Exploring Italy’s Culture: Pasta and Pizza Making!
Written by Mikaela March 22, 2016
I am excited to say that I am now a professional Italian pasta and pizza maker! Just kidding, but I did learn how to make pasta from scratch and the secrets behind the perfect pizza from local professionals. On two different nights, CIMBA professors took some students to local restaurants known for their pasta or pizza perfection and the owners taught us their knowledge which has been past down for generations.
My favorite part of the pasta-making night was hearing the restaurant owner, Luca, tell us the history of his restaurant and watching him swiftly mix, roll, and form the fresh pasta. As soon as we entered, he and his family were excited to welcome us into their restaurant. He liked to express his enthusiasm by saying ‘super!’ and we certainly reciprocated his excitement. In the beginning, he had us gather around a table with a large rectangle shaped board resting on top. Then as he set up his dense bags of flour and cartons of eggs, he talked with love about how his mother started their family restaurant 45 years ago and how she is the one who taught him the pasta skills he was sharing with us that night.
What amazed me most about his pasta-making skills was that he only used a fork and roller as his utensils. For example, to mix the flour in with the eggs, he made an oval with the flour, cracked the eggs in the middle, and then slowly mixed in the oval shaped flour into the center with the eggs. In the end, the pasta had such an amazing taste; I truly want to make my own pasta as soon as I return to the US, even though I know I will have flour and eggs all over if I use Luca’s mixing technique!
Then a couple nights later, I got to make one of the best pizzas I have ever eaten. My favorite part (honestly) was eating the pizza but also the owner Saverio’s enthusiasm to teach us about the craft of making good Italian pizza. He was so animated as he engaged us is a conversation full of laughs around his granite and well-decorated bar. He taught us about everything from the relationships between the most important ingredients to how to tell if the pizza is well made before you even take a bite. He is so good at what he does that he can make a pizza and cook it within 5 minutes! Then we got the chance to work the pizza dough and top it with homemade tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella, and an abundance of colorful veggies. After it cooked in the fire oven for 3 minutes, I was in foodie heaven with my own hot and flavorful pizza.
The pasta and pizza-making nights were truly cultural experiences. I may drop out of school to become a professional pizza or pasta maker now (just kidding, Mom!), but I will definitely take the knowledge and skills I learned and tasted into my own cooking life back home. While in Italy, not only do I get to eat the famous Italian pasta and pizza often, but now I know the techniques and care that are behind the deliciousness.