5 Essential Tools for Making Handmade Pasta Like an Italian

5 Essential Tools for Making Handmade Pasta Like an Italian


5-Essential-Tools-for-Making-Handmade-Pasta-Like-an-ItalianThe art of making handmade pasta is an important Italian tradition.  Although recipes for fresh pasta vary from region to region, (the type of flour, eggs, water, olive oil and salt are all variable elements) one commonality is that this antique practice originated in households using the simplest of ingredients and tools. Today, this tradition is waning as Italian women work outside their homes. Luckily there are many nonne, or grandmothers, who are passing down their secrets and restaurants, companies and schools that are offering pasta making courses.

I recently had the opportunity to participate at a traditional pasta making course offered by La Pasta di Bologna with a sfoglina. 

5-Essential-Tools-for-Making-Handmade-Pasta-Like-an-ItalianWho is a sfoglina?  This is the name of a person who makes handmade pasta the traditional way by using a wooden board and rolling pin. It was a fun and educational experience. I also feel quite lucky to have an Italian mother-in-law who had already gifted me many of the tools we used in the class. They truly do make a difference for making perfect fresh pasta at home.


5-Essential-Tools-for-Making-Handmade-Pasta-Like-an-ItalianBelow you’ll find the 5 essential tools to make handmade pasta like a true Italian sfoglina!


Although you can use a large clean work space, if you want to make pasta like a sfoglina, you’ll want to get a wooden board that is roughly 35/40 x 23/27 inches. This will give you ample space to roll out your dough, cut it into shapes and let your pasta dry. Using a wooden board is also practical, as cleanup is quick and easy and you don’t have to worry about damaging your countertop when you cut your pasta.


5-Essential-Tools-for-Making-Handmade-Pasta-Like-an-ItalianIn my American kitchen, I always used a rolling pin with two handles, now I can’t live without my Emilian-style rolling pin. In Italy, I use the one that my Italian mother-in-law gave me, but when I travel to the states for cooking classes, I simply head to the hardware store and get a dowel that is about 30/35 inches long with a 1.5/2 inch diameter. I sand it down, give it a good wash and I have the best DYI rolling pin for a fraction of the cost of purchasing one in a culinary store. A handleless rolling pin really makes a difference. I find that it is nearly impossible to use a rolling pin with handles as the dough gets stuck between the pin and the handles and I can’t easily roll up and flip my dough over on the other side.   


5-Essential-Tools-for-Making-Handmade-Pasta-Like-an-ItalianI sometimes wonder how I ever cooked without a kitchen scale. This is one item that I often pack with me in my suitcase when I travel so I am sure I have it (I’m not joking either. Mr. Italicano jokes with me that someday I’ll start bringing it to bed with me!) What’s so great about a kitchen scale? It’s precise. In flour-based recipes it makes a huge difference because each flour has a different weight depending on the type of flour, the brand and how it was milled.  If you need precise amounts, don’t use measuring cups as it will give you different results each time. Try this little trick for yourself: measure a cup of flour using the spoon and sweep method, then do it again, weighing after each. You’ll most likely end up with two different weights. Now repeat using the scoop and sweep method—you’ll have even a bigger difference in weight as this method packs down more flour and you’ll end up with a whole lot more flour even if it’s still “1 cup”. With a scale, 100g of flour is always 100g of flour. For egg pasta dough, the classic recipe is 100g of flour to one egg that is approximately 60-70g in weight. This is the right ratio of dry to liquid to give you the perfect pasta dough. 


5-Essential-Tools-for-Making-Handmade-Pasta-Like-an-ItalianThis is a handy tool to have when making pasta dough (and any dough for that matter) as you can easily work the wet and loose dough at the beginning without getting your hands messy before you knead the dough. It’s also a lifesaver to scrape up any flour/egg gunk from the board before rolling out the dough. You don’t want any bits or tears in your dough.


