“Are you ready for the magic?”
An Italian pasta chef smiled as 23 sets of eager eyes watch her dangle fresh cuts of pasta dough from her large knife.
Maria Nigro is a pasta making instructor with Eat and Walk Italy, a cooking class and tour company. She teaches both tourists and Romans how to make authentic pastas, including fettuccine.
A group of 23 Study Abroad students attended a two-hour session with her and found out that pasta truly is a labor of love.
No, seriously. She said love is the secret ingredient in making great authentic pasta.
Nigro’s love for creating pasta was palpable as she shared how the process helps her feel connected to her home city of Bologna, Italy.
Over the next two hours, students discovered the specific steps it takes to create authentic Italian pasta for themselves.
The pasta dough began as a small pile of flour and a pinch of salt, which sat on a decorative plate. The pile was then hollowed out to create space for the dough’s binder, a large egg.
The 23 students synchronously cracked open their eggs with a quick tap of the knife and dropped them into the hole created in the flour, revealing a bright orange yolk that was reminiscent of a sunset.
The color was soon transformed into a much darker-colored dough. Using a fork, students scrambled the egg and began to incorporate the walls of flour which enclosed the egg. The mixture slowly changed from a sticky, yellow mixture to a malleable, tan dough.
As the dough became easier to handle, it was shaped delicately into a ball and placed on a wooden cutting board. Students then kneaded and folded the dough using the palms of their hands to incorporate the remaining flour.
The dough was then laboriously rolled out using a rolling pin, with flour sprinkled on the dough like snow with each passing effort. Senior Grayce Gosnell noted how tiring the practice could be. “I’m getting my workout in.”
Nigro walked around the room to check on the students as they continued rolling their dough with the pin. “Brava!” she exclaimed as some were able to roll the dough to the perfect consistency.
Students pressed the rolling pin into the middle of the white, flour-coated dough and pushed it up and down until it was as thin as a sheet of paper.
Nigro then instructed the class on how to form the pasta’s shape. She showed students how to roll the dough on each side until it reached the middle, forming two cylinder-like scrolls.
Knives glided across each student’s dough, evenly cutting the rolled scrolls, which would eventually become long strands of pasta.
Students listened intently as Nigro detailed the traditions of different types of pasta. With a slow, firm chop of the sharp, silver knife, she artfully demonstrated how to create three pasta shapes, noting the differences in shape, size, and texture.
Nigro then slid the edge of her knife under the evenly cut dough pieces and gave them a light shake. And, like magic before the students’ eyes, the small pile of flour had been transformed into a beautiful, hand-crafted bundle of fettuccine.