And So It Begins, Adventures In Pasta Making

The production facility was finished, the floor was shiny, smooth and clean. Was it a reflection of what was to come or its inverse?

The pasta and extruder and drying chambers from Italy were installed, the electricity worked despite my electrician’s inability to read Italian. I learned that electricity is actually the same around the world.

The first batch of flour went into the hopper. Water was added. The dough mixed for exactly 12 minutes. The dough hopper was tilted, dropping its contents into the extruding hopper. Anticipation was mounting, there was Italo-American electricity in the air.

The first shape to be produced at Rallenti Pasta Company in 2015 was penne rigate. Unlike many pasta shapes, there is an actual date penne was created. On March 11, 1865, Giovanni Battista Capurro, a pasta maker in San Martino d’Albano, near Genoa, succeeded in patenting a machine capable of cutting pasta diagonally without breaking it. Until then, the operation was carried out by hand, with scissors, leaving irregular and jagged signs on the final product. Interestingly the first version of this pasta was colored, in the medieval way, with saffron.

My bronze die is very similar to the originals used so long ago.

It came out of the extruder like I imagined, like so much of the Pasta Porn I had been watching for so long. It was beautiful and sexy and if these words were written on scratch n sniff paper, it smelled like wheat, not quite like bread dough, but something similar, like bread’s cousin. In other words, an aroma I absolutely loved.

The pasta extruded beautifully for the next 2 hours, slowly filling up rack after rack, the tower of racks reaching ever higher, 25 on each of two rolling dollies.

Once both towers of pasta were complete, it was time to dry them. The Italian drying chamber was literally a black box of mystery. The “recipes” were proprietary knowledge of someone or some business in Italy. To this day, I am not sure how this machine was programmed.

I turned it on, selected the appropriate recipe from an Italian menu, crossed my fingers and hit “Start”. To say I slept soundly would be a complete lie.

I woke early, raced to the factory, noticed that smooth, shiny and clean new floor, prayed to the pasta gods and opened the dryer doors. I pulled the first rack out, reached for the top rack and pulled a handful of pasta off with my bare hand.

It was beautiful.

Rallenti Pasta was in business.

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