In her Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking, Marcella Hazan devoted no fewer than six pages to the classic rolling pin pasta technique perfected in the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy.
Employing rolling pins that can measure over 50 inches in length, Italians in this part of the country have developed a series of rolling and stretching movements that elegantly transform a ball of pasta dough into thin, delicate sheets. Hazan is the first to admit that this traditional technique must be exhaustively practiced “until the motions are performed through intuition rather than deliberation.”
How much practice, you ask? Well, according to Ada of Bondeno, Italy, two to three years.
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In this episode of What’s Eating Dan?, I am beyond excited to take you all into Ada’s home with the help of Vicky Bennison, the force behind one of my favorite YouTube channels, Pasta Grannies. Vicky started Pasta Grannies with a singular goal: preserve the quickly disappearing traditions and recipes of Italy’s elite pasta makers.
Ada has been making pasta by hand for about 60 years. While we spoke over a video call, she made one of her favorite filled pastas, cappellacci. It’s a beautiful and intricate pasta shape that is a little bigger than tortellini. She filled the pasta with a slightly sweetened local squash, then served it in a pork sausage sugo.
As I watched her work the dough, I was stunned by Ada’s obvious expert touch. She measures her flours by eye and kneads the dough until it reaches just the right consistency. Then, she rolls it out with a very long—I’m talking 100 centimeters—rolling pin, stretching the dough until it is thin enough to see her tablecloth through it. From there, she cuts the dough into ribbons and shapes and fills the cappellacci at lightning speed.
Want to see Ada at work and try your hand at homemade pasta yourself? Watch the latest episode of What’s Eating Dan? below.