5-Essential-Tools-for-Making-Handmade-Pasta-Like-an-ItalianStraight and fluted pastry cutters are great for tortelli, cappelletti, ravioli and other stuffed pasta.You’ll need a sharp knife for shapes like tagliolini, tagliatelle, pappardelle, and lasagne sheets. Some traditional shapes even require specific tools; for instance, to make garganelli, you’ll its unique stick and comb.

Although I typically make homemade pasta using a stand mixer and pasta attachments {<—affiliate links}, I do appreciate the art of making pasta the traditional way with just a rolling pin and board. And, I absolutely love taking pasta making classes as a social event to meet new people, learn new tricks, and of course eat good handmade food. 🙂

Homemade Matcha Pasta with Spinach, Lemons and Zucchini

Homemade Matcha Pasta with Spinach, Lemons and Zucchini

Easter is a week away! What better way to celebrate than to serve up a beautiful green pasta dish to your family and friends. This homemade matcha pasta with spinach, lemons and zucchini is a great vegetarian meal and, if you want to add some protein, you can top with grilled shrimp. Either way, it’s delicious.

In Italy, Easter is celebrated with a 3-hour family lunch, where laughter is abundant, hand gestures are inevitable, wine is always flowing and there is enough food on the table to feed a small army.  I don’t eat breakfast before this festive meal, otherwise I wouldn’t make it past the first course, which sometimes is still hard to do. Portions in Italy are not small, by the way.

Just to give you an idea, here is the menu for Sunday’s Easter lunch that my mother-in-law Patrizia is hosting. It’s also her birthday. Buon Compleanno :: Happy Birthday, Patrizia!

Easter Menu

Various appetizers

Ricotta & Asparagus Cannelloni

Mushroom Tortelli with Castellano Cheese and Tartufo Butter

Roasted Lamb with Parsley and Lemon Sauce

Cooked Spinach

Roasted Potatoes

Raw Vegetables with Olive Oil, Lemon and Salt

Napoleon dessert


Ricotta Crostata

Fresh Fruit

Marsala Aged for 35 years



The Easter bunny does not exist in the small country town where I live in the region of Emilia-Romagna.  There are no pastel weaved baskets filled with chocolates and candies to find when you wake in the morning, nor are there Easter egg hunts at the local park.  When I first started living here, I momentarily felt kind of sorry for Italian children, but then again, they have something we Americans don’t: chocolate eggs filled with surprises.

Now you may be skeptical, I mean, in America, chocolate eggs are the norm. But, these aren’t just any chocolate eggs. These oval delicacies are both fun and melt-in-your-mouth-delicious. They come in all different sizes: from eggs the size of your palms to the size of your head to the size of an adult body. The surprises are relative to the size and cost of the egg: from small little plastic figurines, to dolls and cars to giant stuffed animals (and much more).

How to open one of these chocolate eggs: Remove the shiny wrapper, admire the chocolate that you are going to shortly devour, and smash the chocolate egg against the table to reveal a plastic egg. Inside you’ll find your surprise. Outside you have all of the chocolate pieces to eat and share. Or not. 🙂

Traditional American Easter desserts are filled with colored dyes. How else would you color your cakes and frosting pastel green, yellow and pink? Believe it or not, there are so many easy ways! I used natural colorings for my pasta recipes: matcha and spinach for green, turmeric for yellow and beet puree for pink. You can also use these natural colors for your baked goods.

Here’s the thing: synthetic dyes are bad for adults and children. According to Eating Well, “Research has also associated food dyes with problems in children including allergies, hyperactivity, learning impairment, irritability and aggressiveness.”

I was actually quite tentative to use real ingredients to color my food, I mean, wouldn’t it taste weird? The surprising answer is no. Usually the amount that you add to your recipe is so minimal that you can’t even detect what ingredient it is. For instance, in this homemade matcha pasta you can’t taste the flavor of the green tea but you get all of the antioxidants and heath benefits. Is matcha tea good for kids, you ask? I found this article quite interesting.

