How do the old Italian grannies know how to do this kind of stuff? There’s no special trick to it, just years and years of practice. They say that in some small towns, mothers would judge a potential daughter-in-law based on whether she had a good callus on her thumb. Work with pasta that long, you’re bound to get better at it. But there’s a lot of trial and a lot of errors.
This was our second attempt at trenette, the Genoese pasta traditionally served with potatoes, green beans, and pesto. Based on Giuliano Bugiali’s instructions, we’d adjusted our dough to include a mix of whole wheat and 00 white flours, rolled it thinner than last time, and gotten a crinkled roller to cut just one side of each noodle. We also decreased the amount of garlic in our pesto, which we made with basil from our porch.
It was hot and humid in our kitchen, so even sprinkled liberally with semolina, the ultra-thin noodles stuck together when piled in little nests. We hung them to rest on wire coat hangers instead, which worked pretty well. We cut up potatoes and green beans from our farm share, and boiled an enormous pot of salted water. The potatoes took about six minutes to cook. The green beans took about two minutes. We figured the pasta would take one or two.
Being that thin and that fresh, they took about thirty seconds to cook. And removing each strand of pasta off a coat hanger and putting it into the water took more than a minute. In other words, after an entire afternoon of cooking, we had mushy pasta.
Delicious, perfectly-sauced, mushy pasta.
Another thirty or sixty years of practice and we’ll wonder how anyone could find this difficult.