Family Treasures

Joe is working on a unit at school that involves family treasures from home, especially those having to do with families and nationalities. I wracked my brain trying to think of something that he could bring in to school to talk about his Irish, English or German heritage. Do I send him in with a fisherman sweater on and make him talk about Ireland? Snore…he’d be itchy and bored with the subject matter. Clearly sending him in with a few pints of Guinness is illegal. Do I send him in with some of my English china? Not so much. A German cuckoo clock and a keg of Dinkel Acker? Sauerkraut and some bratwurst? Nothing seemed quite right.

I stood gazing at my little toothless Joe while I made dinner last night. I was boiling the last of the homemade pasta that we’d made on Easter Sunday and tossing it with lemon and asparagus when it dawned on me. (DUH!) One of our biggest family treasures was handed down to me by my Uncle Joe. I’ve written about him often here at Narragansett No. 7. He was a one in a million kind of guy whose parents came to America from Italy. He was the first child of theirs to be born in the United States and he became a beautiful mixture of America and Italy. He played baseball, almost professionally, until he was drafted to serve in WW2. He told me stories of hiding in a basement in Holland as German bombs dropped on the city above their heads. He told me about a time when, through a grapevine of messages, he learned that his brother’s company was near enough for them to find bicycles and ride across the European countryside to just to see one another again in the middle of that war. His eyes took on a glazed far-off quality as he recalled to me the day that he saw concentration camp victims being liberated by the army.



Uncle Joe – kneeling, holding the baseball bat

 My Aunt Lorraine passed his pasta board on to me this winter. It’s simply a large butcher block board that he made years ago specifically for making his homemade pasta. I cried when she handed it to me. As stupid as it seems, that pasta board holds his essence. The wood holds his weight, love and our combined memories. I spent hours with him at that pasta board, coated in dusty flour and sticky dough. Over the years, I watched his hands slowly age as they mixed that pile of flour and eggs into an enormous pile of dough for Christmas Eve or a random Sunday dinner. The size of the meal was always gauged by the number of eggs that he had added to the mountain of flour. In the end, the kitchen would be a jungle of pasta noodles handing to dry.

He taught me how to make homemade pasta and now I make it with my own children. They love the whole messy process, but something tells me they’d love it more if it was Uncle Joe who was rolling the noodles out with them.

Homemade Pasta

3 and 1/2 cups of flour
3 eggs
dash of salt
1/3 cup semolina

Mix the flour, salt and semolina into a mound then create a hole in the middle…as Joe says, “so it looks like a volcano mom!” Crack the eggs into the middle and then using a fork, beat the eggs as if you are scrambling them. Bits of the flour mixture will fall into the middle, mixing with the eggs but you will also stop scrambling to pull flour into the eggs. Keep going until a sticky dough forms and at some point, you’ll being kneading the dough. Don’t make it too dry and flaky! It should stay slightly tacky. Knead the dough until smooth and wrap in plastic wrap until you’re ready to create your noodles.

Here’s where I’m lucky. I have the original pasta machine that my aunt and uncle gave to my mother years ago. I use the pasta machine for the final bit of kneading. You can use a rolling pin to make your noodles but get ready for a workout!

I cut my dough into sections and wrap the sections that I’m not using to let them rest and keep them moist. The section that I’m using goes through my pasta machine’s rollers on the highest setting (8) and we keep rolling until we can get to the setting that we prefer, a “2” which gives a fairly thin noodle. Then the long noodle is finally ready to run through the machine to be cut and hung to dry.

Here is a delicious topping for pasta like papparedelle (wide noodles) that celebrates springtime and the fresh asparagus that is in season.

Pasta with asparagus and lemon
1 1/2 pounds asparagus
1 pound pasta (pappardelle is nice, but penne or casarecce is good too!)
1/4 fresh lemon juice
1/4 extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 freshly grated Parmesan
*bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
*Rinse the asparagus, snap off the tough lower stems and discard. Cut of 11/2 inches of the asparagus tips and reserve. Chop the rest of the stems. Cook the asparagus tips in the boiling water for 3-4 minutes, until tender. Using a slotted spoon, remove the tips and set aside. In the same pot of boiling water, blanch the asparagus stems for 6-7 minutes, until tender. Remove with the slotted spoon and rinse in cold water.
*Cook the pasta in the same pot of boiling water until al dente. While the pasta cooks, puree the asparagus stems, lemon juice and olive oil in a blender or food processor until smooth. If necessary, add a bit of hot pasta water to thicken. Add salt and pepper to taste.
*Drain the pasta and transfer to a large bowl. Stir in the asparagus puree, the asparagus tips and grated Parmesan.
YUM!

