Pasta Series #8: Garganelli fatti in casa

First pasta recipe of 2020!

Let's dive right in, shall we? After a jaunt on semola/water pasta avenue with a detour down gnocchi lane and a right turn on to spatzle street, we're back in the land of fresh egg pasta (which we learned to make back in April and May, with these ravioli and lasagne). I'ts been a while, so allow me to give you a brief egg pasta refresher, just in case you need it:

1. The most important factor of all when making your own pasta!: use good quality flour and the freshest eggs you can get your hands on -- I use Molino Spadoni 00 flour, which I highly recommend if you can find it;

2. Ignore any sort of recipe you've seen in the past that tells you to use cups to measure your flour, or that tells you to use a certain amount of eggs, keeping in mind that cups are not as precise as a kitchen scale and all eggs vary in size. To make your own pasta, you absolutely need a kitchen scale (sorry fellow Americans). Use your scale to measure the weight of the eggs -- that weight, multiplied by two, will determine the weight of your flour; 

3. If you find that your pasta dough is too dry even despite using the above-mentioned formula (most likely due to the weather/temperature of your kitchen) feel free to add some water, keeping in mind the fact that a little water goes a long way. Start with a small amount (start by dampening your hands with water) and add a bit more at a time; 

4. When determining how much pasta to make, an egg per person is a good rule of thumb; in other words, 3 eggs and the corresponding amount of flour should do for 3 people;

4. A good pasta machine isn't prohibitively expensive (costing between 30-50 euros) and in any case lasts a life time. Good brands are Atlas and Imperial. Otherwise, you can invest in a long rolling pin and learn to roll out pasta by hand, per Bolognese tradition; I have tried both methods and while the pasta machine one is of course faster and easier, there is something truly special about learning the rolling pin technique. I highly recommend either method.

So! You didn't think there would be a Pasta Series post without me waxing poetic about pasta, did you? I'll try and limit my usual glowiness here and say: homemade pasta has many glorious qualities, one of them being versatility. I might have mentioned this before, but just to refresh your memory: pasta dough -- once you learn how to make it, and whether it be egg pasta or semola and water -- can then be used to make a countless number of pasta shapes, and in the case of egg pasta, this means everything from simple fettuccine to ruffled farfalle to slap-dash strapponi; paunchy cappellacci to tiny stuffed tortellini to candy-like casoncelli; super fine tagliolini to rotund paccheri to twisty tonnarelli. I could go on, but I promised you minimal fawning, right?

My preferred egg pasta at the moment is garganelli, a shape I encountered when I was living in Bologna back in 2009 (I first ate them with a sausage ragu', for the record). Garganelli are indeed typical of the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy, and interestingly (and unappetizing-ly?) enough the name for this pasta comes from the regional word garganel -- esophagus -- referring more specifically to the shape of the esophagus found in the neck end of a chicken. See also: orecchiette, or little ears; vermicelli, or little worms; and strozzapreti, or priest-stranglers -- a little food for thought (or not)?

But I digress! I didn't see much of garganelli after my year in Bologna -- after all, they don't have much of a place in Roman cuisine -- until I took a Northern Pastas class Grano & Farina. Having already mastered the dough-making/rolling out processes -- as will have you, if you've experimented with simple lasagne sheets and ravioli like I have -- my friend and teacher, the lovely and talented Julia, reminded me of this long-forgotten shape. With the help of a gnocchi board (the same one I'd used to make gnocchetti sardi back in June) and the accompanying wooden dowel (which came with the board, but whose purpose I hadn't yet figured out) she patiently instructed us how to make this pasta, advising on the proper angle of the board and the right amount of pressure to use (you can see her in action here) among other things. After promptly deciding that garganelli were most certainly the fancier, slightly more interesting older sister of penne pasta, I got to work mastering this shape, so as to be able to share it with you, my loyal readers (who hopefully love pasta as much as I do). 

Where to begin! Garganelli are ridge-y and quill-like, meaning they are toothsome and sauce-catching and perfect for serving with things like ragu', or prosciutto and peas, or sausage and mushrooms (in short: smooth sauces need not apply). However in keeping with my slightly-lighter recipe promise for January I'm showing them to you here tossed with a sauce I learned from my friend Carla -- a cozy and vegetarian-friendly "ragu'" made with creamy borlotti beans, slowly cooked tomatoes, lots of earthy parsley, and Parmigiano (optional but basically mandatory). This made for a perfect and beautiful and sublime dish of pasta, and I was truly sorry when the last garganello disappeared off my fork. Final verdict: to remake very soon, asap, absolutely, no doubt about it.

