Monday, January 16, 2012

Pasta night with an Italian grandmother

The other night we made pasta with the help of an Italian grandmother.  I just got a great   cookbook  called Cooking with Italian Grandmothers.  It's a collection ofrecipes collected by a young woman who traveled through Italy staying with the grandmas in villages from Tuscany to Sicily.

  These are authentic recipes, unchanged through the years.   The pasta is made from just these two ingredients: eggs and all-purpose flour.  It's like magic actually creating pasta from this.

We used a recipe for Pesto Lasagna  from  Daria, who lives in Biassa, Liguria on the northwest coast of Italy.  Of course the pasta is made by hand, but fortunately the cookbook also gave directions for doing it with a pasta machine.

This is only the second time I've used a pasta machine, a hand-me down from a friend who got a new, fancy one.  This one's basic but it does the job very well.

The recipe calls for cutting the ball of dough into quarters and repeatedly running it through narrower and narrow settings until it's very thin. Each time it gets longer or wider and needs to be cut to allow it to go through again.

Here's Harry putting the dough through the second time.  It still looks pretty chunky.

But this is what it looked like after a few more passes.  The texture just gets smoother and smoother.

Eventually we ended up with a counter full of really thin handmade lasagna noodles.  They're so thin that they don't need to be pre-cooked for this recipe.

We covered them with towels so they wouldn't dry out while we prepared the sauce, which is a basic cream sauce with pesto mixed in.  The lasagna was layered with this sauce and torn pieces of fresh mozzarella and grated parmesan.  It's really quite easy.  

Topped with the cheeses it went into the over for 45 minutes and this was the result.

I added some sautéed zucchini in the middle and I cheated a bit by using a jar of pesto, so it wasn't completely Daria's version.  But it tastes just delicious--and we have enough for several more meals like this one.  

 Good thing too because the snow is falling like crazy outside and we're staying home until it stops.


  1. The book sounds like a treasure. Of all of the types of cookbooks I own, Italian seems to be a recurring theme. I must find this one for my collection.

  2. My Italian cookbook was my most used back when I cooked for the family. It's the easiest, quickest way to a tasty meal that kids and grown-ups will eat. Your lasagna sounds like a keeper.

    My son, the chef, cooks mostly Italian fine dining. Do you think he was programmed from childhood?

    1. Probably was, Steph. There's nothing like Italian cooking--plain or fancy.


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