Makarna (n.: Pasta) A short adventure into my history

I did it!  Making pasta from scratch was on my 30 in 30 list in part because I wanted to add fun cooking-related things to the list and in part because, as a (non-Jersey Shore) Italian American kid I thought it would be good if I were able to make a pot of pasta on my own.  What I did not expect was for it to turn into a trip down memory lane of thoughts of my grandmother.

cook book, computer, wine

Ready to attempt pasta… armed with my honeymoon cookbook, williamssonoma website, and a bottle of wine. You know, just in case.

Both of my parents come from mostly Italian roots, but my mother’s mother is the one I remember having fresh made pasta and sweets ready for us when we were kids.  I should mention that while they both came from tight-knit Catholic families — the kind that stay in the same houses for generations, the kind that have 11 children (yes. true story.) — when I was a little kid my parents moved us across the country.  At the time it was tough, more for my parents than us, but over time I can say it was the best thing for us.  It taught my sister and I to be independent and to know that no matter how far we were physically from our families they were always with us.  Which having lived an ocean away for over three and a half years now has been a wonderful lesson to have learned.

Edith in the kitchen.

Edith in the kitchen.

So growing up, my parents shipped my sister and I back to the northeast to visit our extended families for a few weeks each summer until we were old enough to be ‘too cool’ for that.  The great thing about it was that since we weren’t around all the time like our other cousins, my grandmother would always indulge us and pull out all the stops.  We could have pasta every night and even her world famous nut roll (and it wasn’t even Christmas!) if we asked lovingly and would offer up hugs and kisses.


Making pasta is tougher than I thought… though super delicious!

My grandmother was the first generation of Americans in her family (which is to say she was born in the US, but her parents were not) and she grew up with the ways of the old country.  She even grew up speaking Italian at home and only learning English in school.  Edith, the Americanized form of the popular Italian name ‘Aida’, was an amazing chef.  She somehow managed to feed eleven kids on virtually nothing — though they will all admit that those days the food wasn’t as good — and I deeply regret never learning her recipes from her before she passed away.

Close up of ravioli

Close ups of food make me hungry. Maybe I should pull out some leftovers?

It came as quite a surprise to me that somehow in the middle of attempting to roll out pasta dough into perfect paper-thin sheets — a much more difficult feat than you’d think when you see some of those old ladies do it! — I begin to think of my grandmother.  It isn’t that I don’t think of her often this time of year, I think we all think of those who aren’t here to celebrate the holidays with us this time of year, it was just a surprise at how easily her memory came to me during such a simple act.  I suppose to say I was thinking of her isn’t quite accurate either. I’d say I was channeling her or felt connected to her across time and space as though she were in my kitchen with me.

A young Edith.  Before marriage, kids, and all of us grandkids...

A young Edith. Before marriage, kids, and all of us grandkids. What a beautiful woman!

I’m not saying the ghost of my long-dead grandmother is haunting my rolling pin, but I believe that we’re all connected in ways we don’t fully understand (string theory anyone? yep, the yogi in me is showing!) and that maybe through my attempt to reconnect with my Italian heritage I connected with my grandma on a level I hadn’t before.  And more than that, I almost felt as though I were connecting with generations of women who had spent hours rolling out dough just as I was doing.  It was such a wonderful, calming feeling that I may even be willing to do it again.  But not anytime in the very near future, because my recipe made enough pumpkin raviolis to stash some in the freezer for a rainy day – just like Gram did!

empty plate pumpkin ravioli

Best evidence that it was not only edible, but delicious? An empty serving plate!

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