Homemade pasta: flours, shapes and secrets

Pasta is part and parcel of Italian culture as well as being one of the most popular foods worldwide. For any Italian, one of the greatest satisfactions in life is to make fresh pasta at home and, of course, to enjoy a homemade pasta meal. I recently took part in a course at Desinare cooking school in Florence with Arturo Dori (chef and instructor) and Francesco Barthel (owner and manager). Not only did I cook, laugh, taste and enjoy some wine but – more than anything else – I enjoyed the lesson. The venue is superb and making pasta is always great fun. Here’s what I learned:

Cooking school location in Florence [Photo credits: Desinare]
Cooking school location in Florence [Photo credits: Desinare]
Normally, you can make fresh pasta using common wheat flour or durum wheat semolina: two different products that come from two different kinds of wheat. The first one can be found in supermarkets bearing a numeric code, which indicates the kind of milling, from the most refined flour to the one that contains all parts of the wheat grain: type 00, type 0, type 1, type 2 and wholewheat flour. Semolina is the coarse flour obtained from the first grinding of durum wheat, so it has a larger grain and a yellow-amber colour.
Aperitivo time during the cooking class
Aperitivo time during the cooking class
One of the main differences between both types of raw ingredients is the elasticity that the dough acquires, so common wheat flour is used mostly for pizzas and cakes and semolina for bread. But you can use both to make pasta, achieving two different results. The secret is to create elastic dough that does not break. The other precaution is to let the dough rest covered for at least an hour before preparing your pasta.
All together, making strozzapreti pasta
All together, making strozzapreti pasta
Last Wednesday, Arturo prepared three kinds of Italian pasta shapes: Strozzapreti: which means "priest stranglers" and is a hand-rolled type of pasta, Orecchiette: a traditional type of pasta from Puglia, the name comes from orecchio (ear), Cavatelli: small pasta shells typical of the south of Italy. In addition to wheat flour and semolina, Arturo also used a burnt durum wheat semolina, a special semolina from Puglia obtained from milling of roasted durum wheat.
Strozzapreti pasta with fresh tomato sauce and ricotta cheese
Strozzapreti pasta with fresh tomato sauce and ricotta cheese
Making Strozzapreti (4 people): You'll need 250 g of wheat flour 0 and water.
Making strozzapreti
Making strozzapreti
- Sift the flour onto a work surface and add a little warm water at a time, stirring with a fork, - Knead the dough, which must have a very elastic consistency and not be too wet, - Let it rest in a bowl covered with plastic wrap for about an hour- Roll out the dough on a work surface with a rolling pin to a thickness of about 4 mm, - With a knife, cut a strip of about 1 inch and prepare the pasta with the palms of your hands, - Cook the strozzapreti for a few minutes in salted water.
Making orecchiette pasta 
Making orecchiette pasta 
Making Orecchiette (4 people): You'll need 250 g of re-ground semolina.
Using a knife to make the orecchiette
Using a knife to make the orecchiette
- Sift the semolina onto a work surface and add a little warm water at a time, stirring with a fork, - Knead the dough, which must have a very elastic consistency and not be too wet, - Let it rest in a bowl covered with plastic wrap for about an hour, - Take a little dough at a time and shape into cylinders of 1 cm. Use a knife to make the orecchiette, - Cook the orecchiette for a few minutes in salted water.
Cavatelli made with burnt durum wheat semolina
Cavatelli made with burnt durum wheat semolina
Making cavatelli (4 people) You'll need 150 g of re-ground semolina and 100 g of burnt durum wheat semolina.
Arturo making cavatelli
Arturo making cavatelli
- Arrange the semolina on a work surface and add a little warm water at a time, stirring with a fork, - Knead the dough, which must have a very elastic consistency and not be too wet, - Let it rest in a bowl covered with plastic wrap for about an hour, - Take a little dough at a time and shape into cylinders of 1 cm. Use two fingertips to shape the cavatelli, - Cook the cavatelli for a few minutes in salted water.
Cavatelli pasta with black cabbage sauce 
Cavatelli pasta with black cabbage sauce 

Buon appetito!

Buon appetito!
Buon appetito!
Photo credits: Flavia Cori, Tuscany Social Media Team