In the merry month of June.

Ah, summer.


While the official start is not until the 21st (or tomorrow night at 22:24 pm to be exact), it's still relatively cool with nighttime temperatures dropping into single digits.  This is no more evident in the garden where things are green but definitely behind schedule.  There has also been a delay in getting things in the ground due to rain.

All that said, I'm hopeful.  This has happened before and all was not lost.  As long as it warms up a little, we should be back on track with more vegetables than we know what to do with in but a few weeks time.

While waiting, I've continued with making pasta. There will be no better partner for the delicate early veg when they arrive.

Earlier this spring, I tried some Tumminia flour from Molini del Ponte (Sicilia) with lovely results and I was keen to try more.  So, I set out to find some of their Semola (rimacinata).  I had to go a little further away to find it, but it's here! 

Treats inside :)
Mille grazie to Gustiamo in NYC!  I received my parcel this week and it contained a special farina for pasta - lovely semola di grano duro rimacinata.  Take a look - baby, they've got what you need and in award-winning style too! 

Why am I so obsessed with flour?  That's enough for another post (and there will be one).  Of course flour is essential for many of our kitchen pursuits here at la tavola, and this was no different.   This flour was destined for spaghetti alla chittarra.

Chitarra Tagliapasta
This pasta is best made with a durum flour and, although this is my flour of choice for traditional pasta made with only flour and water, rimacinata creates a nice texture for egg pasta as well.

For the pasta, I make the standard recipe of 1 egg per 100 grams of flour and occasionally throw in an extra yolk for every 2-3 eggs I use.  It's not a set thing.  Usually only if I have use for the extra egg white.  And a pinch of salt.

Once you've kneaded a smooth, homogeneous dough and allowed it to rest, covered in saran, for at least 30 minutes, you can roll the sheets.  While I'm fascinated with the mattarello (the traditional method), it does require a bit of workspace (not to mention practice!), you will find a pasta machine works just fine.  Then, the sheets need only be trimmed to fit the chitarra and pressed through the strings using a smaller rolling pin.

My suocero, as he supplies the eggs, was keen to see what was going on.  One look and he mused if I was going to play him a tune.  Laughing, he offered to sing (and maybe dance) as well.

The chitarra is a 'foreign' implement to him (he's Calabrese and the chitarra is from Abruzzo) but after some (feigned) initial skepticism he agreed it worked and the pasta was beautiful (thanks Pa).  This simple device makes a noodle with all straight edges, that can border on nearly square in shape (if you like your pasta alla chitarra on the thick side) and lovely strands that are the perfect length for twirling and slurping from someone's slightly smaller fork.

Messy nests of pasta alla chitarra.
Now, while I like my carbonara 'plain', I have to admit to the occasional tweak (a little bit of nutmeg or parsley once in awhile) and can also appreciate Paolo Parisi's riffs on carbonara (even if his 61degree eggs are missing my favourite carbohydrate source).  But once added to hot pasta, I don't think the few 'extras' constitute complete deviations.  It's simply doing what Italian cooks do (best), adding a little of the local herbs (in this case, marjoram) to complement his famous eggs and guanciale.  I would definitely be trying guanciale crudi if Mr. Parisi was preparing it but, at home, I cook it slightly, not crunchy crisp, just enough to render some of the fat and warm it up a little.

Not the prettiest pasta but delicious - carbonara ready to plate.
Really though, describing what I like as 'plain' is not quite accurate.  Great carbonara is simple carbonara, it's all about the ingredients - just watch Antonio Carluccio.  And you don't need a chitarra, you can make this using almost any good quality dry spaghetti.  Coated in the glossy marriage of egg/yolks, cheese, guanciale (or pancetta) and pepper, to me, it's irresistible.

And it's tasty enough to tempt the junior eaters. I used to make slightly more pedestrian meals if our son had a friend over but I've forgone that approach as I (or maybe they) have learned that they are all willing to try new things.  I'd started this dish while the boys were playing, well before an impromptu dinner invite. While it got an initial suspicious eyeing over, it was slurped up, every last bit of 'bacon' gone.

Mangia! Happy tummies,


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