I had a lot of fun developing this recipe; it was also quite a challenge. It took me about three tries to get the pasta the way I wanted it, and about 8 tries to find the “perfect sauce” (see my video on youtube.) I am very happy with the result and the responses during the 2 week cooking show tour in America with Smeg USA. Over the course of 17 cooking shows and demos in Chicago and New York City, I showed consumers how to make this pasta dough in Smeg’s beautiful stand mixer , and how to make the raw spinach lemon sauce in their vintage style blender.

I used their vegetable attachment to cut matchstick pieces of zucchini in seconds. Not only was it fun, but I absolutely love showing people how to eat healthy with simple recipes. It’s truly easy when you have the right kitchen tools.

Homemade Matcha Pasta with Spinach, Lemons and Zucchini
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This homemade matcha pasta with spinach, lemons and zucchini is a great vegetarian dish perfect for Easter and the arrival of spring. It's naturally colored and fresh in flavor. Enjoy!
Serves: 4-6
  • For the dough for spaghetti:
  • 2½ cups + 2 tablespoons (400g) semola
  • 1⅛ cup (230g) water
  • 2 pinches salt
  • 2 tablespoons (10g) matcha powder
  • For the dough for fettuccine or tagliolini:
  • 3 cups (14oz, 400g) farro flour
  • 4 extra large organic eggs
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • 2 tablespoons (10g) organic matcha
  • For the sauce:
  • 8 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • ½ onion, skin removed and finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, skin removed and finely chopped
  • ½ cup water
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 6 oz (180g) organic baby spinach
  • ¾ tsp salt
  • For the topping:
  • 2 zucchini, cut into matchstick pieces
  • 2-3 lemons
  • Chives
  1. For the dough:
  2. Attach the dough hook to the Smeg stand mixer and add all of the ingredients for either the spaghetti dough or the fettuccine/tagliolini dough. Mix on speed 1 for 3-5 minutes until the mixture comes together as a ball, adding a spoonful of water at a time if the texture is crumbly or extra flour if the dough is sticky.  Wrap the dough with plastic wrap and place it in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
  3. Attach the pasta roller accessory to the stand mixer. Divide the dough into 6 pieces, press them into flat rectangles and flour each side. Pass one of the pieces through the machine on speed 1 on no.0. Fold the ends towards each other and pass it through again. Now turn it to no.1 and pass it through three times. Let the sheets dry for 20 minutes or until they are no longer moist but not too dry where they break. Now proceed with one of the following:
  4. For Spaghetti:
  5. Attach the spaghetti attachment and pass each sheet through on speed 1. Repeat. Hang the spaghetti on a pasta rack or broom handle lined with a clean cloth and let dry completely before cooking.  Cook time: 2-4 minutes in boiling salted water.
  6. For Fettuccine & Tagliolini:
  7. Attach the fettuccine or tagliolini accessory and run one sheet through on speed 1. Repeat. Pasta can be used immediately. Cook time: 2-4 minutes (fettuccine) or 1-2 minutes (tagliolini) in boiling salted water.
  8. For the sauce:
  9. Heat 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil in a skillet, add the onion and cook over medium heat for 4-5 minutes until translucent, but not brown. Add the garlic and cook for another minute.
  10. Add this mixture to a blender followed by 6 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, water, lemon juice, baby spinach and salt. Blend until smooth, adding more salt or lemon to taste.
  11. To plate:
  12. Cook the pasta according to the directions above. Add the sauce back to the skillet. When the pasta is done add it to the skillet along with a few spoonfuls of cooking water. Stir to distribute the sauce evenly and heat over medium heat for 30 seconds. Divide into 4-6 plates, and top with zucchini, chives and ½ lemon zest for each plate. Buon appetito!

This post is sponsored by Smeg. I only work with companies whose products I use and love.

