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A Taste of Italy

From the Comfort of Your Home

Article by Brian McVey

Photography by Sarah Brooke Lyons/Dayna De Hoyos

Originally published in Boerne Lifestyle

The art of pasta making is an essential part of the heritage in Italy and the preservation of pasta
making is an intangible cultural importance to Raffaele Martini and his wife Dahlia. I had the pleasure of meeting Raffaele, originally from Cortona, Italy, (the same town as the book and movie, “Under the Tuscan Sun"), and his wife Dahlia, a Texas native. There are few places in the world like the Tuscany region in Italy. It really has it all: the most beautiful rolling-hill landscapes, medieval historical towns, Renaissance art, Italy's best wineries, amazing food, and suitable weather to enjoy it all.

As I entered the kitchen, I was immediately hit with the aroma of pasta sauce consisting of fresh garlic, basil and tomatoes slowly simmering on the stovetop. As our team was about to explore firsthand the art of pasta making, I couldn’t help but appreciate Italian singer Andrew Bocelli’s music playing in the background, which made this experience truly authentic.

The team was really excited at the thought that we were making pasta from scratch! With our aprons on, we were ready to start making pasta. Raffaele instructed us to pour some water into the small bowls of flour.  We were informed that the pasta we were creating was called Pici pasta. Pici is a traditional Tuscan pasta that is often eaten with shredded cheese or a fresh tomato sauce.

Raffaele reminded us that the ingredients for Pici is just flour and water. We mixed the water and flour by “kneading” for fifteen minutes by hand to make it very elastic. This seemed hard at first, but everyone in the class agreed it was especially approachable for beginners. Raffaele added, “You can make the best pasta at home with the most basic of kitchen instruments: a smooth surface, a sharp knife, and a half-hour of hands-on time.”

While we were kneading the dough, Raffaele told stories of how he learned the art of pasta
making as a young kid while watching his mother in the kitchen. He tried over and over to
conquer this method of homemade pasta. As Raffaele also humbly stated, “I am a Level 3
Sommelier, so I know what wine to pair with specific meals."

Both Raffaele and Dahlia instructed us on how to use the palm of our hands to transform the flour and water into a silky pasta dough. We then started to roll out the pieces of dough with our fingers, starting in the middle and working towards the outside. If you ever played with Play-Doh and rolled it into worms, this technique will be familiar to you. The noodles should not be thicker than a pencil but not thin enough to break. Besides that, there are no rules; if they're a little uneven, don't sweat it! We placed the rolled noodles lengthwise on a floured tray to avoid sticking.

Once the water boiled, we cooked the pasta until just shy of al dente, or about four to five minutes. We were told to drain the pasta and reserve one cup of pasta water. After taking the pasta out of the water, I watched as Raffaele put the homemade pasta sauce on top of the plate of Pici for an incredibly delicious, yet simple dinner at home.

Dahlia stated, “Once you've had a taste of fresh homemade pasta, it's hard to go back to the
store-bought stuff!”. She added, “Homemade pasta is incredibly simple to make, and you don't
need any fancy tools or a pasta maker to make it happen … merely your two hands!”
Raffaele suggested making several batches at once and then store and preserve them in the freezer for future meals.

Pasta making is an especially fun task if you enjoy it with your family members. What an incredibly unique experience for our team and I know I am motivated to start making homemade pasta at home with my kids!

Both Raffaele and Dahlia are a powerful couple who are passionate about food and wine. They offer workshops and wine pairing classes, as well as Raffaele’s independent Sommelier services. You can find more of their services here:
www.martiniandcompany.com or email Raffaele directly at martiniwines@gmail.com

How they met: Dahlia was in Italy for a three-month internship. After being in Rome for two weeks, she met Raffaele at the Yellow Hostel-Hotel bar and ended up staying two years before she brought Raffaele home to Texas.

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