Wednesday, June 15, 2005

rage against the machine

I haven't eaten pesto, much less made it, in years. The ubiquity of it, or of pathetic simulacra thereof, made even the regal smell of basil revolting. What a relief then when La D.'s trumpeting of trofie suddenly sounded good.

Because, however, I am the kind of person who thinks "trofie sound good," and then makes mandili di saea, i.e., an idiot, I proceeded to make mandili di saea instead. For those of you not conversant in Ligurian, that means "silk hankies." And for those of you not accustomed to making pasta, the word silk means "too hard for you to make."

Now, I have always preferred to roll out fresh pasta by hand -- not, surprisingly, because of snobbishness, but because I find it easier. But the recipe (eventually tracked down in the Saveur Italian book) demanded a machine, for the obvious reason that no non-nonna is going to turn flour to silk with a rolling pin.

Here's one thing I learned: read the bag of flour before you make something with it. It might be useful to know, for example, that you are trying to make pasta with "ultimate high-performer bread flour." Also: do not start making silk-anything pasta at 7PM.

At 9 I figured dinner would be ready around 1. Attempting to pass the 7 setting on the machine shredded the pasta into a crinkly ribbon that bore an unfortunate resemblance to a pair of crotchless panties passed through a wood chipper. Not, note, edible panties. [7, by the way, is approximately as thin as mortals can get pasta by hand. The whole point of the excercise was to reach the elusive 9]. Since I am, despite the above, a decent cook in addition to being an idiot, I knew that I could salvage maybe three-quarters of the dough. The problem was time. And also rage. Towering, incoherent rage.

I'll spare you further description of the ugly scene. Suffice it to say that sweat and flour don't mix, unless you like making yourself into an impotent little vol-au-vent. After hurling curses and a few relatively small objects around the kitchen and nearly auto-amputating my right foot when I dropped the offending machine on the floor, I swallowed my self-respect and reached for the De Ceccho.

Yes, dear reader, I made pesto from scratch and applied it to penne rigate. You can, I understand, never forgive me for such a vulgar combination. The moral of the story, though, is that it wasn't really that bad. Because the the pesto (which, under normal circumstances, I would have been slightly ashamed to have made in a Catalan ceramic mortar instead of Carrara marble) was fucking delicious.

It took less than 10 minutes to make once the basil was washed. You must make it. In a mortar. It cannot be abused -- only Ligurians should be allowed to eat pesto more than monthly -- but you will not believe how easy and fast and delicious it is.

I recommend serving it on trofie.


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