Pasta is something a lot of us probably take for granted. We open those cardboard boxes or tear into plastic packing, drop some noodles into boiling water, and wait ten or so minutes for deliverance from hunger. There’s nothing wrong with dry pasta. It’s gotten us all through hunger pangs more times than we can probably count. But still…
Fresh pasta is one of those super simple food items that feels like a luxury. Still, if you want it to transcend good and become great at making pasta, it’ll take work. A lot of work. It takes patience. A lot. And it requires very good ingredients. Which shouldn’t be too hard to pull off since there are only two ingredients involved.
“It’s just flour and eggs,” you assure yourself. “How difficult can that be?” Cut to a glutinous mess on your countertop that never reaches the heights your first proper plate of fresh pasta revealed to you. Don’t give up! Try again. And again. Eventually, you’re going to get it right. You will reach those heights of great pasta if you put in the time and elbow grease.
The Sweetest Pasta Origin Story Ever
I love making pasta. I love making it so much that I have a dedicated apron just for when I make pasta. Yes, I’m that much of a food nerd. I’m also self-aware enough to know that my recipe will never be perfect. Pasta don’t play like that. It’s constantly evolving medium that’s dependent on the time of year, ingredients available, and mood you’re in at the time. Sometimes you end up with a tagliatelle for a bolognese. Sometimes I end up with ravioli. Sometimes I end up with a mess.
I had the chance this year to make and eat pasta with the Rana family at their estate(s) in Verona, Italy. I was not giving up a chance to hone my pasta skills with the family that basically introduced fresh pasta to the consumer market after World War II.
Back then Giovanni Rana would ride his ruby red bike around his postcard perfect northern Italian streets and deliver fresh pasta for his neighbors from a big wicker basket. Mama would stay home and get dinner ready while he set out through the town, flour still on his hands. His son, Gian Luca, would ride in the basket and hand out the packages and collect the coins. When I first heard this story, I could only envision Antonioni shooting it in anamorphic black and while Franco Corelli’s iconic tenor tore at your heartstrings.
If there was ever anyone to get a lesson from in the finer arts of the form, these were the people. They’ve been making pasta for 67 years and took their humble door-to-door pasta delivery service and turned it into an international concern with factories in Verona and Chicago and restaurants all over the world. Needless to say, pasta runs deep through the veins of the Rana family.