A couple of notes on egg pasta/pasta making in general, from Carla Tomasi, who first got me hooked on fresh pasta: Once you have rolled out your pasta, please keep pasta away from sunlight, too much breeze or heat. It will dry out too fast with the risk of crumbling once it is being cut.  It can be fully dried and kept in tight sealed boxes up to three months. However, if a cool spot for storing is not available it may be kept in the freezer for a long time. Concerning your pasta machine: do not wash with water and soap or a strong detergent. Use a brush to remove excess flour and just wipe with a damp cloth. Buff it up with a dry tea towel. Leave out on the worktop for a day and then turn the rollers few times and shake upside down to dislodge any piece of dough.

A couple of my notes: These garganelli also pair wonderfully with ragu' (this one here works particuarly well) or any other chunkier sauce that needs catching. As I mentioned above, I served these with a borlotti sauce made by Carla Tomasi, which worked splendidly; up to you! 

Want to know what the other seven recipes are in my blog's Pasta Series? I've got these ravioli, this lasagne ai carciofi, these gnocchetti sardi, these cavatelli, these orecchiette, these pumpkin gnocchi, and these spatzle with butter and chives. 

Serves 3-4.

Ingredients for the pasta:
3 medium eggs, the freshest you can find
00 Flour (you will calculate the weight of the flour based on the weight of the eggs; see above)

Ingredients for borlotti sauce:

1 large yellow onion, finely chopped
2 sticks of celery, finely chopped
2 sticks of carrot, finely chopped
1 can (28 ounce) good-quality crushed tomatoes or passata
2 cans of borlotti beans
2-3 cloves of garlic, smashed
A generous handful of parsley, very finely chopped

You will also need:
A gnocchi board that comes with a wooden dowel, pictured below -- these can be found in most kitchen stores or on Amazon and do not cost much!
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese, for serving

Directions to make the borlotti sauce:
Heat a generous amount of olive oil in a large pan and saute the onion, celery, carrot, garlic cloves, and parsley until all the vegetables are soft and the garlic is fragrant. Season with salt and pepper. Add the crushed tomatoes and let the sauce bubble vigorously for a bit, then lower the eat and let it simmer until reduced and the flavors have blended nicely. Add the borlotti beans, stir, simmer a bit more to let everything meld and taste for salt and pepper. Set aside. 

Directions to make fresh egg pasta, and how to shape it to make garganelli:
1. Start with your dough! Place a bowl on a scale and use the TARE option to eliminate it's weight; break the eggs into the bowl and measure the weight. In my case, the eggs weighed 165 grams. Beat your eggs together and set aside. Next, Measure out double the amount of flour (in my case, 165 x 2=330 grams of flour) and place it in a large bowl. Make a well in the flour and pour in the eggs. Gradually, with the aid of a fork, work the eggs into the flour until you get a shaggy mass. If the dough is a little dry add a little cold water. 
2. Upturn the contents of the bowl onto a worktop (wooden preferably or maybe a large chopping board) and start to knead it. The pasta machine will do most of the work later so you only should knead the dough until it comes together. Unless your hands are very cold, body heat should work its magic on the eggs and turn the dough silky smooth. For a short explanation on how to knead the dough via my friend Carla, click right here!
3. Next, leave the dough under an upturned mixing bowl (or wrap in plastic wrap) to rest for at least 20 minutes. Note that at this stage, the dough may be refrigerated until the next day and slowly brought back at room temperature prior to use.

Once the dough has rested, you can start to roll it out in to sheets (hurray!) Set up your pasta machine, attaching the roller handle and securing it to a work table.Set the rollers to the widest setting (0 in my case). Divide up the dough in to four or so equal pieces. You will work with one piece at a time; take a piece of dough and keep the others covered.

