For the sauce
Have all of your ingredients ready and start the sauce when you are ready to drop the pasta in the water. 
Saute the chopped shallots in a generous amount of olive oil in a large saute pan with tall sides.
As the shallots start to soften, add  the chopped zucchini flowers. Saute till wilted. Add the parsley. If you want a saucier pasta add about a cup of chicken stock at this point. Bring to boil and add the butter. When the butter has melted you are ready for the pasta. Add the cooked pasta to the sauce in the sauce pan. Add the parmesan, stirring and shaking the pan to combine and coat the pasta. adjust your salt and pepper to taste. Seve immediately serving extra parmesan on the side.
Feel free to substitute your favorite sauce as well.
Viva l'Italia
Fabrizio serving up tricolore pasta
Going, going.....
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