I dusted off the pasta roller. The only time I had tried to use it, the pasta had tasted like heavy glue.
When we were In Italy all last summer, our friend Maurizio showed us a Super 8 film of his mother cooking homemade pasta. In it, Senora C. stands before the camera looking very serious. Then the frame cuts to her pouring a neat pile of semolina onto a counter and carefully mounding it. She makes a well in the middle of the mound, cracks two eggs into it, and beats them with the efficiency of a trained chef. Little by little the mound of flour mixes with the eggs. Then she adds some olive oil and a sprinkling of water. After a little kneading, the result is a beautiful yellow dough, which she covers with a towel to allow it to rest.
On our visit, we had meant to stay only for coffee, but Maurizio's mother ended up making us a spectacular lunch of pasta alla chitarra and roasted chicken. Then his father was driving back to Pescara from L'Aquila and it would be such a shame for us not to see him, so they invited us for dinner.
It was after a dinner of salad, black olives, Abruzzese sheep's milk cheese, and salami that we saw the film:
After the pasta rests, Senora C. rolls it in long sheets. Her hand cranks the dough through the machine quickly, and she sprinkles it with flour if it gets too tacky. Turn, turn, turn, and the dough is one long sheet. Eight times through, and she switches to the cutting die. One last turn, and perfectly cut strands of fresh pasta emerge from a sheet of dough.
When we got back home, I dusted off the pasta roller that my husband, James, had bought me years before. The only time I had tried to use it, the clamps that fasten it to the table kept slipping and the pasta tasted like heavy glue.
This time I was determined. My 6-year-old daughter, Vesperine, helped me make the dough – and she ran it through the roller as though she had been born to make pasta.