Christian and I have been making our own pasta for about 2 years now...but the start of that coincided with the purchase of our Kitchen Aid pasta attachment, so needless to say we’ve stuck pretty closely to the lasagna noodles, spaghetti and fettucini varieties. Which is great...I don’t know many people who can say that they haven't bought dried pasta in two years! But we LOVE Italian food, so have been ready to branch out for a while...enter the opportunity to learn how to make hand-cut Italian noodles with a former pasta maker of Quince, Andrew Pimlott!
So a friend and I attended 18 Reasons’ Noodle Lab #2: Italy in their innovative community center in the Mission. Their first Noodle Lab was on May 10th and focused on Korean Noodles, with Dennis Lee of Namu leading the course. While I missed that one, I was able to make it to this June 16th Italian Noodle Lab. This one was led by the aforementioned Andrew Pimlott and joined by Joe Cracco, also formerly of Quince and now at San Mateo’s Osteria Coppa, who was cooking up our sauces and adding to the overall fun vibe of the small ~30 person, 2-hour session.
The great part about the Noodle Lab is that you spend time listening, learning and making the noodles yourself but then you also get the fresh noodles cooked up for the class along with a freshly made and appropriately paired sauce to eat! So don’t eat much for dinner (if anything) before coming...the only thing that would make this all better is if they served wine. I wonder if you could bring your own?
So first up? Homemade Pici.
Pici is fantastic as it requires extremely minimal ingredients or equipment and is absolutely delicious...but, it is pretty darn labor intensive. Easy labor, but takes a while...the type of pasta where once the dough is ready you’ll want to recruit family and friends to sit around and help roll it out, the kind of task similar to shelling peas. Great for talking, drinking, laughing and working on dinner all at once! The main idea behind the work is similar to rolling out those play-doh snakes that you grew up making...stretching them out long and thin while tryingto keep them consistent! But oh, are the pici worth the work! Such a fantastic toothsome texture and sauced ever so simply with olive oil, oregano, garlic, red chili flakes and finished off with some fresh seasoned bread crumbs. As my Noodle Lab recipe book says, “a humble topping for a humble noodle.” This dish IS Italy to me...
The making of Pici:
**make sure to use semolina flour to fully coat the uncooked noodles so they don’t stick together!
The eating of Pici...so delicous!
Next? Scialatielli...which Pimlott told us was a relatively recent pasta invention. I say invention because it is pretty different than any other type of pasta in the fact that the flavor is added right into the pasta dough itself....in our case in the form of salt, Parmesan, finely chopped basil and a bit of fresh pepper. But really you could vary what you put in as long as you don’t go too overboard to throw off the consistency. This, contrary to Pici, is extremely easy to make, seriously, you can have fresh pasta in under a half hour, including time for the pasta dough to rest! Can you think of an easier way to impress family and friends?!
The before & after of the Scialatielli
The texture of this pasta is almost like a Japanese Udon noodle, which I love...thick with a bit of a spongy bite. The pasta itself is so good I would have probably just put a simple olive oil or butter sauce on it (oooh, browned butter with a sprinkle of cheese would be good!) but Pimlott and Cracco advised that it is traditionally served with a fresh tomato (and often clam) sauce which Joe Cracco made for us, quite deliciously might I add. Joe’s sauce had a nice blend of heirloom tomatoes, fennel, garlic, saffron, chili flakes, basil and orange juice/peel. Fresh, healthy and delicious!
So if you haven’t been to a Noodle Lab yet, I encourage you to sign up for the last one, Noodle Lab #3: China where Chinese Noodles are explored, led by Linh Phu from Bi-Rite. I don’t see the event up on the 18 Reasons website yet to purchase tickets but sign up for their newsletter to stay up to date. If you’re not familiar with 18 Reasons they are a fantastic non-profit community center (part of the Bi-Rite Family of Businesses) who’s mission is to “bring people together to deepen our relationship to food and each other.” It’s a really great organization with fun and informative programs...and I promise, they’re not paying me to say any of this ;)
Have you been to a Noodle Lab? Any other 18 Reasons event? If so, tell us what you thought! And of course if you have any of your own favorite hand-cut noodles or sauces, spill!