4. Flatten the piece of dough out so that it will go easily through the pasta machine. Roll the dough through, fold the strip of dough like and envelope and roll it again. If the dough feels too sticky, dust it with a little flour. NOTE: never ever put any flour directly onto the rollers! Repeat this folding and rolling process about 5 times. Now that you have kneaded your dough, start to roll it out; set the machine one notch down (from 0 to 1, in my case) and pass the dough ONCE through the rollers (no need to fold it anymore). Continue, rolling the dough once through each successive setting, until you reach 6. If you start getting holes in the pasta or the edges are not smooth maybe some bits of unwanted pasta are causing the problems. Roll of the dough off and run your hand underneath the rollers. You most probably will find little bits of dough that are causing the pasta to tear when it is rolled out. Just wipe them off with your fingers. Do the same the three remaining pieces of pasta dough, cutting them in half once they are completely rolled out (to make them easier to handle, as the strip of pasta will be quite long!)

5. Next, cut your dough into small, even squares using a pasta cutter (the rolling kind) or simply a bench scraper, trying to make them more or less the same size.. Keep all squares covered with a clean tea towel so they don't try out. Take one square and, using your wooden dowel and gnocchi board, wrap the square around the dowel as you roll it down the board diagonally. You can see a demonstration of this here

6. Continue rolling out your dough, forming squares, and rolling garganelli until all the dough has been used up, keeping the garganelli lined up and separate from each other so they don't stick or get squashed (you can flour them a little if you'd like). 

7. Bring a pot of water to a boil, salt it generously, and cook the garganelli until tender but still al dente, about 4 or so minutes (taste periodically though -- this cooking time can vary). Toss the cooked garganelli with your sauce, top with some extra Parmesan, and eat immediately. 

Caponata di carciofi

I'm keeping my promise to post slightly more conscientious recipes in the first month of the new year -- you know, recipes free of butter/sugar/cheese and more like this soup here -- which actually hasn't been difficult at all. Despite the name of this blog, I actually am a big fan of vegetables -- truly, I am! -- and in the Winter everything from fennel to broccoli to kale to cauliflower are at their very best. Most importantly off all of course, there are -- 


A R T I C H O K E S. 

That’s right! My very favorite vegetable is back in season and will be here through to the Spring in all its spiky, emerald-violet splendor, and I couldn’t be more pleased. Rome – already a city that holds a special place in its (eternal) heart for veggies like pleasantly bitter cicoria and crisp, unruly puntarelle --  positively reveres artichokes (side note, I love living in a place who cares this much about vegetables). In markets here in the capital, you’ll find them stacked in impressive displays where they look far more like flowers than vegetables; inspected, admired hauled away by the bagful by the home cook; or see them artfully whittled down to their pale green interior in a flash, perfect for the cook with a little less time on their hands. In restaurants, you’ll find them fried whole until golden and potato chip-crisp (alla giudia), or braised until silky with garlic and parsley (alla romana) OR tossed with guanciale, Pecorino, and pasta (fresh tonnarelli, if you’re lucky). In my kitchen, you’ll find them cooked slowly with peas and fava beans to make vignarola, layered with pasta, bechamel, and cheese to make an artichoke lasagna, or, most recently, in this caponata di carciofi, aka artichoke caponata.

Now! If you’re thinking that caponata – hailing from Sicily, fyi -- is usually made with eggplant, you’d be right. Carla Tomasi – genius that she is! – taught me however that caponata can also be made with carciofi in place of the eggplant, neatly bringing this dish from Summer in to Winter and Spring. In true Tomasi fashion, this dish was a dream – a symphony of sweet, sour, salty, buttery, all at once! – and in true Bruzzese fashion, I knew at once that I had to recreate it in my own kitchen, mainly to have it on hand for eating whenever I pleased. This is my slightly altered version of the caponata I saw Carla make – a little more tomato, a little less sugar, fewer capers than the original recipe as written – and I find it to be, well, quite perfect. It’s tangy from the vinegar but also a little dolce from the sugar and slowly cooked red onion, which tempers the tomatoes perfectly; the pine nuts are crunchy, the olives briney, the capers punchy, the raisins sweet and juicy, and the artichokes! The artichokes here are mild and buttery and perfect against the backdrop of varied flavors, making for a dish where every bite is different and interesting. Speaking of artichokes – don’t be intimidated by them! Once you get past their sharp, leafy exterior, they're big softies, trust me – the artichoke prep process is really no big deal, and I actually find the whole thing to be sort of therapeutic (some people have knitting, or yoga; I have carciofi cleaning). 

