Steeped in history and paired with rustic sauces, or a handful of simple ingredients, pasta is the unequivocal hero of the pantry, particularly when it has been freshly made to an impeccable standard, by expert hands.
To celebrate National Pasta Day (Tuesday, 17 October) we take a sneak peek at pasta in the making at Rosetta Ristorante, and learn a little about the line-up of hand-made morsels on this classic Italian menu.
Rosetta’s round-up of pasta includes seven types, each of which is served as tradition dictates: particular shapes with particular sauces to stay regionally accurate.
Orecchiette is sculpted by hand, one piece at a time. Made with just two ingredients, coarse semolina and water, the dough is mixed and kneaded by hand, then stretched over and over again using the heel of the hand to work the gluten, resulting in a pasta with a nice, chewy bite.
The dough is set aside to relax for half an hour, then divided into sections, each of which is gently rolled by hand – from the inside, out – into long, thin sausage shapes. Once the required thickness is achieved, each roll is cut into small, fingertip-sized, cylindrical pieces.
Working on a rough, wooden board the pasta chef takes each piece of orecchiette, one at a time, flattens it with his thumb, then fans it outwards, creating an almost-circle, which is rough and sometimes torn from the rough work surface (a deliberate step that helps sauce adhere to the pasta). To finish, the piece of pasta is gently pushed down over the tip of his finger, creating the traditional ‘small ear’ shape.
Whether extruded by machine (like spaghetti or pappardelle) or sculpted by hand in various shapes and sizes, these exquisite house-made pastas, served with an array of simple, fresh ingredients, are the indisputable heroes of each dish.
On Rosetta’s menu are maccheroncini, garganelli, orecchiette and agnolotti del plin, the more familiar tagliolini and pappardelle, as well as a square-sided spin on the most well-known pasta of all, spaghetti, known in its square guise as spaghetti alla chittara.
Additional ingredients and sauces differ, but the exceptional skill, delicate dough and silken pasta are consistent.
Maccheroncini: made from semolina, strong wheat flour and water
These thin pasta tubes are typical of Calabria and many southern regions of Italy. Maccheroncini is traditionally matched very rich sauces. At Rosetta Ristorante it’s served all’ Amatriciana, with guanciale, chilli, wine, tomato and pecorino.
Orecchiette: made from coarse semolina and water
Typical of Apulia in southern Italy, the name comes from the shape, which resembles a small ear. In Italian orecchia, means ‘ear’, and -etta, means ‘small’. This pasta is traditionally served as orecchiette alle cime di rapa, as it is at Rosetta, with cime di rapa, anchovy, chilli and garlic.
Tagliolini: made from strong wheat flour and egg yolks
This is a variation of tagliatelle pasta and derived from the Italian word tagliare, which means ‘to cut’. Traditionally from the Liguria region, tagliolini is cut into long ribbons about 3mm wide. Smooth, thin sauces work best with this pasta. At Rosetta it’s served with spanner crab, garlic, chilli and parsley.
Garganelli: made from semolina, strong wheat flour and eggs
This tubular shaped pasta is very similar to penne but has a visible ‘flap’ where one corner of the pasta square joins the rest, as this pasta is shaped by hand, one piece at a time. They can be made from smooth pasta or a ridged variant, depending on the wooden boards used to shape them. Traditional duck ragù is a common accompaniment, but it’s served in a variety of recipes and sauces, including with squid, botarga, tomato and chilli at Rosetta.
Spaghetti alla chittara: made from semolina, squid ink and eggs
The most well-known and recognisable of all the pastas is spaghetti, a long, thin pasta, typically cylindrical in shape. However, spaghetti comes in different forms, such as ‘alla chittara’, an egg pasta which has a square cross section about 2-3mm thick, and takes its name from the wired apparatus used to shape it. Spaghetti alla chittara hails from Abruzzo. At Rosetta, it is served with king prawns and pistachios.
Pappardelle: made from strong wheat flour and eggs
Originating from Tuscany, this large, broad, flat pasta takes its name from the verb ‘pappare’, which means to gobble up. At Rosetta pappardelle is served with a traditional ragu Bolognese.
Agnolotti del plin: made from strong wheat flour and eggs
Agnolotti are small pieces of rectangular, flattened pasta dough, folded over a filling of roasted meat or vegetables. ‘Plin’ means a ‘pinch’ because the edges are pinched to close and seal the little pasta packets. At Rosetta these gorgeous parcels are filled with roast pheasant, veal and pork.