CHECK IT OUT! I got a new award today. Seriously, it’s like brand-spanking new and created by Bernie at One Mixed Bag and Michele from Living on Less. Such a great idea for an award. Here are the “rules”:

This is a very simple award, you don’t have to do anything if you don’t want to. You can give it to 1 blog, 300 blogs or no blogs. That is up to you. Some ideas of what you could do with the award if you wanted to:

Give it to your favorite blog that has thousands of followers. You know they won’t have this award. I know when I started blogging and I would get awards I want to give them out. Most of the blogs I read already had at least one of them. This award is new today, so you know they won’t have it.

Is there a new blogger you discovered with only a handful of readers? Pass it on to them. They will be thrilled to receive their first award.

Just slap it up on your blog and so say nothing.

Don’t slap it on your blog and do nothing.

Comments

  1. Awwww, that made me almost tear up. What a wonderful idea to send with him. Sounds like your Uncle was a special guy.
    Thank you for the recipe of how to make noodles. Do you make noodles each time you have pasta?

  2. Usually, we do eat the homemade kind. I'm too spoiled to eat boxed pasta 🙂 It really is easy once you get in the groove and when you dry it, you have enough for a few meals.

    Also, you can use the flattened, uncut dough to make lasagna noodles or cut it into squares for ravioli with the fillng of your choice. I'm drooling.

  3. Oh yum! The only homemade noodles I've attempted are for chicken noodle soup. Maybe it's time to invest in a pasta maker. . .

  4. TexaGermaNadian says:

    What a beautiful little insight into his life. Well done! And those noodles, well they look to die for 🙂

  5. Thanks! This was a bit longer than I'd intended…but whatever.

    @Ada – search e-bay for this: La Nuova Altea. I saw that one sold for $10.99 plus shipping a few months ago. Amazing price!

  6. my3littlebirds says:

    Oh, I loved this post. The recipe was such a nice surprise too. I loved your description of the pasta board…and how it captures aspects of your uncle.

  7. Dwija {House Unseen} says:

    I don't think I've ever started crying at a Tasty Tuesday post before! I love your Uncle Joe…

  8. What a great family thing to do & enjoy! You always have the most interesting stories and stuff going on! 🙂

  9. I love this post. I love the history. I am WAY too emotional though as it made me tear up reading about him going to see his brother. Just lovely.

  10. I love everything about this post. How beautiful – it made me tear up like everyone else! And, how awesome it is that you make HOMEMADE pasta! What a great thing to do as a family. Honestly, thank you for sharing everything about this post 😀

  11. Coupon Queen says:

    I Stopped over to see who first posted the award and in fact it was me that got the reward for doing it, what a beautiful story!! I love how much your daughter loves the whole process too. Your Uncle would be so happy to know that you are passing the tradition on to them. Have a wonderful week!!

  12. AmandaDF says:

    My grandfather was from Italy and I have great memories of making marinara with him-what a lovely story 🙂

  13. Jane@flightplatformliving says:

    love the pics of the pasta making, what brilliant memories x

  14. Such a sweet heartwarming story. Your children are beautiful and they'll cherish these times making noodles.

  15. Michelle Maskaly says:

    Hi,

    What a great post! And, adorable photos of the kids making pasta. Thanks for stopping by The Adirondack Chick. 🙂 Always excited to "meet" people from the area.

  16. KT @ KT's Refinishing School says:

    That generation truly was the greatest generation! My great uncles have a similar story about finding each other in the Pacific on Christmas during WWII after not seeing each other for years 🙂 Thank you for sharing!

  17. I love this post! I love the history…I bet Uncle Joe had amazing stories, full of emotion, power and humility. Thank you so much for sharing!

    My mother and grandma used to make home-made pasta…and I remember loving it. They don't do it anymore…it was never passed onto us kids…and your post made me miss what I never had.

  18. There's something special about cooking with our older relatives, some shared intimacy that is carried with us forever.
    @KT, so, so true. That was/is an amazing generation of people. I love to hear the stories of the men and women who fought during WW2 along side brothers and cousins. Like all soldiers and their families, they made such incredible sacrifices for us all.

  19. Midnight Oil Momma says:

    Love, love, love it! Your love for 'Uncle Joe' and homemade pasta is fantastic. Sounds so warm and yummy!

  20. Katie @ Chicken Noodle Gravy says:

    Your Uncle Joe sounds an awful lot like my Pawpaw…just reading about him made me think of some great memories I have. Thanks for sharing. He sounds like a helluva guy. Oh, and I think it's so fabulous that you make homemade noodles. I would love to try something like that, but I'm afraid I'd fail. I haven't even conquered bread yet!

  21. Dude…your bisquits freak me out. Let's just send eachother our goods and call it a day.

  22. What an amazing way to remember your heritage 🙂 I bet he always remembers making pasta with you

  23. i LOVE making homemade pasta. My father taught me and I cant wait till my lil guy is old enough for me to teach him

  24. I love this post because I am ridiculously sentimental! Teaching your children to make homemade pasta with your Uncle Joe's board means that he lives on with them.

    I have my great grandmother's sewing machine, and I can't wait to teach my little one how to use it in a few (several) years.

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