A few more reasons to make this caponata, not that you needed them: it’s vegetarian! It’s vegan! It’s a substantial main for any vegetarian or vegan! it’s better when made ahead, has lots of nutritious things, and might be the best thing you make in 2020. 

A couple of notes: This is a good make ahead dish; the flavors improve the longer the caponata sits. It is quite flexible; feel free to alter the quantity of capers, pine nuts, raisins, etc to your taste as I did to mine. Finally, I chose to boil the artichokes here, but you can also saute them or even fry them if you want something a little richer. Also: my weekends are so very busy lately that I’ve not been able to cook and photograph, meaning this recipe was tested on weekday evenings, MEANING that there was no good light to take nice photos. Will update soon with photos taken with my trusty camera – in the meantime, I’ve shared those I took at the class where I originally learned this dish. 

Looking for other artichoke recipes? I've got these carciofi alla giudia, these carciofi alla romana, and this lasagne ai carciofi. Looking for other caponata recipes? I've got this classic eggplant caponata.

Recipe loosely adapted from a recipe given to me from Carla Tomasi, via a Sicilian cookbook (still have to get the name!) Serves 4.


3 large artichokes (I used carciofi romaneschi)
Olive oil
4 celery stalks
3 tablespoons capers, ideally packed in salt
About 4 ounces (100 grams) olives, pitted and sliced, whatever kind you like 
1 large red onion
1 1/2 cups (350mL) tomato sauce or good quality crushed tomatoes
3-4 tablespoons yellow raisins, soaked in water
1-2 tablespoons (about 12.5 to 25 grams) sugar
1/4 cup (50mL) red wine vinegar
A handful of basil leaves
A handful of pine nuts 

1.) Put a put of water on to boil -- you will need this to cook the celery and artichokes. Trim, peel, and slice the onion thickly. In a large deep frying pan, warm 4 tablespoons or so of olive oil over medium-low heat, add the onion, and cook until soft and translucent.

2.) While the onion is cooking, get to work on your artichokes! Squeeze the juice of a lemon into a large bowl of cold water, add the lemon to the water, and set aside. If the stems of your artichokes are very long, cut them off only leaving a bit of stem attached to the artichoke. Using a sharp knife (though I prefer to use a vegetable peeler for this), trim away fibrous outer layer of the stem; you can tell what needs to be removed by looking at the base of the stem. You will see white in the middle surrounded by green -- the goal here is to get rid of the green so we only have the tender white part of the stem. Once trimmed, cut the stem in half and then in to smaller pieces. Put in to your bowl of lemon-y water. 

3.) Next, work your way around the artichoke and remove the tough outer leaves to expose the tender inner leaves. Cut off the spiky ends of the artichoke globe, then use a sharp knife to cut off the bits of artichoke base remaining from where you removed the tough leaves. Detach the trimmed stem and chop it in to pieces (lengthwise), then cut the trimmed globes into 8 wedges, removing away any hairy choke. Immediately, drop the wedges artichoke into the bowl of lemon-y water. 

4.) Trim the celery stalks of any tough ends or strings and cut in half, and then in to smaller pieces. Add the celery to your boiling water and cook until tender but still with a bite, about 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, add them directly to the pan with the onion (keep the water boiling, as you will need it for the artichokes) and cook for about two minutes. 
 Add the tomato sauce or crushed tomatoes to the pan, and cook for another few minutes and then add the capers, olives, raisins, and pine nuts, stirring well. 

5.) Add a good amount of salt to the same boiling water you used for the celery (this will flavor the artichokes) and then add your artichokes to the water. Cook for 5-7 minutes, or until tender but still with a little bite. Drain.

6.) While the artichokes are cooking, make a well in the middle of the pan and add the sugar and the vinegar to it, allowing the sugar to dissolve in the heat. Stir and cook for a minute or two, tasting to see if it needs more sugar or vinegar. Turn off the heat, add the artichokes and rip the basil into the pan. Stir the mixture gently so that the artichokes remain in nice distinct pieces. Leave to sit for at least two hours, or better still several, turning once or twice. Enjoy!