*Tortelloni instructions with step-by-step pictures are at the end of the post*
When you’re in Italy and studying the art of making pasta, it’s probably not wise to admit to your very-serious-about-pasta instructor that you employ your Cuisinart food processor to aid in making the dough. I’m not even sure why I said it. I guess part of me wanted to make small talk, but mostly I wanted to spark a glimmer of pride and develop some kind of camaraderie by letting her know that I’m not new to making pasta. But the only glimpse I was giving her was that of my corner-cutting indolence, and from the condemnatory look on her face, I knew I wasn’t impressing anyone.
The school La Vecchia Scuola Bolognese is located just outside of Bologna’s city center. It was opened in 1993 by Alessandra Spisni, a chef, cookbook author, and television personality, and remains to be the only school wordwide that develops professional pasta makers, called sfoglini. Sfoglini being a word derived from the proper Italian word for the flour and egg pasta dough, sfoglia, and is pronounced sfol-yuh. You don’t pronounce the G, it’s just there for decoration like the word gnome. Fact: gnomes are real and they bite your toes when you sleep. Another fact: tell a stranger’s children this in the grocery store and you can watch the fun unravel.
The first day of class I found myself in a sultry pasta laboratory adjacent to the professional kitchen which was busy preparing a tasting menu for guests soon to arrive. There were six large wooden top tables in the lab awaiting my newbie hands to glide across them, and behind me the pristine red and orange checkered walls were lined with various daunting sizes of rolling pins. Rolling pins thick and heavy enough that a frighteningly large Mafioso named Joey could probably use them to do serious damage to some sfoglia. And if you thought even for a second that Joey was going to succumb to rolling pin violence against another human being, then shame on you. Make-believe Mafioso Joey turned a corner in his life and is trying to be a positive influence, and maybe he should break your kneecaps to teach you a valuable lesson about being so judgmental.
Not my hands, by the way.
La Vecchia Scuola Bolognese offers a spectrum of cooking courses for varying levels. From beginner one-day demo classes up to three-month-long professional culinary studies, they cater to whatever aspirant culinary objective you seek. However, their specialty is, of course, pasta, and I had enrolled in one of their more popular curricula: the weeklong pasta making certification course.
My week at LVSB felt more akin to serious on-the-job training than your typical cooking class. I was watched intently with every action, ensuring I complied with all professional standards, and no error was overlooked. With each faulty move, my instructor crept up behind me and said, “Allora, pay attention…” She would then grab my hands and run them across the sfoglia so I could feel my work for accuracy, as though I were circumnavigating the smooth terrain of a woman’s supple body. Or maybe a piglet’s body, I don’t know, I’m not really familiar with the anatomy of either. But I’m sure the dough felt like something womanly and/or pig-like.
“Am I hurting you? Tell me if I hurt you, dear,” she’d ask as her grip tightened around my forearm, and I was sure it was a test. “No,” I’d tell her through tears masked as sweat, trying desperately to keep my voice from cracking.
We were made to adhere to industry standards of waste reduction and using only as much as needed to complete a quality product with the highest standard of ingredients hand picked by Alessandra herself. We developed various dough and then hand-formed tagliatelle, garganelli, ravioli, tortellini, tortelloni, farfalle, gnocchi, pappardelle and others after rolling the dough with exhaustive gusto into sizable, paper thin sheets. By the end of the week my hands resembled that of sexual predator Brian Peppers: purplish-white, swollen, and under arrest. But now, with my semi-crippled hands and certification written completely in Italian, I proudly possess the skill to recreate the large, flowing, delicious, golden-yellow, authentically Italian sheets of pasta at home. Using my pasta roller.
On my very last day my instructor shared a little bit of her background with me. She had come to La Vecchia Scuola Bolognese five years prior after leaving a 22-year-long profession as a photographer. She had grown disenchanted with the profession when the photography world moved from predominantly working in hand-processed darkrooms to digitized Adobe Lightroom. She said, “I need to work with my hands, and making pasta is such an art form. You work with your hands and you work with your heart, and when you get it right, it’s beautiful.”
And that it is.
For more information:
La Vecchia Scuola Bolognese
Handmade Tortelloni in Butter Sage Sauce
*STEP BY STEP PICTURES SHOWN BELOW RECIPE* Preparation time: 1 hour(s) Cooking time: 10 minute(s) Number of servings (yield): 4 For the filling For the sauce For the sfoglia For the filling To assemble For the sauce
For the sfoglia
*STEP BY STEP PICTURES SHOWN BELOW RECIPE*
Preparation time: 1 hour(s)
Cooking time: 10 minute(s)
Number of servings (yield): 4
For the filling
For the sauce
For the sfoglia
For the filling
For the sauce
Handmaking Pasta Picture Demo
*excuse the laughably horrible lighting, as you might recall my Italian apartment is an old renovated winery, so I have to work with what I’ve got!
Handmade Tortelloni Picture Demo
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