More essential elements.






Picked up a couple of pantry staples while out tonight and spotted a miraculous full moon just over Mt. Wachusett on the way down-town. I’m super lucky that even though I live in a central Mass. backwater of 5,000 people I can still buy Caputo 00 flour any day of the week at a very good price from the local gourmet food store called “The Country Gourmet”.

I’ve decided to start learning how to use 00 flour in other things besides pizza crust. I suppose there are other things in life besides pizza so why not try pasta and cookies with it too?!  00 flour is very common in Italian bakeries and pizza shops; it’s more finely milled than what you would find on the shelves in the US and has a gluten level roughly equivalent to that of all-purpose flour.  Since 14-15% gluten is best for pizza crust like (what you’d get with bread flour), it’s nice to mix in some gluten flour or do a 50/50 mix  of 00 and other kinds of flour such as AP or bread. You’ll also need to cut back a tiny bit on the amount of liquid in your recipe as the 00 doesn’t absorb as much as other flours. It’s really an amazing flour to work with. Kneading a pizza dough made with this flour is like kneading a cloud made out of silk and the cooked crust is full of air and extremely lightweight  but sturdy at the same time. Only the Italians could architect something that is so contradictory, useful and sensual all at the same time.

There’s not much to say about the salt. It’s good salt. Salt is old, it goes in everything. The ocean, tears, pasta water. Use salt and eat. img_1048


The transformation of three elements.

alchemists-compounding-a-balsam-in-medieval-times-bj8draWhat you can do with flour, eggs and salt. For these pasta experiments I decided to use up a wheat/white blend I had in my cabinet that I was using for sourdough at one time; it made a stiff and nice-looking dough that I feel hopeful about (eating).

I’ve decided that making ravioli is my newest short-term cooking goal however to do that you have to make very precisely shaped but also sturdy and thin sheets of pasta. So I set out to practice that with my Mercato pasta roller and succeeded more that I expected to on this night. I ended up trying a few different way of cutting the pasta as well when I was done making sheets. At the same time I’m trying out putting half of the pasta dough in the freezer to see how it keeps. These are some of the cuts I tried, some machine and some by hand, and the sheets themselves. In Italian, the word la pasta actually means dough and can mean other things such as a cake or pastry, a mix or a paste, and of course pasta. The Italian verb impastare means to knead or to mix.

La Chitarra

Nothing happens without the ancestors. 

Although I never knew my maternal grandmother Erminia Cenerizio, the owner of the traditional Abruzzese pasta making implement pictured above, I did know some of her siblings, and have done a  great deal of research on her branch of the family in recent years. One of 7 children at that time, she came to Boston in 1919 with brother Corrado and my great-grandmother, Anna. The patriarch of the family, Edoardo Cenerizio, came to the U.S. first in 1913. He was a shoemaker who was taught the trade by the man who adopted him just after his birth, Nunzio Polidoro.  I can only assume that Anna decided to follow to the U.S. after the 1915 earthquake in Avezzano destroyed their village, San Benedetto dei Marsi, in the region of Abruzzo, and also killed 5 of her children. Here the chitarra is getting its first use  after at least 42 years of dormancy,  along with a picture of the family, below,  from 1950 taken in Lexington, Ma.  Erma is third from left, with her mother first from the right. The town in the photo below is Nocciano, also in Abruzzo, where my grandfather Angelo Di Meco, a stone mason and builder, was from. He’s first on the left in the family photo. Although both of my grandparents were from small villages less that 50 miles apart, they met and were married in Greenfield, Ma.  in 1929. 1951-photo-2nocciano-vista