My week in Salerno was nothing short of magical. It really is a brilliant idea. Accademia Leonardo, the Italian language school on the Amalfi Coast, installed a commercial kitchen, hired a master chef, and created Cucina di Classe, the Italian language and cooking school.
I spent a blissful week here. Each morning, I made the 10 minute walk from my Air B&B down the sea-front promenade to the school. If I could get out the door early enough, I would stop for a cappuccino before class. The language class ran from 9:00 am – 11:00 and centered around cool Italian cooking vocabulary. At 11:15 ish (Italian time) the cooking class began. Each day was a different theme. Monday: fresh pasta and sauce, Tuesday; breads and pizza, Wednesday; vegetarian dishes, Thursday; Fish, and Friday; desserts.
Our adorable instructor was Espedito who grew up in Salerno and spent 5 years in chef training. He was so much fun and so skillful. Spending a week with Espedito was like being a budding actor spending time with Marlon Brando, or a wannabe rock star spending a week with Jimmy Hendrix. Espedito, who could simultaneously roll pasta, cook sauce, and instruct his minions (me and my classmates), was proof that multitasking is absolutely possible.
One of my favorite Italian cooking verbs is aggiungere (ad-JUNE-jer-ay) which means to add, as in add the pasta to the sauce or add the sugar to the butter. Some others are mescolare = to stir, sbucciare = to peel, or tagliare = to cut. If you are looking for a way to improve your Italian cooking and language skills and want to be on the Amalfi coast, this is the place spend some of your vacation time.
Here is the quick and easy egg pasta method I learned from Espedito. I can now whip up a batch of fresh pasta noodles in about an hour (including 30 minutes to let the dough rest). Here are two short videos of Espedito rolling the dough and cutting the tagliatelle noodles. If the sound is up, you will hear his broken English telling us how the women of Emilia-Romagna use a mattarello to roll out long tagliatelle noodles.
Pasta all'uova - Fresh Tagliatelle noodles
These are a thing of beauty
- 100 grams flour
- 2 medium eggs
- a pinch of salt
- Making the dough:
- Pour the flour in a metal bowl and form a little well in the center. Crack eggs in another bowl and add a pinch of salt.
- One by one, add the eggs to flour, using your hands to mix, sort of pressing down and then stirring with your fingers.
- Once the eggs are fairly well incorporated, dump the dough onto a lightly floured board or stainless steel counter.
- Knead for 5 minutes until the dough is uniform in color and texture, It will be smooth and elastic.
- Form the dough into a ball, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 30 minutes, to let the dough settle. In the meantime, you can prepare your favorite sauce.
Rolling the dough: If you have a pasta machine, roll out the dough to about 1/16 ” or the second to last setting on the pasta machine. If you prefer to roll it by hand, use a rolling-pin the roll the dough to about 1/16 ” think. That is about the thickness of a penny. Espedito rolls the dough. I always consider this to be my upper body workout for the day.
Cutting the dough: Cut off the round edges to form a rectangle. Sprinkle a dusting of flour over the dough. Flip it over and dust again. Now, as if rolling up a newspaper, roll the dough 4 times. Using your bench scraper or sharp knife, cut into 1/2 inch slices. This is my favorite part: fluff and open up each slice. Voilà! Now you have tagliatelle. Espedito cuts the dough.
Cooking the Pasta: Bring 4 quarts of salted water to a boil. Add tagliatelle noodles and cook for 5 minutes, stirring two or three times to make sure noodles are not sticking. I like to have my pan of sauce heating on the stove right next to the cooking pasta. That way, when the pasta is done, I can fish it out with my spider or strainer and plop it right into the sauce while it is still hot.
Pesto: Cook the tagliatelle as indicated above and stir in a generous serving of Pesto alla Genovese.
Butter and Sage: Melt 3 -4 Tablespoons of butter in a saucepan and turn on low heat. Add 5-6 fresh sage leaves and for a minute or two until fragrant. When tagliatelle is done, spoon the pasta into the butter and sage sauce. Stir gently and cook for a minute or two until the sauce is spread evenly around the pasta. Serve with freshly chopped parsley.