How to Make Pasta By Hand: Starting Simple
Zanini De Vita writes that this pasta shape is typical of Molise, the small southern Italian region sandwiched between Abruzzo and Puglia. She describes it as “rather open strascinati, whose curvature varies with the thickness of the pasta sheet.” It is made by dragging (trascinare) on a wooden board with two fingers a small rectangle of rolled dough. I couldn’t find a photo or image of cuzzetielle, so what you see here is my rendition based on the description I read.
How to Make Cuzzetielle
100 g / 3.5 ounces semolina flour
50 g / 1.75 ounces warm water
A pinch of salt
Notes: I recommend using a small amount of flour until you become familiar with the shape, at which point you can make a larger quantity. The recipe makes two small portions (served as Italian first course). I also recommend weighing the ingredients: measuring cups are imprecise and if you are not familiar with how the dough should feel, you may not get the right consistency
1. Weigh the ingredients in a small bowl and make a dough.
Suggestion for the beginner: Mix the ingredients with a fork until all the water has been absorbed by the flour, then use one hand to work into a shaggy dough. Empty the bowl onto a kneading board (scrape all the flour from the side). You don’t need to flour the board. Knead the dough by pressing on it while pushing it away from you with the heel of your hand, then folding it back and turning it 90 degrees before pushing it again.
2. Knead the dough until it is nice and smooth. Shape it into a small ball and let it rest, well covered (e.g., wrapped in plastic film), for half an hour or so.
3. Working on the kneading board, roll the dough into a sheet 1/8 in. thick. You can do this with a rolling pin or a hand-cranked pasta machine. Cut the sheet into 2 pieces to make it easier to work with it. Keep the dough you are not currently shaping covered to prevent drying out.
Place the rolled dough on a lightly floured section of the kneading board. Cut it into 3/8 inch / 1 cm thick strips, then cut the strips into rectangles 3/4 inch wide. A pizza cutter is a great tool for this.
4. Place your index and middle finger on top of a rectangle and press lightly while drawing it towards you. This action thins the dough and lightly curls it, while leaving the imprint of your fingertips on it. Move the shaped pasta on a lightly floured section of the kneading board.
This short video shows my hands at work:
Keep some all-purpose flour in a dish on the working surface, so you can rub your index and middle finger in it if the dough sticks to them.
Do not press hard or the dough will become too thin. With practice, you will find what is the right amount of pressure to apply to the dough. Handle the shaped pasta gently so as not to without misshape it.
Set aside the cutouts, knead briefly and roll again, the cut and shape. Repeat until you have used up the prepared dough.
5. Let the pasta rest until you are ready to cook it.
The pasta is typically dressed with meat ragù and dusted with local pecorino. I prefer to stay with my everyday tomato sauce, therefore making cuzzetielle al sugo. The pasta’s concave shape is a receptacle for the dressing.
With a specialty in handmade pasta, Simona provides detailed, accessible tutorials teaching readers to cook like an Italian right from home on Live Like an Italian as well as on her own blog, briciole.