Recently I spent a morning filming Vanda Soncini and her daughter Maria Grazia in working in the kitchen of their restaurant, La Capanna di Eraclio. The idea was to follow Vanda through a typical morning, which always starts with making pasta – a routine she has been doing for 60 odd years. This was the pasta she made. The ‘condimento’ uses a local crustacean called canocchie – a mantis shrimp which is very similar to prawn in flavour. If you don’t live on the Adriatic coastline, then use any raw prawn that is in season where you live.
For the pasta:
300g semolina flour
3 large free range eggs
Place the flour on a wooden board and make a well in it. Crack the eggs into the well and beat them with a fork before mixing them into the flour to make a dough. Knead this until it is smooth and silky – a good 5 minutes. Cover it with a bowl, or wrap it in cling film and leave it to rest for 30 minutes.
Either use a pasta machine or your rolling pin and floured pasta board to roll out the dough to a thickness of 1 millimetre. Leave the pasta sheet (or ‘sfoglia‘ in Italian) to dry out a little – how long will depend on the temperature and humidity of your kitchen; you don’t want it to stick together, but at the same time you don’t want it to crack when rolled. Vanda left her dough for 10 minutes with the ceiling fan on.
Flour the dough and double roll it so the scrolls meet in the middle. Fold one over the other to make a roll and use a sharp, long blade knife to cut the pasta into 3 millimetre ribbons. Shake them the out as you go along. Aim to twist the tagliolini into 4 nests as Vanda does in the video.
For the shrimp ‘condimento’:
800g of raw shrimp or prawn, cooked until they just turn pink, and shelled. Keep the shells
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds, ground
1 tablespoon anise flavoured alcohol
1 garlic clove, left whole
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 fresh red chilli (quantity according to taste)
chopped parsley to serve
First make the prawn stock. Place the shells in a saucepan with the ground fennel and the anise alcohol. Cover with a layer of ice cubes and cover the pan. Place over a very low heat and leave to simmer for around 45 minutes. Strain and discard the shells. Reduce to a 100 millimetres of stock.
Fry the chilli and garlic clove in the olive oil for 3 or 4 minutes until the garlic softens but doesn’t colour. Remove it. Add the shrimp flesh and give it a 30 second stir fry with the stock.
Have a pan of boiling salted water ready. Part cook the pasta for one minute. Strain and add to the frying pan and stir it through the shrimp sauce for another minute. Divide between 4 warmed plates and scatter with some parsley. Eat immediately.
For 4 people as a starter