Fresh Pasta and Bread

Even though a cook doesn’t have necessarily to be specialized in making fresh pasta, it’s still important to know basic steps and to be able to make at least the basic preparations. Therefore, a lesson will be focused on making doughs, rolling it out and cooking it, giving information on differences between fresh and dried pasta, home-made or industrial. Similarly, one lesson will be focused on bread-baking, making sure that cook aspirants acquire the necessary knowledge to bake bread and baguettes, being able to diversify their offer to customers and customize this important part of food serving. During one month, these exercises will be repeated many times, giving everyone the chance to acquire the required manual skills. Dried pasta is made of durum wheat flour (semolina) kneaded with water. Durum wheat flour is rich in proteins compared to soft wheat flour, and for this reason it stays firmer after cooking. For preparing the dough, you add to semolina approximately 30% of water. To make dried egg pasta you add at least 400 grams of hen eggs, while to make special kinds of pasta you can add dry spinach, dried tomatoes or squid ink.

Another important element is wire-drawing. We often hear about “bronze wire-drawing” pasta. Wire-drawing is made through the die, a utensile that shapes the pasta. Basically, the dough is extruded through the die and, thanks to its moulded holes, pasta exits with the desired shape. Traditional wire-drawing was made mainly with a bronze die, but in the latest decades these have been replaced by steel or teflon-coated ones. Results are different though, as wire-drawed pasta made with bronze has a more wrinkled surface, that holds sauces and condiment better.
After wire-drawing there is the drying phase, that has to take place gradually and in many steps. Italian regulations calculates a dried pasta humidity of maximum 12,5%, therefore the drying process has to take place in tunnels where hot air circulates. Pasta drying can take place at different temperatures, depending on the pasta shape, from 40° to 80°.
Fresh pasta is usually prepared kneading soft wheat flour "0" or "00" types with or without eggs. It’s optional to add other ingredients or many other types of flour. The Queen of fresh pasta is Egg Pasta, used to make tagliatelle, tagliolini, maltagliati or filled-pasta like lasagne, cannelloni, tortellini and ravioli. The ideal proportions for egg pasta are: 100 g of flour for every egg, but the amounts can change according to traditional taste. Some use even 3 egg yolks. For 4 people, 300 g of flour and 3 eggs are enough, if you serve standard portions without any broth. If you serve it with broth, 1/3 of the normal amount is certainly enough. If you want to add spinach-mash or red turnips, you have to increase the amount of flour, as the water contained in squeezed and chopped vegetables will make the dough much more tender.
You can use a handy pasta-machine: there are both manual and electrical ones, or you can use the rolling pin and then cut pasta with a pasta-slicer. Filled-pasta just means you wrap meat or vegetables to make tortellini or tortelloni, ravioli or agnolotti. Traditionally, these are made of fresh pasta, but nowadays there are also dried and vaccum-packed products. The filling can be made of fresh vegetables, meat, fish, egg or dried food.
Tortellini is the most well-known type of filled-pasta. The popular legend says that the tortellino-shape comes from Venus’ belly-button. Most of the tortellini produced are industrial and sold in vacuum-packed or frozen packages. The most common way of preparing tortellini are with cream or ragù, but the true tortellini are served in broth, made with beef, capon or hen meat.
Agnolotti (or agnelotti). It’s a traditional food from Piemonte, filled with meat. They originally were invented in order to used the meat leftovers, and there are many variations.
Ravioli are half-moonshaped kind of filled-pasta, that you can find with many different fillings, but originally the filling was made of ricotta cheese and turnip leaves. Their name comes from turnips, whose ancient Italian name was "rabiola" . Ravioli appear in a document from the city of Cremona from 1243, then they spread in many Italian regions.