Despite what non-bloggers may think, meeting people through the virtual world of blogs can be a very engaging occupation and though perforce vicarious and ‘loose’ as experience goes, it is not without rules of etiquette and social intercourse. It is not unlike stepping (albeit virtually) into a hall of a ‘club’ for the first time: one may not know anyone in particular, but one knows that all present are there for a common reason, for a shared concern, hobby, sport or passion. And like all parties where a little ‘mingling’ is called for in the beginning — on grounds of politeness and sociability if nothing else — one eventually gets to discern between the wheat and the chaff and is then ‘free’ to cosy up with the more attractive personalities by choice.
One such fellow blogger is Francesca, of Flora’s Table, a Yummy Mummy from Italy who now lives on the East Coast of the USA. I am drawn to her blog for many a reason, including insights into Italian wine carefully explained in interesting detail by her husband Stefano Crosio — but one of the reasons I particularly enjoy her posts is that … I am at that stage where children are playing hide and seek with my “nest” — they come and they go, they haven’t quite left home, but at the same time … they are not ‘here’, at home, the way they used to be when they were little … does that make sense? Whereas her little girl is smack bang in the middle of the nest and I can read the post and smile affectionately in recognition of shared experiences. I was smiling from ear to ear as I read the following blog just the other day:
in which she admonishes parents who tend to consider their kids ‘picky eaters’ when in actual fact … they are ‘good’ eaters, and would like to eat good food!
Whatever. I realised that her recipe was one that I adored: peas and parma ham … and I don’t know what got into me (believe me, I had plenty of other things to get on with yesterday), I was engulfed by the urge to make home-made pasta … and to mould it into squares (“quadrucci”) and cook them in a pea and parma ham sauce! This is a an old, traditional recipe that still lingers around Rome … although not a ‘staple’ the way it would have been in the 1960s and 1970s etc. It would have been made when peas are in season — so early October is totally wrong and yes … you guessed it … I resorted to frozen peas.
My mother is a delight to watch when she makes home made pasta … her fingers dance around like a choreography and the end result is geometric pasta perfection, I kid you not. My motor skills are … well … not quite in the same league, let’s say. But I was unabashedly proud of my end result nonetheless. I used roughly 300g of mixed flours and 6 eggs altogether (though I did not use all of the egg whites), a good pinch of salt, and a little bit of olive oil to make the base, the dough. I then let it rest for one hour, covered by a tea towel. And no, I did not put it in the fridge.
I then dusted a wooden board with plenty of flour before having a go with the rolling pin, and rolling out the dough into a ‘sfoglia’ … a round shape sheet of flattened pasta dough.
That’s as round as I managed … more like an oblong really … Then I folded one flap on one side, and the other flap opposite … And then gingerly made the flaps meet in the middle (How do you do?) …. I used a sharp knife to cut the sfoglia … I then lay out my fettuccine like little soldiers, all in a row … And cut them into squares: the afore mentioned “quadrucci”. Before on the left … and after on the right … I let the quadrucci rest until supper time … about 3 hours. On with the sauce. I cooked a chopped up onion over a low heat (so that it would not brown), and sprinkled both salt and sugar over it. When it had softened, I added cut up pieces of parma ham. I cooked the ham for about 1-2 minutes … And then added the frozen peas. In the background, I had already put on a pot of water onto the boil … and added salt to it … and I ladled some of this cooking water into the frying pan, to allow the peas and ham to cook gently. We are after a soft consistency … Taste and add a little more salt, if required, and a good twist of white pepper. It might take anything up to 10 minutes to cook. At the very end, I added a knob of butter …. I waited for the butter to melt and then switched off the heat. I cooked my precious quadrucci for … possibly 3-4 minutes? … not long anyway. I added them to the frying pan with the peas and ham … and mixed up everything. I added another ladle of the cooking water so that the ingredients had plenty of liquid to imbibe (just like a cocktail party, if you think about it) …. I tasted it. Good, very good. I added a nice little shower of freshly grated parmesan. And then added a little more parmesan on each individual dish.
Thank you Francesca! Thank you for inspiring me, for reminding me how wonderful it is to raise a child, how fiercely loving the relationship is, and what fun too!And the leftovers? Guess who got to eat those today for lunch! aha!