Nonny

Making Anew

One Year, 12 Pastas

As I write this last entry in our pasta series, on the eve of a new year, it seems a fitting space for reflection. While the reasons for this past year of pasta making (yes, that’s your clue to click and start from the beginning) were varied, at it’s heart, the practice represented our journey of trying to lead a more creative, deliberate life.

Batch-Tortellini.jpg

Since January, Zan and I have worked hard to avoid comfort zones trying new doughs, shapes and ingredients each month. We crafted rolled pastasstuffed pastaspotato pastaspasta nests and even quasi-extruded pastas. In time, we even developed preferences — the suppleness of simple “flour, water, salt” doughs over egg-based recipes, semolina over durum flour...

But through it all, I continued to question our most basic motivations. Was it pasta making that we were so enthralled with or rather the idea of what it represented? What if we were being seduced by the type of people we thought it would make us?

As we formed December’s Mushroom Cheese Tortellini,  I considered the parallel to our making with Batch. At a time when celebrated artisans are being exposed, it calls into question the authenticity of our predilection toward beautiful things made honestly, simply and by hand.


What if we’re just hipsters with too much time to ourselves?


Yet, somewhere amidst the mixing and kneading, rolling and shaping, I drew strength from a long line of strong, determined women who, without much fuss, were capable of truly amazing things.

Though the world did not stop to celebrate my mother, my mother’s mother and her’s before her (at top) for their homemade breads and pastas or fresh canned vegetables, I have grown to understand the love and hard work that goes into caring for yourself, and those around you, through the intimacy of making.

Neither easy or glamorous, it is always rewarding and I’m proud to say that I will venture into the new year unshaken. Together, Zan and I remain ever inspired that our making will always be guided by honesty, simplicity and love.

For Nonny

One Year, 12 Pastas

My nonny (my mom’s mom) is the oldest of 14.

A first generation Italian-American, she was born into a lively immigrant family with little money but plenty of mouths to feed.

I grew up next door to my grandparents and, though I loved them both dearly, I could never identify with their traditional lifestyle. I robotically helped shell beans and fetched canned vegetables from the cellar. I barely noticed her fresh baked Easter breads, shaped like small dolls with a hard boiled egg for a face, or how she effortlessly minced garlic — between her thumb and a blunt steak knife.

As a young girl, I dispassionately told my grandmother that I didn’t need to learn “woman’s work” because someday I’d have an important job and the business of making a home was, quite frankly, irrelevant and boring.


I was convinced that a world lacking proper feminists or modern gadgets could never be interesting or important. 

(You see where this is going, don’t you?)


Today I live hundreds of miles away as nonny approaches her mid-90s. A glimmer of her former self, she’s no longer lucid enough to remember the names of her own siblings or recall which are still living. 

Yet, as the years pull me away from my time with her, my respect for all things made simple, fresh and by loving hands only grows stronger.

In keeping with our journey of making small batch chocolate and such from scratch — and enchanted by stories of nonny’s handmade dough lining crisp white bed sheets — making fresh pasta has become my attempt to reconnect with her. 

This year, Zan and I have decided to learn a new pasta each month. Pictured is our attempt at Ricotta Caramelle Elle Erbe Emilia-Romagna.

Without any equipment, we mixed, formed and rolled the dough into transluscent sheets by hand. We then cut the paper thin sheets into strips, dolloped a cheesy herb mixture and proceeded to wet, fold, press, score and twist.

Who said this was boring?

As I spent the morning rolling and folding mounds of gorgeous dough, warm memories of watching nonny at work flooded back.

If she was here to see me, I know that she would barely understand the making of our fancy, modern lifestyle. But, as we gently tossed our rustic creation into a fragrant herb-butter sauce, I just knew that she’d be proud.