Bologna is a city full of workers dedicated to producing top quality food; pasta is a prime example and the task of making it for the discerning locals falls to women who have for generations rolled and folded incredible qualities on a daily basis.
Nicoletta Bussolari and Dora Holmanu make pasta for Trattoria Anna Maria and their laboratorio, or workshop, is a couple of doors down from the restaurant. We caught up with them in the middle of their morning’s pasta making which begins with them mixing a 300 egg – 30 kilos of flour – pasta dough entirely by hand. No machinery is involved. Humidity is the enemy of decent pasta and the only gadgetry being used were fans to help with the ventilation in their tiny space.
After 8 years of working together, the women are very close – Nicoletta says Dora is like a sister to her – and they’ve developed a system of working round their 3 wooden topped tables, one side being used for rolling while the other is used for slicing, dabbing and twisting.
So far, the Pasta Grannies we’ve watched have rolled out oval or round shape sfoglie, or sheets of pasta; but Nicoletta makes long strips which are a more efficient shape for cutting. Her loose concertina folds and careful draping are very similar to a seamstress making curtains. The curtain making similarities continue, because if the sfoglie aren’t cut up immediately she rolls them up in linen and stacks them like rolls of cloth. The linen stops the pasta from drying out and keeps it supple.
The task of creating tortelloni tends to fall to Dora, who began work at Trattoria Anna Maria as a waitress; now Nicoletta says she’s the best. Like all pasta makers in Bologna, she uses a multiple bladed pasta cutter to make squares – there’s one for each size: their tortelloni pasta are 8 centimetres square. The filling is cows milk ricotta mixed with finely minced parsley, eggs, parmesan and nutmeg.
Tortelloni follow the same folding technique as cappelletti and tortellini: fold a square into a triangle and then bring the two pointy bits together around your forefinger, as Dora demonstrates in the video.
The pasta is put on drying trays which are whisked off by the chefs for cooking, which we then had the privilege of tasting for lunch.