New Year at the Olive Hill means that we are here full time! No more packing up our chattels at the end of a working week, schlepping up the road and struggling to heat the house up from freezing, only to close everything up again two days later, and schlep down the road to work again.
Nope, that lifestyle is so 2018.
Which for Scott at least, means spending the first working morning of 2019 having a lesson in Italian bureaucracy at the local commune.
One of our major “worry beads” is now slightly less, um, worrying, as over the Christmas period, the Italian government announced that regardless of what type of Brexit happens this spring, they will continue to honour the residency rights of Brits who were already legally resident here before March 29th. Which means that “I am alright Jack”, as I’ve already gained residency (in Rome, for now), but clearly Scott must gain his residency as a matter of urgency. This is NOT a political blog, but whatever your views (or even lack of views) on Brexit, March the 29th is fast approaching, and we are very grateful that the Italian government has seen fit to provide us with some clarity for our future status here. Now, as the owners of a future tourism and olive oil business, we are eagerly awaiting some clarity as to how we will be able to run our business post Brexit. ‘Nuff said.
And so I’m here, at our beautiful inherited table (we bought the house fully furnished), looking over our neatly pruned olive trees (ok, so only half of the trees are neatly pruned, but they do make up most of the view), with a cup of freshly brewed coffee next to me, trying to work out how to describe how Darling Daughter and I made pasta for our New Year’s Eve meal.
Stringozzi are a local, traditional style of pasta, made with few, or even no eggs at all, and then worked by hand into shapes rather than rolled. Here on the Umbria Lazio border, this is worked with hands that are coated with olive oil, to prevent the layers from sticking together. Experience has shown us that the pasta is easier to work with at least some egg in the mixture, but it is possible to leave the egg out for a vegan version. What you do need to know is that making any fresh pasta takes AGES. MUCH longer than you think it will. Work out how long you think it will take, then double that time, and add an hour for the dough to rest. Basically, start making your pasta after lunch if you plan to eat it before midnight …
You can watch a professional making stringozzi in nearby Casperia here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cf-SMFHxW7c
Our version is simpler, but I still recommend watching the clip first!
Stringozzi al’ Olive Hill (Serves four)
For the pasta:
- 400g type 00 flour
- 1 free range egg
- water – approximately 250 ml
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil
For the sauce:
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 1 large onion, finely chopped
- 1 chilli, de-seeded and finely chopped
- 150g mushrooms, chopped
- four high quality sausages, removed from their skins and cubed
- 100g of cubed pancetta
- 50g of black pitted olives, halved
- one can of chopped tomatoes
- good quality vegetable stock
- salt, pepper
To make the pasta:
Measure out your flour, and put it straight onto the surface which you plan to use for kneading. Make a hole in the centre, and break an egg into it. With a fork, gently beat the egg, and add a half of your water. With the fork, gently start to combine the flour into your liquid centre. Now it’s time to get your hands dirty. Roll up your sleeves, and get working the dough! Gradually combine all the ingredients, adding more water as necessary, until you have a soft dough. Knead until it becomes soft and elastic. This will take a good 10 minutes, and you will need to add water, and occasionally flour as necessary.
Once the dough is elastic and pliable, roll into a ball, wrap, and set aside to rest for at least an hour.
Cut your dough into four, evenly sized portions, then roll each into a ball. Coat your hands with olive oil. With your first dough ball, make a hole in the middle, so that it resembles a doughnut. Using a kneading and stretching motion (as per the youtube clip), gradually work your “doughnut” into something that vaguely resembles a deflated inner tube of a bicycle tyre. Place it back on the table and gently open it up, creating circular pasta that resembles shoe laces.
Repeat with the other three portions. Once complete, coat all of your “shoelaces” with flour, and if not cooking immediately, set aside, covered with a clean tea towel, until you are ready to cook.
For the sauce:
In a large pan, heat a couple of tablespoons of quality extra virgin olive oil. Add the onions and fry until translucent. Add the chilli and mushrooms, and fry until they soften. Remove from the pan and set aside. Add the sausages to the pan, and fry for three to four minutes, then add the pancetta, and continue frying for a further three or four minutes. Put the vegetables back into the pan, then add the tomatoes, olives, salt and pepper, then bring to the boil.
Once boiling, add stock, and cover. Cook for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, bring a large pan of well salted water to the boil. Add your stringozzi, and stir once. Boil for two to three minutes, then remove from the heat and drain well.
Serve immediately, and rather than parmesan cheese, try serving with grated pecorino cheese instead.