• Howie Bulka

How we make our pasta


At Howie’s, we make fresh pasta every day. We use a Monferrina P3 to make our Rigatoni, Bucatini and other extruded pastas.


The P3 is a real contraption, with way too many moving parts and the looming likelihood that it will cease to operate at any moment.


In it, we combine semolina flour and water at the exact ration of 3 to 1, mix for ten minutes, throw a few switches, say a prayer, and out comes Rigatoni. It is mesmerizing to watch this unlikely machine extrude these beautiful things.


For our flat pasta, Tagliatelle, Fettucine and the like, we use an Imperia 220, the motorized version of the ubiquitous hand crank machines Italian household cooks have been using since the 1930’s. After an embarrassing number of recipe trials, we settled on an all-yolk pasta made with ‘00’ flour. It has a beautiful golden color, great tensile strength, and a luxurious almost velvety texture. On a good day I can roll, cut and portion five kilos of tagliatelle in about a half an hour. It’s a labor of love.


In the Italian kitchen, pasta comes in three types. There are two types of fresh pasta; laminated and extruded, and dry pasta. When I compose the menus at Howie’s, I try to use all three types of pasta so that we can offer our guests an interesting variety of shapes, textures, and traditions. Laminated pasta are flat noodles and include tagliatelle, fettucine, and pappardelle. There are many others.


Extruded pasta is most often three dimensional. Rigatoni, Penne and fusilli are common extruded pasta shapes, but the category also includes spaghetti, bucatini and other long pastas. The third type of pasta is dry pasta. Dry pasta is simply the packaged pasta readily available on supermarket shelves.


At Howie’s, we typically use premium brands of dry pasta, but we also use De Cecco and Barilla, the preferred choice of Italian home cooks, just because we love the products. Extruded pasta, whether fresh or dry is almost always made from semolina flour, milled from hard durum wheat, and water. Laminated pasta is typically made from finer, softer flour and eggs.


So, three types of pasta, extruded, laminated, and dry. One is not better than the other, they simply have different uses. The correct pairing of pasta and sauce is subjective of course, unless you are Italian, in which case it is not. In most parts of Italy it is perfectly acceptable, for example, to serve a ragu with Rigatoni or Penne.


In Bologna, it is served only with Tagliatelle and to do otherwise is sacrilege, grounds for divorce. The rules are complicated, arguable, and often contradictory, but the logic is simple. Delicate sauces pair best with delicate (flat) pasta shapes. Hearty sauces prefer hearty pasta with nooks and crannies to hold the sauce. I could go on.

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