Making pasta with Nonna Maria


Maria Mulinari, aged 83, gets up at 4am every Wednesday to make pasta for a local restaurant in Cingoli – a job she took on after her husband (Cingoli’s mens tailor) died.  She makes several kilos by hand although there’s an electric pasta maker to help with the rolling as her shoulders have started to play up. These days, having made enough to last the restaurant until the end of the weekend, she needs a little bit of a rest. Maria and her ever grateful employers are just starting to consider the notion of her retirement and she is training staff to support her; it is difficult to see her ever giving up completely.

At home Maria never eats shop-bought pasta; making the stuff is second nature to her. And she’s a great fan of the freezer: she makes tortellini in advance for Christmas, for example, and always has several bags of different shaped pastas for when she doesn’t feel like cooking. She likes to make a fresh meat ragù, but she blitzes the ‘sapori’ – the celery, carrots and onion -and freezes portions of the paste to save time on other occasions.

The thing that struck me was how Maria, a great grandmother, had not been able to pass her cookery skills and knowledge down the family. Sure they love her cooking, but they are all too busy working to have the time to make pasta for themselves. Maria’s great granddaughter actually prefers shop bought dried spaghetti to the fresh egg style Maria makes.

So I decided two things. First, I’d invite her over to demonstrate her skills, along with her grandson Alessandro Bravi and his wife Elizabetta. Secondly I’m going to start a collection of Pasta Grannies. Maria is the first.

I had the good fortune to have my friend and excellent food photographer Alessandra Spairani, staying with us and she took the photographs of Maria and her day spent pasta making with us, including the picture above.