Homemade Saffron Gnocchi

Homemade Saffron Gnocchi

So what does International Women’s Day and homemade saffron gnocchi have in common? Well, if you have ever visited Italy on this day, this dish may remind you of the mimosa spring that is given to women to celebrate March 8th,, La Festa delle Donne. All throughout Italy, you’ll find this lovely yellow blossom handed to women as a symbol of love, appreciation and when given woman to woman, as a sign of solidarity.

This lovely Italian tradition inspired me to create a dish that resembles the mimosa. Cooking a homemade meal is my favorite way to show a gesture of my love, so dear readers, this mimosa dish is for you.This is my gesture of solidarity and admiration towards women. We are stronger today than ever before, we love to share and give, we love to create, we love to cultivate and we especially love to grow. We’re like these fluffy gnocchi: simple in nature, good and each piece, is one of a kind. 

Homemade saffron gnocchi is a simple and genuine dish to make for your special group of friends. 100% handmade. In every bite your friends get a taste of your love. Here’s to equality for women, not just once a year, but every day.

Homemade Saffron Gnocchi
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Homemade saffron gnocchi is a simple and genuine dish to make for your special group of friends to celebrate International Women’s Day. 100% handmade. In every bite your friends get a taste of your love. Here’s to equality for women, not just once a year, but every day.
Serves: 4-6
  • For the gnocchi:
  • 2.2 lbs (1 kg) potatoes suitable for gnocchi
  • 1½ to 2½ cups (150-300g) all-purpose flour
  • 1 egg
  • For the saffron sauce:
  • 1 tablespoon (14g) butter
  • 8oz (240ml) heavy cream
  • 1 pinch of saffron threads
  • 2 tablespoons of hot water
  • Salt, to taste
  • Freshly cracked black pepper
  • Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
  1. Wash the potatoes with their skins on. Drop them into a large pot, fill with cold water, then bring them to boil over medium-high heat until the potatoes can easily be pierced with a fork. Drain. While hot, peel them then pass them through a potato masher, letting them fall onto a large floured workspace.
  2. In a small cup, add the hot water and saffron threads. Allow them to infuse for 10-15 minutes.
  3. Add half of the flour, a few pinches of salt and work the flour and potatoes together. Make a well and add the egg and continue kneading the mixture, adding little by little more flour until a soft dough forms. Roll the dough into a large loaf, then cut into slices like you would a loaf of bread. Roll out each slice into a small looking bread stick, making sure to use a small amount of flour so it doesn’t stick to the work surface. Slice into small pieces. For regular gnocchi, you can cook right away or roll off the tins of a fork to create marks or for festive gnocchi that look like the mimosa flower, a symbol of  La Festa della Donne or Women’s Day, roll each piece into a ball.
  4. Bring a large pot of water to boil.
  5. In the meantime, make the sauce. Melt the butter in a skillet and add the heavy cream. Add the infused saffron water (you can also filter the water if you don’t want saffron threads to show), salt and black pepper. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally.
  6. Salt the water with 1-2 tablespoons of coarse salt and add the gnocchi. Cook until the gnocchi float to the top;1-2 minutes. Drain, reserving a cup of the cooking water, and add the gnocchi to the skillet. Add a spoonful or two of cooking water. Mix until the sauce is the right consistency and remove from heat. Serve warm with freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese. Buon appetito!

Homemade Spinach Pasta with Kale Pesto, Leeks and Almonds

Homemade Spinach Pasta with Kale Pesto, Leeks and Almonds

If you want a delicious and healthy recipe to start of this new year, then look no longer. This spinach pasta with kale pesto, shaved leeks and toasted almonds is packed with simple genuine goodness.
Homemade-Spinach Pasta-with-Kale- Pesto-Leeks-and- Almonds-1If you like basil pesto, you are going to love this kale pesto. This creamy, green yumminess compliments this homemade spinach pasta or is perfect with any pasta you have on hand. I also love using kale pesto to drizzle over my poached eggs in the morning or add flavor to baked fish for dinner. Another great way to use this pesto is to simply mix it into grains like quinoa, farro or brown rice for a mouthwatering salad. The options are endless and it’s so easy to make: just add the ingredients to a blender or food processor and whiz away. It’s that simple.

