Nonna Dora could make pasta in her sleep. I found a video of her on Insta shaping orecchiette with the most casual I-don’t-give-a-f*ck flick of the wrist and immediately, I was obsessed. She’s an Italian grandma who makes pasta every day at NYC's i Trulli Ristorante and Ristoro del Cinghiale.
Nonna Dora at i Trulli Ristorante holding a tray of fresh pasta. From L to R: cavatelli, malloreddus, and orecchiette. Andrea Kaufman
Nonna has made up to 10 pounds of pasta a day for the past 25 years. She quit her job as a seamstress at a high-end fashion house to start working at the restaurant in 1987 after her son, Nicola, bought it. The food served is the food that they know: The family is from the Puglia region in southern Italy and has based their menu off the cuisine of their home. Their sister restaurant features Tuscan cuisine.
Their most popular pastas are the orecchiette and cavatelli. Orecchiette means “little ear” and refers to the shape of the pasta. Nonna deftly shapes each piece with a small knife, rolling it out and creating little pockets in the dough with her thumb. The cavatelli, however, is shaped entirely by hand.
Each pasta has a story behind it. The malloreddus is a gnocchi , or Italian dumpling. In the U.S., we tend to think of it as the kind that’s made of potato, flour, and egg. Here, they serve a Sardinian version that’s made out of semolina and and saffron. Each little piece is rolled on a ribbed board, a modern version of the picnic baskets that were originally used.
Their maccheroncini is made with “burnt flour.” According to Nicola, this flour is a mix of the the burnt remnants that bakers found in their ovens and, not wanting it to go to waste, would mix it with regular flour. Traditionally, the flat squares of dough are rolled using a rod that was pulled out of the center of an umbrella. Now, there’s an actual tool for it, and the one Nonna uses isn’t round but has multiple sides.
I could watch her making pasta all day (I almost did). A plate of ravioli was placed in front of me and was left untouched for five seconds when Nonna ordered me to eat. You can taste Nonna’s handmade pastas at i Trulli Ristorante in New York City.
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