If you want to improve your cooking skills you need to get your hands dirty.
You need to make mistakes, you need to try and try again
Looking to someone while is giving the shape to the gnocchi, tying a roast or stretching a pizza dough can give us the idea that … it’s easy!
A gesture, made by expert hands, always seems easy, instinctive, almost banal. But when we find ourselves in the kitchen our trust fall in front of sticky dumplings, roast stuffing falling out all over and so on.
Cooking requires dexterity.
I teach cooking classes since several years and some people, who previously said they never cooked, surprised me with an innate dexterity for kneading, chopping.
But for mostly of us, this confident behaviour in the kitchen is not a gift, we need to earn it making mistakes, getting our hands dirty and trying again.
Anxiety doesn’t help the process, cooking it’s a necessity for some of us, it’s a pleasure for many others, but it’s never a competition.
To avoid discouraging yourself, you need to start with the simplest things, without skip any step… like I did!
Starting my journey in the world of the fresh pasta, one of the first shapes I did were the tortellini. Seriously, the tortellini, that small squared stuffed with meat, twisted around the little finger, like tiny navels.
I did it, not for one, two, six but for twenty people.
10 eggs, 1 kilo of flour, a mountain of grated Parmigiano Reggiano, I still remember that afternoon.
I won my fight, albeit laboriously, but at that point I thought I could give anything.
Then came the time for the orecchiette, a fresh pasta from Puglia, similar to little ears.
I studied, watched some videos and I said to myself ” easy, after the tortellini I can do everything”
Wrong, don’t underestimate the things that looks easy.
Those little pieces of pasta made me crazy.
It took several attempts cutting the pasta with a small knife and dragged each single piece on the wooden board, before figuring out what the right consistency of the dough should be, the size.
As you can see from the pictures, they are not perfect like those that women prepare in the old town of Bari, but I am finally satisfied with the result … and the lesson I learned from them.
Orecchiette con cime di rapa
400 g. fine semolina flour – 1 pinch salt – 350 g. cime di rapa – 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, 2 anchovy fillets – 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped – chilli flakes – grated pecorino cheese for serving
Make the pasta
Put the semolina flour and the salt in a bowl; gradually add about 200 ml warm water stirring with a fork. Pour the crumbly dough on the wooden board and start kneading for about 10 minutes. The amount of water may be not always the same, add some water if you feel the dough to hard or some extra semolina if seem to sticky.
Add the end the dough must be elastic, smooth and quite firm. One is ready, wrap the dough in a clingfilm and set aside for half an hour.
Cut a small piece of dough – cover the rest with a tea towel – and roll into a long sausage shape about 1 cm in diameter. Cut it into 1 cm nuggets. Draw each piece across the board with a blunt eating knife, so the dough curls around the knife. Push the dough outside and turn it inside out using your thumb. Repeat.
Bring to the boil a big pot of water.
Clean and wash the cime di rapa. Add one tablespoon of salt in the water and cook the vegetables for about five minutes.
Drain the cime di rapa, but reserve the boiling water.
Once the vegetables are cooled enough to be touched, squeeze them with your hands and chop roughly.
In a large pan heat the extra virgin olive oil, add the garlic, chilly flakes and anchovies and cook until the anchovies melt without burning the garlic.
Add the cime di rapa and cook for about five minutes.
During this time bring the water to the boil again. Put the orecchiette and cook for about 4 minutes. Heat again the pan with the sauce, when the orecchiette comes up, drain reserving about two glasses of pasta cooking water. Put the orecchiette in the sauce and toss them for a couple of minutes adding some cooking water. Serve with pecorino cheese. Serves 4/5 people
Notes: you can substitute the cime di rapa with tender broccoli