Talking about food that is simple, so is homemade pasta! While any flour can be used, I’ve used a delicious ancient grain Einkorn flour that has more protein, less gluten that modern flours and has a delicious nutty flour.

Homemade-Spinach Pasta-with-Kale- Pesto-Leeks-and- Almonds-2I’ve made a lot of pasta the past few weeks at cooking demos with Smeg USA, in Vancouver, Canada at Hudson’s Bay Company and in San Francisco at Bloomingdales and Williams-Sonoma.   Being that Smeg has a 1950’s line of appliances, I decided to dress the part. What do you think?

Hudson Bay


Williams-SonomaI’ll be making this recipe along with my homemade beet pasta recipe on the Friday morning show at 8:10 on Krem 2 News on channel 22. I will also be showing how to make these recipes during two cooking classes at:

The Culinary Stone in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho

Saturday, 28th (3:30-5:30pm) Sold Out

Sunday, 29th from 1:00-3:00pm.

You can call the store at 1-208-277-4116 to reserve your spot. If you’re in the area, I would love to meet you in person and show you just how easy these recipes are…and of course, give you a taste! Hope to see you soon! You can also follow along on Facebook and Instagram!

Homemade Spinach Pasta with Kale Pesto, Leeks and Almonds
Learn how to make an easy homemade spinach pasta and a delicious kale pesto topped with leeks and almonds! Fresh, simple and healthy.
Serves: 4 to 6
  • For the green dough:
  • 4 large eggs (around 65g, 2.3 ounces each)
  • 1.4oz (40g) spinach
  • 3 cups (14oz, 400g) organic Einkorn flour (or flour of choice), plus more for rolling out
  • 2 pinches salt
  • For the kale pesto:
  • 1 cup olive oil + more if needed to arrive at the consistency desired
  • 3 cups (65g) torn Tuscan kale leaves (no stems)
  • ½ clove garlic, skin removed
  • ⅓ cup (35g) walnuts
  • 1½ cups (60g) grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese + more for serving
  • Salt and black pepper, to taste
  • For the topping:
  • 1 leek, white part only, sliced in julienne strips
  • ½ cup almonds, roughly chopped
  1. For the dough:
  2. Add the eggs and spinach to a container and blend with a handheld immersion mixer for 10 seconds. Attach the dough hook to the stand mixer and add the flour, salt and egg/spinach mixture. Mix on speed 1 for 4-5 minutes until the mixture comes together as a ball, adding a spoonful of water at a time if needed or extra flour if the dough is sticky. Alternatively knead by hand for 15 minutes. Wrap the dough with plastic wrap and place it in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
  3. Attach the pasta roller accessory to the stand mixer. Divide the dough into 8 pieces, press them into flat rectangles and flour each side. Keep them covered with plastic wrap. Pass one of the pieces through the machine on speed 1 on no.0. Fold the ends towards each other and pass it through again. Continue to pass the dough through, reducing the thickness from no. 0 to 5. Alternatively roll out with a rolling pin.
  4. Let the past sheets dry for 10 minutes on a floured work space. Attach the fettuccine accessory and run one sheet through on speed 1. Continue with the rest. Flour the fettuccine ribbons well so they don’t stick together. Alternatively, cut the rolled doll into ribbons.
  5. For the sauce and toppings:
  6. Add the the extra virgin olive oil, kale, garlic, walnuts and Parmigiano Reggiano cheese to a blender or food processor in that order. Blend until smooth, adding more olive oil if needed to get to a slightly runny consistency. Season with salt and black pepper, to taste.
  7. In a large skillet, add the leeks and ¼-1/2 cup of water. Cook over medium heat until soft and the water has absorbed; 15-20 minutes.
  8. Put the chopped almonds in a small skillet, toast over medium heat until slightly golden stirring often; 3-4 minutes.
  9. For the pasta:
  10. Bring a large pot of water to boil. Add 2 tablespoons of course salt. Add the fresh pasta and cook al dente, about 2-4 minutes. Reserve ¼ pasta water. Drain.
  11. In the meantime add the kale pesto to a large skillet along with the reserved pasta water. Simmer until the pasta is ready. Pour the pasta into the skillet and toss to coat. Divide the pasta on the plates and top with leeks, toasted almonds and additional Parmigiano Reggiano cheese if desired. Serve immediately. Buon appetito!
  12. Conservation & Cooking Times:
  13. Immediate consumption: If you’re cooking your pasta immediately spread the noodles out on a work space making sure they are well floured. Cooking time: 2-4 minutes depending on the thickness.
  14. Short term consumption: If you are making pasta 1-2 days in advance, let the noodles dry in nests. Allow the freshly cut noodles to dry for 10-20 minutes, then wrap approximately 5-10 strands around your hand to form a nest and slide it off on a plate with a floured dishtowel or parchment paper. Repeat without stacking. Store covered in the refrigerator for 1-2 days max. Cooking time: 2-4 minutes depending on the thickness.
  15. Long term consumption: {Freezing} Let the freshly cut noodles dry for 10 minutes, then wrap approximately 5-10 strands around your hand to form a nest and slide it off on a plate lined with parchment paper. Repeat without stacking. Pop this plate in the freezer for 30 minutes until firm so the nests won’t stick together then remove and stack the nests in a freezer bag or air sealed container for easy storage. Consume within 2-3 months. Cooking time: 3-5 minutes depending on the thickness. Frozen pasta does not need to be thawed before it is cooked. {Drying} Follow the instructions for the short term consumption, but allow the nests to dry completely at room temperature for 2-3 days (depending on the humidity.) Be sure to flip over the nests 2-3 times per day to make sure that the air can reach all parts of the pasta. Store in plastic bags in a cool, dark place. Consume within 4-5 months. Cooking time: 2-4 minutes depending on the thickness. Do not air dry stuffed pasta.

