"There's a fine line between rustic and lazy, and the Italians have figured it out," says chef Massimo Mele while he rolls a piece of dough around a skewer. He is showing me how to make ferretti pasta, a hand rolled pasta from southern Italy. Ferretti translates to "wire" and each pieces is traditionally shaped using wire or knitting needles. The beauty of the hand made version is that no two pieces are alike; each curves and rolls in its own unique way. In Italy women gather, sitting on chairs and talk and roll the pasta and at the end of the day, each one takes a portion of the pasta home with them.
Ferretti pasta is made using a flour and water dough. Massimo explains that the richer egg based pastas like pappardelle came from wealthier areas in the north of Italy while the poorer southern area tended to make pasta without eggs. Once the dough is made and then rested for 30 minutes in the fridge and then brought to room temperature, he slices the dough up. He then takes a skewer to shape the pasta. It's a surprisingly easy process where you rub your hands together rapidly and create the rolled shapes in varying lengths.
Earlier that day he made his last batch of tomato passata transforming twenty cases of the last of the season's tomatoes. Usually passatta is made once a year during tomato season but he didn't predict how busy his restaurant La Scala in Woollahra would be. "Slower is better," he says for cooking the passata. His mother used to start the sauce on a Saturday night and it would be ready when they returned from church on Sunday.
Massimo putting tomatoes in the oven
He mostly uses roma tomatoes for passata as these are the closest to the famous San Marzano tomatoes. The only tomatoes that he wouldn't use are Black Russians or yellow tomatoes. He first blisters the tomtatoes in the oven before passing them through a passata machine - twice to get every bit of tomato juice away from the seeds and skin. It is then decanted into a bottle with a spoonful of olive oil at the top and the bottles are then placed in cold water that is then brought to the boil. His tip is to put a small potato in the water and once that is cooked, the passata is ready and ready to cool down.
Massimo recalls his first batch made a few months ago when La Scala was freshly painted. His mother warned him that he shouldn't fill the bottle up but then his father told him to ensure that there wasn't any air in the glass bottle. He went with his father's advice and as a result, some of the bottles burst all over their newly painted walls.
The moral of the story? "Your mum is always right!" he says.
So tell me Dear Reader, have you ever tried making your own pasta? And would you listen to your mother or father's advice on cooking generally?
Ferretti Pasta with Tomato & Basil Sauce
Recipe by Massimo Mele
No Egg Pasta Dough
- 250g/8.83ozs. semolina flour
- 250g/8.83ozs. all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 200ml/7fl ozs. water
Step 1 - To make this or any other dough in a food processor, put all of the ingredients in the bowl. Pulse until the mixture begins to form a ball.
Step 2 - Add a little water if dough is dry. Remove dough from the bowl, form into a rough ball and let rest 10 minutes. Alternatively you can make by hand and this produces a much better result.
Step 3 - To roll out the pasta cut a piece of pasta dough the size of a thumb and place on a wooden skewer and roll back wards and forwards until you get a long cylinder about 2 inches long. Make and set aside. You can also make orecchiette using this pasta dough - just shape into a small ball and press down to make an indent with your thumb.
For the sauce
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
- 1 small onion, peeled and diced
- 750ml/26.5 floz. bottle of tomato passata
- 100ml/3.5 flozs. extra virgin olive oil
- Handful basil leaves
- Salt and pepper
- 75g/2.65ozs. grated parmesan
- 250g/8.83ozs. cherry tomatoes cut in half
Step 1 - Place half the oil in a pan with garlic and onion and cook on a medium heat for about 10 minutes.
Step 2 - Add tomato passata and cook uncovered on medium heat for about 30 minutes.
Step 3 - Place another large pot of salted water on and bring to the boil.
Step 4 - Add cherry tomatoes to sauce and cook for a further 5 minutes. Add basil leaves
Step 5 - Cook pasta for about 4 to 5 minutes, check if it is to your liking.
Step 6 - Add to pasta sauce and mix well, add cheese and remaining oil and serve.