Sunday, February 13, 2011

PASTA POST! Playing with a New Kitchen Treasure

Last October, I started a feature on the blog called PASTA POST, and had every intention of sharing some of the many pastas I've bookmarked in various food magazines and Italian cookbooks.

Since that first post, I've fallen flat on my face. It seems we've become lazy, especially during the work week, tending to gravitate to the bar at Il Fornaio for a plate of Chef Marco's pasta. When we do make pasta at home, John routinely requests his beloved Ultimate Spaghetti Carbonara.

I rarely make homemade pasta, despite owning all the pasta attachments for our Kitchen Aid. There's really no excuse, especially now, since I have fallen in love with a beautiful artisanal pasta tool.

My quest for one of these tools began when I saw Fine Cooking's video series on handmade pastas (Fine Cooking Culinary School:  Handmade Pastas). One of the videos demonstrated how to make Corzetti pasta, with Pine Nut-Butter Sauce.

Corzetti are coin-shaped pasta dating back to the days of the Genovese Republic, when they were embossed with the family crest and served at festive meals.  I intently watched the Fine Cooking couple roll out the pasta and use a small round cookie cutter to stamp out the coins, about the size of silver dollars. In Liguria, they explained, there are special stamps used to imprint elaborate designs into the coins, but it is hard to find them in the states.

Plain, cookie-cutter pasta didn't excite me; I wanted one of those corzetti stamps so I could make the real thing. In less than five minutes on the internet, I was on Terry Mirri's web site, Fatto in America - Artisanal Pasta Tools.

Terry's vision is to "provide and encourage home chefs to explore food preparation with his unique line of handcrafted tools, rarely seen by the American consumer." Keeping with the Italian tradition of individuality, Terry started with the Corzetti Stamp, and has now expanded into polenta boards, cavarola boards, and garganelli-gnocchi boards.

I contacted Terry, told him about There's a Newf in My Soup, and asked if he would send me a Corzetti Stamp to try and feature on my blog. Terry graciously allowed me to chose from three design sets: Classic, Piccolini, or Michelangelo. I was also able to personalize my stamp with my choice of wood and imprint designs.

Just in time for Christmas, a package arrived in the mail with my gorgeous Michelangelo Corzetti Stamp, made of walnut, with the grape cluster design on one side and olive branch on the other.

Thrilled with my new treasure, I e-mailed Terry for sauce recommendations once I mastered the art of corzetti pasta-making. I asked him about Fine Cooking's brown butter and pine nut sauce. He agreed it was close to the classic, but encouraged me to try something different.

Terry shared his preference for making the dough with a ratio of one cup buckwheat flour to three cups all-purpose flour, with eggs and olive oil. He said "those buckwheat coins are big and beautiful, and you must find a sauce equal to its status." For the sauce, he "ruthlessly" sautes shredded cabbage, mushrooms, onions, garlic, and sage in olive oil and butter. He likes to add anchovies and capers to most of his sauces, but "not so much that you can taste either."  And black pepper, "with a large crack, big and plentiful." Terry apologized for his lack of specificity..."I was raised in a very Italian house and a piece of paper with instructions was Benedict Arnold territory. You could never be part of the kitchen intelligentsia with little pages flipping all over."

I tried the buckwheat pasta first, but rolled it too thin and was unable to achieve a clear imprint of the design. That's okay, it was a good test run. I tried again, this time making a basic egg pasta dough.

After making the dough, and allowing it to rest, I divided it into pieces and rolled each piece through the pasta roller, until I reached the next to last thinnest setting. I then cut the coins using the other side of the wheat design piece, and then pressed each coin between the two imprinted sides of the tool. A pound of pasta dough yielded approximately 50 coins.

For this batch of corzetti, I strayed just a little from Fine Cooking's recipe and made a brown butter and red walnut sauce with fried sage leaves, finished with some cracked pepper and a healthy grating of Parmigiano-Reggiano. The beautiful red walnuts are offered by Terra Bella Ranch, and available for the next few months from Little Italy's Farmers' Market.

Now that I've got this down, I'm ready to take another crack at the buckwheat pasta with Terry's sauce. Please take the time to visit two other blogs featuring Terry's cavarola board and corzetti stamp.


Terry Mirri lives in Sonoma, California where he creates his hand crafted artisanal pasta tools. This interest stems from his Italian heritage as well as his longstanding love of Italian cooking and entertaining friends with multi course dining extravaganzas.

Although Terry grew up in an Italian American household, his travels to Italy further exposed him to techniques and tools of making a wide variety of hand made pastas. It is this craft he has personally mastered and hopes to share with others.  His passion for his parent’s food centric culture and the hospitality and warmth it engenders led him to this pursuit.

Although Terry has been retired for several years, he developed an interest in woodworking. After learning and practicing this craft, he tried his hand at reproducing and creating antique style pasta tools. His natural talent as a craftsman is reflected in the beauty and art of the wooden tools he produces.  Fatto in America - Artisanal Pasta Tools.



Anonymous said...

Looks fantastic! You should definitely do more pasta posts!

Carmen said...

Thanks Denise. The Corzetti Stamp is the perfect big Italian wedding gift!

- Carmen

Audax said...

OMG OMG that pasta stamp is amazing and it gives such a beautiful coin great work wonderful posting.

Cheers from Audax in Sydney Australia.

bunkycooks said...

These are beautiful imprints and I am sure the sauce is spectacular. I will add this to my list of dishes you can prepare for us when we come to Coronado! ;)

blepharisma said...

OMG this is brilliant!! I've never heard of Corzetti, but that's probably one of the best unitaskers ever!! (trying to resist the urge to run out and get one now, I will live vicariously through you)

Shirley @ Kokken69 said...

Hello, I was drawn to your blog by your beautiful photo in foodgawker. Thank you so much for sharing this traditional tool. Totally in love with it and your corzetti looks so pretty!

Meandering Eats said...

Hey Denise! It was great to meet you at the Food Shoot Out and I'm sorry we didn't get a chance to chat more. I love, love, love the pasta stamp... so beautiful! Your photos are terrific, too. Hopefully we'll have a chance to meet up here in San Diego!

Anonymous said...

These look great, I've never seen anything like them before!

Kim said...

Lordy, and here I thought I owned every kitchen gadget known to man. :-) I know EXACTLY what Mr. RGBistro is getting in his Christmas stocking this year!

Your medallions look PERFECT! Wonder if it's possible to make lots, and then dry them and save them for later?


imperia 150 said...

Thanks! Very creative. I wonder what else could be a substitute for this kind of pasta stamp.. :D

Makey-Cakey said...

Absolutely stunning pasta! Amazing!