My quest for the perfect pasta all began on a rainy evening in the hilltop town of Barolo in the Piedmont district of Italy.
My friend Alison and I were driving through Northern Italy to Montalcino, stopping en route here and there to taste wines and the local fare. Barolo was the first meal. My greedy fork plunged into the much-anticipated bowl of tagliatelle ragu. “Forty eggs yolks for one kilo of 00 flour. It’s a beautiful yellow, certo?” said the waitress. Breathtakingly luxurious Tajarin (tajarin is the Piemontese word for tagliateli) pasta, a speciality of Piedmont, made daily by la mama at this cosy family-run restaurant, the Osteria La Cantinella. My first 40-egg yolk fresh pasta, a taste sensation, could there be any better out there I wondered?
The next day and a few hours south and we are in Tuscany driving in the hills of Florence nearby the famous Villa San Michelle Hotel in Fiesole. It was here we dined at the relaxing and stylish Trattoria Le Cave di Maiano. Surrounded by lush greenery overlooking the valley the experience was one to remember. The chef’s Tortelli Mugellani with its delicate flavours and Pici Salsiccia e Tartufo Nero, a.k.a. black truffle bliss was bellisimo!
Our next stop seeking pasta perfection is the legendary Siena, declared by UNESCO to be a world heritage sight. A walk around the magnificent Duomo, the cathedral constructed of white and green-black marble in alternating stripes, followed by the Piazza del Campo, regarded as one of Europe’s greatest medieval squares, leaves me wondering whether the local fare can compare to the sights. Armed with the name of a cantina, I forge ahead, sit down and order a glass of Chianti from a wine maker down the road and a plate of what is pitched as a delicacy from the area, Pici (or Pinci) pasta, a thick, hand rolled noodle similar to thick spaghetti made of only water and flour. Satisfying, but not my numero uno – no eggs!
We drive off early the next morning; I am moving somewhat slowly at this point. Arriving in Montalcino, a wine lover’s haven (the infamous Brunello di Montalcino comes from here) and hence also a gourmet destination, Enoteca Osterio Osticcio offers pasta with a glorious view.
But now I needed to go one step further and actually make pasta. Providence shined when Teresa Galli took us on an afternoon tour of Montalcino (The Gladiator was filmed here). A beautiful woman with white hair, bright blue eyes that light up when she gets animated and an energy that belies her age (her mother is 101 next birthday), she invited me to her home for a cooking lesson.
Teresa knows her pasta. Into the kitchen, apron on and I was soon manipulating the dough (with 4-egg yolks) by hand until it became smooth and elastic and rolled it paper-thin. I then cut it into thin tagliatelle strips ready for cooking. Wow – I can make pasta!
Later on, after several glasses of Brunello with Teresa, my mind wandered back to the Piedmont region’s insanely ‘eggy’ pasta speciality. Deciding it was clearly the winner as nothing so far had the taste sensation of 40-egg yolk pasta
Geneva/Barolo (3.5hour drive via the Mont Blanc Tunnel)
Barolo/Florence (4hour drive)
Florence/Siena (2hour drive)
Siena/Montalcino (1 hour drive)
Tajarin Pasta (based on the 40 egg yolks and 1 kilo of 00 Flour pasta recipe)
10 egg yolks (preferably fresh organic eggs)
2 cups 00 flour
¾ tsp salt
1 tsp olive oil
Flour for dusting
Put the flour in a large bowl. Make a mound and form a hole in the centre of the flour. Add all the ingredients to the centre of the whole. Blend the egg yolk into the flour by moving in a circular path until the flour has incorporated all the egg and a dry pasty texture is achieved. Slowly start to knead the pastry by hand (or by dough hook on a kitchen appliance) – if dry add some egg white and/or olive oil. Continue to knead for around 3 minutes until it holds together. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and set aside for 20 minutes at room temperature.
Cut your ball into four equal portions. Roll the dough out by hand with a rolling pin until paper-thin, fold over and then cut into very thin strips, making sure that the strips are opened, otherwise they will stick together when cooking.
Alternatively use a pasta maker and feed in until till the next to the smallest setting is achieved. Feed each sheet through a thing (2cm) cutting attachment made for your pasta machine.
Cook in boiling salted water for around one and half minutes.
Teresa’s Homemade Pasta Dough (used for Tagliatelle, lasagne, cannelloni, ravioli, etc)
500kgs unsifted all-purpose flour (preferably 00 Flour)
3 – 4 fresh range free eggs (or fresh organic)
½ teaspoon salt
1tablespoon olive oil
Pour the flour into a large mixing bowl or in a heap on a pastry board or kitchen counter. Make a well in the center of the flour and in it put the eggs one at a time, oil and salt. Mix together with a fork or your fingers until the flour mixture turns firm. Shape the dough into a ball.
You can either roll the pasta dough (using a rolling pin or large bottle) or use a pasta machine into making long sheets (for lasagne) or cannelloni to fit the size of the oven pan.
The pasta dough can be frozen if it is in layers – putting paper or freezer wrap between layers. Do not put a ‘ball’ of dough in the freezer.
Via Roma, 65 12060 Barolo, Province of Cuneo, Piedmont
+39 0173 566408
Hotel Villa Fiesole
Via Beato Angelico, 35 50014 Fiesole, Florence, Tuscany
+39 055 597252
Castello di Poggio alle Mura, snc, 53024 Montalcino, Tuscany
+39 0577 840111
Osteria La Cantinella
Via Acqua gelata, 4/a – 12060 Barolo (Cn)
Year founded: 15/04/1995
Owner: Cravero Nella
Trattoria Le Cave di Maiano
Via Cave di Maraino 16
Tel: 055 59133
Compagnia dei Vinattieri
Via delle Terme, 79 – Via dei Pittori, 1
Tel: 0577 236568
Il Grappolo Blu Ristorante
Scale di Via Moglio, 1
Tel: 0577 847150
Enoteca Osteria Osticcio
Via Matteotti, 23
Tel: +39 0577 848271
Via Giuseppe Mazzini, 18,
Province of Siena
Tel: +39 0577 847070
Cooking Class and Walking Tour of Montalcino
Via Spagnoi, 3
Tel: (+39) 349 4256121