Pasta Non-Basta – My Day At A Pasta Making Class In Bologna
Written by Jaillan Yehia
‘It’s marvellous this tortellini with ricotta cheese’ exclaims Daniela, whose traditional family pasta shop has been here in Bologna’s Mercato della Erbe for 70 years. It’s where she and sister Monica hand make lasagna, tortellini and tortelloni for the people of Emilia Romagna, helped by their mother Renata.
‘Is this one your favourite?’ I ask. ‘Everything here is our favourite!’ comes the reply.
Your images of Italian mammas and grandmas stirring up secret recipe Bolognese sauce handed down through the generations? It’s a reality here at Le Sfogline, and you can learn how to recreate it in your own kitchen…
We all know how seriously the Italians take their food. For the uninitiated, here’s lesson 1: It’s utter sacrilege to consume cappuccino after 11 am.
Lesson 2: Pasta is seasonal and regional and even something as seemingly innocent as tortellini fillings vary hugely from town to town – so just half an hour down the road from our location in Bologna, the walled-city of Ferrara has its own typical filling of pumpkin, but and all over the region of Emilia Romagna you’ll find plenty of variations.
The famous ‘spaghetti bolognese’ to which Bologna gives its name is actually a misnomer – it simply doesn’t exist, except in the tourist restaurants. What you’re really after here for authenticity is tagliatelle al ragù.
And at our pasta making class in Bologna today we’re using a special locally made ricotta cheese, sourced by the formidable ladies at Le Sfogloine to make tortelloni at one counter, while grandma sits quietly at the stove and cooks up her signature ragu and painstakingly layering it over sheets of freshly made pasta, topped off with courgette flowers.
We learn not only how to make a variety of different types of pasta but hear that a perfect tortellini weights exactly 2 grams – for novices like us curling the little shapes around our fingers without squeezing the filling out the sides is a painstaking process that produces rather a lot of rejects, but with decades of experience Monica is a faster and more precise worker, and her pile of perfect pasta shapes grows at quite the rate.
It takes the ladies 25 minutes to make a kilo of tortelloni and at peak times they’ll produce 60 kilos of meat-filled tortellini (mortadella mixed with eggs, Parmesan, nutmeg and salt) per day and 10-15 kilos of the ricotta variety – and still run out come afternoon – and during out afternoon inside the hot kitchen we see a steady stream of people come in to collect their orders.
With the pasta left over after making the tortellini and tortelloni we’re shown how to cut different thicknesses of tagliatelle – the thinnest, an angle hair version, is for broth, the next size up to be served with butter, and progressively wider strips to accompany ragu, ham, mushrooms and finally the largest strips which work well with strong meats – hunting meats as they’re described by Monica. Any leftover bits scraps are then served in soups.
This is pure Italian tradition and inside the shop aside from a modern set of scales, there’s no hint that you’re in the year 2013, let alone the 20th century – aside from the radio that is, and of course today the presence of bloggers complete with iphones and cameras to document it all.
Le Sfogline – Prodotti Tipici Bolognesi
7B Via Belvedere
Tel – 051 22 05 58
email – [email protected]
The pasta making class in Bologna is a new initiative, though the shop is far from new. It runs daily except Thursdays and Fridays (when the family are too busy fulfilling orders to have tourists clogging up the kitchen) in June and July.
If you’re lucky they may also give you some of grandma’s ragu sauce to take home with you too.
In the evenings the square outside the shop is filled with tables and chairs and you can buy pasta from Le Sfogline and other snacks and dishes from the market traders and enjoy a great value alfresco dinner.
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