Taking a pasta making course during our time in Bologna was sort of a no-brainer: pasta is at the heart of Italian cuisine and Emilia-Romagna, the region where Bologna is located, is known as the “stomach” of Italy. Brain, stomach, heart . . . we’re close to constructing an entire Italian with this here post.

In all seriousness though, as food lovers, we often try to take cooking courses while visiting another country, and a pasta making class was high on our “to-do” list during our three months in Italy. We decided to save the best for last and took the course at La Vecchia Scuola Bolognese during the final two weeks of our trip.

I’ll be honest: we did not take the course so that we would cook handmade pasta as home: living in San Diego’s Little Italy, there’s plenty of that around! Out of sheer curiosity I did, however, want a better knowledge of the pasta making process. What are the tricks? What makes it so damn good?

Tips and tricks for pasta making

Tip 1: The Dough’s Components. Ingredients are key, this we cooks know, and especially when making something like pasta, which has so few ingredients. I assumed Italians used the highest quality flour around, and that the quality of the water played a key role in the pasta’s flavor and texture. What I didn’t expect was the color imparted by the eggs: did you know that eggs yolks in Italian are called “the reds?” Forget the pale yellow things you scrambled as a kid: Italian egg yolks are a vivid orange (not exactly red: read about why Italians justify calling yolks rosso here). It makes sense when you consider the color of pasta dough (seen below), which is merely water, flour, and eggs. That beautiful sunflower color had to come from somewhere!

Tip 2: Environment matters. You should have seen the look on the instructor’s face when we asked if we could repeat this pasta making process at home on our large granite countertop. Pasta needs a large wood surface and a wooden dowel to be rolled out. No direct sunlight, and no extreme temperatures. And, apparently, no granite.

Tip 3: Know when to stop kneading. The photo below, which is of a large ball of dough that has been cut in two, shows exactly when the kneading should end. Notice the air bubbles: these are key, and too much kneading will result in a loss of these crucial bubbles.

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Tip 4: Go shopping (or get creative). It’s totally OK to invest in all the little pasta accessory that you want at the cooking store. (This was the best part!)Handmade-pasta-Vecchia-Scuola-Bolognese-Sedimentality3 Handmade-pasta-Vecchia-Scuola-Bolognese-Sedimentality4

Tip 5: Elephant skin. See the wrinkly skin of the pasta in the above photos? That’s good.

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Tip 6: Leave enough room in your filled pastas. See above and below photos (and note use of fun crinkle-edge making tool in photo below. Further justification of purchase of fun pasta-making toys!).

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Tip 7: Expand your repertoire. Noodle pasta (linguine, fettuccine, tagliatelle, which is pictured below) are not that difficult to make. Roll the pasta flat, fold it over itself, and cut. Use your fingers to twirl each of the pieces into rounds and let them dry. Handmade-pasta-Vecchia-Scuola-Bolognese-Sedimentality8 Handmade-pasta-Vecchia-Scuola-Bolognese-Sedimentality9

Tip 8: Don’t overdo it on the sauce. As with everything in Italian food, simple is best. This tortellini in broth? Fabulous. Handmade-pasta-Vecchia-Scuola-Bolognese-Sedimentality10

Tortellini en brodo recipe

A classic Christmastime dish in Northern Italy, this is something I crave every time the weather turns cold!

You will need:

Tortellini

Stock.

The end. Actually . . . not at all. Because tortellini fillings–and stock recipes–are endless! I trust Mario Batalli, my second favorite Italian (husband is the first, of course!) for traditional, authentic recipes. Check out his recipe for both the pasta and the broth: it even includes detailed instructions for how to prepare your pasta.

Click here to learn a little more about La Vecchia Scuola Bolognese, which also has three and five-day pasta making courses, classes on bread making, desserts . . . you name it.