Dispatches From Whitcomb Street

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trenette fatte a mano

Factory-made trenette is usually just a fattish linguine, useful when you can find it for showing off concentrated sauces. But oh, trenette made by hand! With its charming irregularity and deeply scalloped single edges that add just enough extra surface area, trenette fatte a mano is the ideal vehicle for fine-grained, highly flavored sauces.

Trenette is fast and fun to make, too. My beloved Encyclopedia of Pasta doesn’t actually say much about making it at home; instead, Signora de Vita talks mostly about the traditional incorporation of whole-wheat or chestnut flour into the dough. She does say, however: “…the sauce par excellence for trenette is pesto alla genovese”. Yes, indeed. 

I like a semolina-and-water dough for this noodle; its gentle chew and clean, minimal flavor showcase a bright, intense sauce without bringing eggs into competition. Vary this as you prefer, of course. Full how-to for handmade trenette with pesto and eggplant after the jump.

Trenette fatte a mano

First, prep your pasta dough (one part water to two parts semolina flour by weight; whiz with a hearty pinch of salt in a food processor for two minutes or knead by hand for ten. More details here). You want a rollable dough that does not stick to your fingers, but will stick to itself if pressed. Let it rest, covered, for twenty minutes.

Dust with flour and then roll it out, either with a macchinetta or a rolling pin, to an appropriate noodle thickness—about 1/16” should do. Cut into manageably noodle-like lengths of about a foot and lay on a floured board or other cutting surface.

Use a sharp knife or a straight pastry cutter to trim ragged edges and cut the pasta sheet into noodles about 3/4” wide…

And then bisect each wide noodle with a fluted pastry wheel.

Separate your noodles—each strand will have one straight and one toothed edge.

Toss in all-purpose flour, separate, and dry for long-term storage, or just let them rest for twenty minutes or so before you cook them. Boil in plenty of salted water and serve with basil pesto, plain, with green beans and potatoes, or eggplant, as below.

Frying eggplant for pasta

Fried eggplant gets a bad rap. Good fried eggplant—light, crisp, creamy on the inside, not-too-greasy—is one of the finest, summeriest pasta toppings I can think of. 

I think the key is always salting your eggplant. We who have been taught to salt eggplant to draw out its bitterness sometimes skip this step when working with sweeter, smaller varieties. You should still do it, though, when you’re planning to fry: The eggplant will shed some of its moisture, resulting in compacter, denser flesh that cooks faster and absorbs less oil. Just toss cut fingers in coarse salt and set in a sieve for at least half an hour. 

When the eggplant starts weeping liquid freely, give each piece a healthy squeeze in your fist. Rinse under cold water and squeeze again to drive out excess salt and remaining water.

You don’t need a lot of oil to fry eggplant to use as a topping. You do want to be able to keep your oil temperature stable, though, so pull out a heavy pan and preheat it. Cover the bottom with high-heat oil generously and heat over medium-high heat.

When the oil begins to shimmer, stand back and scatter in your eggplant with tongs. Cover with a splatter screen and turn up the heat to high. Cook until one side is browned; turn pieces. Continue until every cut face is browned and the insides are creamy. Keep the heat high and even to seal the cut surfaces and keep the pieces from absorbing too much oil.

Drain cooked pieces on paper towels or brown paper. Keep warm and serve on top of pesto and pasta, or use in a sauce alla Norma, or top pizza with it, or stick on a sandwich. Yum!

  1. whitcombstreet posted this
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