Fresh Pasta with Beet Sauce

Fresh Pasta with Beet Sauce

There are two ways to make colored pasta. The first is to have a very colorful sauce that changes the pasta’s color completely. The second way, is to add in various purees, spices, herbs or other natural colorings when making the dough. Although you see photos for the pink pasta I would suggest making just a normal colored fresh pasta since the color will turn pink regardless thanks to the beet sauce! 

Here’s a 30 second time lapse video of me in my italicana kitchen making three types of homemade pasta and sauces (all recipes to come!) You can pop on over to my youtube channel for more videos. 

Oh man, this recipe is a winner. It’s quite the pleasant surprise for even the pickiest of eaters. For example, my dad, a steak and potatoes kind of guy, LOVED this fresh pasta with beet sauce topped with roasted Brussels sprouts, goat cheese and toasted pine nuts. Then there is Mr. Italicano who snubs any recipe made with beets, yet devoured a whole plate of this pasta before I could relay to him the main ingredient. Um. Yah. It’s that good.

beet-colored-pasta-4Apart from it’s utter deliciousness, it’s also festive—look at those vibrant colors! I mean, who doesn’t like to wow their dinner party guests with stunning dishes at Thanksgiving or Christmas? So to recap: it’s super yum, it’s downright beautiful, but I still haven’t even told you the best part: CONTINUE READING

How to Make Gnocchi

How to Make Gnocchi

Making gnocchi is easy to do; making great gnocchi is hard. There are many factors that could make your 4 ingredient recipe go awry. Luckily I have some tips and tricks straight from my Italian mother-in-law, Patrizia, that will make your gnocchi melt in your mouth every time.


3 Tips for Making Great Gnocchi  READ MORE