Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Making Gnocculi con Pesto alla Trapanese in Mazara del Vallo { recipe }

Pesto alla Trapanese Recipe

I have to admit, if there is one thing that always intimidated me in the Italian kitchen, it's handmade pasta. For some reason I always associated it with a high maintenance dough, special tools, tricky timing - but, most of all, with very little cooking fun.

While cooking with Silvana Mannone & her family in Sicily earlier this summer, I was finally converted! With just two ingredients we made enough Sicilian gnocculi to feed a battalion! And while Silvana shared the secrets for the perfect gnocculi, her husband Giovanni was kind enough to let us in on his interpretation of a classic pesto alla Trapanese - so both of these recipes I am happy to share here ...

the pesto ingredients.
a bulb of young garlic, preferably red garlic
a pinch of salt
a handful of fresh basil leaves
a bowl of sweet summer tomatoes
a good extra virgin olive oil

This is a recipe that will come together according to ingredient quality, season and personal taste, rather than being based on exact ingredient measurements. It's truly a recipe that will make each ingredient shine, so try to go out of your way to find fresh young garlic and sweet tomatoes, if in season ...

Peel the cloves of a fresh bulb of garlic and add to a sturdy mortar. Adding a pinch of salt, slowly grind the garlic to a mash.

Pesto alla Trapanese Sicilian cooking

Now add shredded basil leaves and slowly pound into the garlic paste as you add them.

Pesto alla Trapanese recipe Sicilian cooking

Once incorporated, chop some sweet summer tomatoes and add into the mortar.

Pesto alla Trapanese

Give the tomatoes a good pestle pounding to release the juices, then pour the pesto into a shallow bowl. Fill the bowl with a good extra virgin olive oil, until the tomato garlic basil paste is just about covered.

Pesto Siciliano Trapanese

Let the pesto rest for about 30 minutes, so the flavors can mingle and while you get busy with the pasta ...

Pesto alla Trapanese Sicilian Pesto recipe

the pasta ingredients.
4 cups semolina flour
3 cups water

It all started with the "tavuleri" {or spianatoia}, a large wooden board that was suspended between two dining chairs in the middle of the living room, allowing for enough space to knead the dough and extra room for additional sets of helping hands. If you don't have a tavuleri, just make sure to use a wooden surface, since marble or stone surfaces are too cold for the dough.

Pour the flour in a neat mound and make a deep well in its middle.

Now slowly add the water, using a hand to lightly bring the flour and water together, slowly working from the rim to the outside.

handmade Semolina pasta gnocculi recipeSemolina pasta gnocculi recipehow to make Semolina pasta gnocculi recipe

Combine flour and water into one mass, scrape up any remaining bits and knead until fully incorporated.

Now comes to crucial phase in pasta making ... kneading the dough!

Using the ball of your dominant hand, press hard into the dough, almost shredding it with each push. And, most importantly, don't rush through this stage - it will take a good 8 to 10 minutes for the dough to reach a perfect glistening consistency. 

how to make Semolina pasta gnocculi recipe

Now divide the dough into smaller balls, flatten into discs, rub with some olive oil {to prevent drying}, slice each disc into finger thick slices, add to a large bowl and cover to rest.

Let the dough rest for at least 30 minutes at room temperature.

how to make fresh Semolina pasta gnocculi handmade recipe

Now comes the fun part - creating the pasta shape with your own hands!

Take a slice of the dough and slowly roll out with both hands to a long thin roll. From this roll, snip off the length of about four fingers, grab with the tips of your three longest fingers and gently roll towards you. This will leave three indentations in the pasta and roll it out even thinner - ecco, your gnocculi shape!

how to make Semolina pasta gnocculi Sicilian recipe

Gather the rolled out gnocchi and spread on a table cloth for drying. No need to spread out as neatly as pictured, it was just a fun way to count our manual labor of 2000+ gnocculi!

Gnocculi Sicliani Sicilian gnocchi

After 30 minutes of drying the pasta is ready to cook. Cooking time will depend on the size of your gnocchuli, so make sure to taste while boiling.

Once drained, quickly add back to the pot, pour in the pesto and stir to mix.

Pour the pasta in a large serving bowl and serve immediately - along with a good shaving of Pecorino Siciliano {or Pecorino Romano}.

Gnocculi con pesto alla trapanese

B U O N   A P P E T I T O !

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