When I moved from Cardiff to Geneva I brought an awful lot of cooking stuff with me. Included in this was an unused pasta machine (I just hadn’t found the time to give it a go!) and an unopened bag of pasta flour that I had bought from Carluccio’s with the best intentions of making lots of fresh pasta at home. Last Sunday was the Italian GP at Monza and although Monza is in the North of Italy, an area more famous for its risottos than its pasta dishes, I thought this was the perfect time to finally crack open the pasta machine and flour.
Feeling ambitious I thought I’d have a go at making some filled pasta little realizing just how much work this would involve. The filling I decided on was squash and sage and I started by preparing this. I cut about 150g of squash into small pieces and steamed them till they were soft. I then left the squash to cool before mashing it with about 50g of ricotta, 2 tablespoons of grated pecorino (it’s from the North!) and 5 chopped sage leaves (from my balcony!).
With my filling done it was time to have a go at the pasta. The recipe on the side of the flour bag recommended making the dough on a marble worktop, but lacking one of these I had to go with my bog standard formica. I poured 200g of the flour onto the work surface and made a well in the middle into which I placed two eggs as directed. I then attempted the beat the eggs together with a form and slowly incorporate the flour. This proved tricky and I some of the egg escaped my flour pile.
Eventually I had formed a firm dough (there was a fair amount of flour left over so my eggs must have been small) and it was time to knead. I kneaded the dough for 10 minutes until it started to look glossy and then wrapped it in cling film and put it in the fridge for half an hour to rest. It was then time to roll it out!
It turned out that, although one skilled person can do this easily, when novices are involved this is a job for two – one to feed the pasta through and one to turn the handle! I was the feeder and my partner was on handle duty. We broke small pieces off our lump of pasta and slowly turned these into thin wide ribbons of pasta by slowly decreasing the space between the two rollers.
We then tried to cut out small circles with which to make our filled pasta. Unfortunately my cutter was made of plastic not metal and was not sharp enough to go right through the pasta but instead sort of perforated it. This meant we had to carefully extract each circle form the surrounding pasta, an excruciating process. The cut circled were floured and put to one side. After we had rolled and cut about half the pasta we were starving and so we decided to assemble some of the pastas.
To my dismay it turned out that with the later circles I had not dusted them with enough flour and quite a few of them had stuck. We managed to salvage 24 circles, enough for 12 filled pastas, not a huge meal for 2! Trying to not be too disappointed we got on with the assembly. Placing a teaspoon of the squash filling on a circle, wetting the pasta edges with water and then sealing it with another pasta circle. There were a couple more casualties where some of the pastas developed small holes, but with so few we decided to go ahead and cook them anyway.
So it was into plenty of boiling salted water that our little parcels went. They took about 2 minutes to cook through and the ones with holes in help up surprisingly well. Rather than drain them properly and risk damaging them, I fished the fragile pastas out individually with a slotted spoon and served them up. I topped them with a sage butter, simple but tasty!
My partner wasn’t too keen on the sage butter but enjoyed the pastas. I was really impressed, for a first attempt they weren’t bad! They may have looked like mini fried eggs but they tasted pretty good! The pasta itself was really thin and just slipped down. I think the filling could have been a bit more “squashy” but other than that I was really pleased. We were still starving though as 6 small filled pasta, even accompanied with a glass of lovely Prosecco, does not fill up an adult!
We thought the best thing to do would be to turn the rest of the pasta into tagliatelle and whip up a quick sauce. We put the cutting attachment on the pasta maker and got to work rolling out, this was even more so a job for two as catching the strands whilst turning the needle was nigh on impossible! Lacking a pasta stand (I just knew I needed more equipment :-p) we draped the strands over the back of a chair.
The tagliatelle was cooked in more salted water and I quickly fried some garlic in some olive oil before adding a couple of chopped deseeded tomatoes. The pasta was drained and mixed with the sauce before being served topped with some pecorino – simple and absolutely delicious.
The fresh pasta was a lot of work to make, but it was also great fun! It tasted a lot better than the dried pasta and I think the knowledge that we had made it ourselves (or the Prosecco) made it better even than shop bought fresh pasta. Not something for a busy work night, but something I would love to try again when my partner and I both have plenty of time to enjoy making it.
The race was a spectacle be-fitting the legacy and importance of Monza, a heritage track and one which a long history in Formula. This is a uniquely high-speed circuit where speeds can reach over 340 km’s an hour. The track is a series of straight with only four real corners, which lends itself to high speed, wheel to wheel racing and some eye-pulpingly quick braking.
The start featured a bold and characteristically brilliant move from Fernando Alonso, whose Ferrari screamed up the inside of the track, inches from the concrete wall and grabbed the lead from pole sitter Vettel. Behind them, into the first chicane, the out of control HRT of Luizzi slid across the grass and smashed through the field, taking out two other cars (including the well placed Nico Rosburg in a fast Mercedes) and causing an immediate safety car to be deployed.
At the restart, Alonso didn’t have the speed to hold off Vettel, but he didn’t make it easy, holding off the quicker Red Bull for three laps until Vettel drove around the outside, throwing up grass from the verge where he touched it. From there in the lead, the Red Bull was untouchable, once more driving in a class of its own. However, his team mate Webber smashed off his front wing on the back of the other Ferrari, and found his brakes no longer worked. Moments later, a collision with the barriers ended his race.
But that wasn’t the whole story done. The winner was assured, but the rest of the podium places were still scrapped over with an epic race long battle between Lewis Hamilton and Michael Schumacher. On the straights, the Mclaren could not keep up with the quicker Mercedes, and canny driving allow the old master to hold off the younger man for over twenty laps, at one point forcing him onto the grass. Jenson Button, racing around this battle Royale, intuitively took a great opportunity and passed both of the combatants quickly wearing out their tyres.
After the first round of pit-stops, the battle resumed, but eventually Schumacher conceded and Lewis took a hard earned fourth place. A relieved Alsonso kept Ferraris pride intact by getting third, while Button took second pace after driving the second half of the race almost on his own. But the day was Vettels, undoubtedly fine with both his pace and his over-taking. Another win for the young German, and that’s the championship all sewn up…