Cooking Day with my Sister

We survived it . . . well, as far as not hating each other goes. Other than that, we were both nearly crippled! But we had finished product, even if it was after dark when we finished.

We first tested a recipe of our grandmother’s that I’ll be eventually posting in The Life of Hazel Ilene blog, so I’ll tell that part of the story later . . . but the time-consuming part of the day was the Tortellini making . . . 

My sister, Katy, is hosting Christmas dinner at her house on Christmas Day this year. She wants to have Italian Christmas Dinner (much to her husband’s dismay at not having a traditional turkey dinner, but he’ll get over it). She wants to serve Tortellini, Lasagna, and Tiramisu, among other things, and we wanted to use our Great-Grandmother’s Tortellini recipe and make our own from scratch (such ambitious dreamers we are). So . . . 

I called Aunt Wanda for the recipe. As she was reciting it, she injected the question: “Do you have a pasta maker?”, to which I replied: “No, but Grandma Polly (my dad’s mother) and Granny Great (Wanda’s mother, Anunziata) didn’t have pasta makers, and they managed OK.” At which point, she gasped, and retorted: “Oh, my goodness, I wouldn’t even attempt to make Tortellini these days without a pasta maker!”, at which point I remained undaunted, and finished writing down the recipe while thinking: “We’re a lot younger than Aunt Wanda — surely it can’t be that bad to do by hand.” Ha! Apparently, there’s something to that “with age comes wisdom” thing!

Katy had been extra smart and made the filling the night before (an entirely separate ordeal I didn’t have to partake in, but which did involve a meat grinder and staying up till midnight), and had it ready in the fridge when I arrived at her house at 9:00. She had her kitchen table ready and had all the other ingredients laid out, and we were ready to start, when our dad dropped by. We were mixing up the pasta dough, and as he watched, he just had that “look” on his face, which made my sister whisper to me: “Do you suppose he thinks we’ve both completely lost our minds?” My answer was: “Probably, but don’t let that bother you.” 

I had the easy part: measuring out the flour into the sifter, and reading off the recipe to Katy (I try to subscribe, as often as possible, to My Cowboy’s mantra: Work Smart, Not Hard). So then came the kneading part, and I proudly read off to her the part where it says to “knead for 15-20 minutes, until elastic”. So she sets in kneading, and after about 3 minutes, she says, panting: “Has it been 15 minutes yet?” “Not quite,” was my reply, as I looked on while munching on a homemade Pecan Praline she had whipped up just for me before I ever got there that morning.

After the 15 minutes was up, (and it did take about that long for it to become “elastic”), she plopped it in the bowl where it was to sit for 30 minutes to “rest” (both her and the dough), and gulped down a big glass of water, while I graciously washed up the dirty utensils. Hey, it’s the least I could do! Peering into the bowl of dough, she looked anxiously at the bowl of filling sitting next to it . . . “That’s not near enough dough to use up all that filling,” she deduced. I had to agree. “We’re gonna have to make more dough,” she reasoned. Again, I agreed. (After all, I wasn’t the one having to do all that kneading — it would be easy for me!)

“Let’s see how many this first batch makes, then we’ll decide what to do,” Katy said, and you guessed it, I agreed. So she begins the rolling out process. Now, you have to roll the dough veerrrry thin for tortellini, and you can’t over-flour it, because it has to remain elastic and sticky, and due to the elasticity of said dough, it tends to keep springing back after every roll of the rolling pin, so the battle was on. (This is why Aunt Wanda uses a pasta maker!) She divided the dough into four parts, and rolled each one out. Halfway through the first part, she used a Missouri-ism I won’t repeat here to emphasize that she had worked up quite a sweat so far. My response was: “It’s not thin enough yet.” Our father examined it, and agreed with me. Two against one, she had to continue rolling . . . I’m surprised she didn’t beat her two spectators with the rolling pin about then.

My job was to cut the rolled dough and put the filling in, and then fold them into tortellini shape. When the first piece of dough was finally thin enough, I began cutting, filling, and folding. My memory served me correctly (from back when I was 10 years old and helped my grandmother make them), and the folding was going well. Katy continued rolling. Daddy said that Granny Great used to use triangular-shaped pieces, so he had to try his hand at folding one, but we couldn’t get it right, so we stuck with the rectangles I was using, and that Aunt Wanda suggested. The first batch of dough made 75 pieces of Tortellini, and didn’t make a dent in the bowl of filling. 

Katy looked at the results, and said: “OK . . . well! That’s enough for Darin’s appetizer!” Darin . . . our brother . . . the Food Hoover. At this point, I couldn’t NOT agree. “We’ll make two more batches of dough — that’ll give us 225 pieces — we’ll see how that looks when we’re done,” Katy said. I started measuring out more flour . . .

Long before we were done with those two batches, I was fairly sure I had a full-blown case of Carpal Tunnel in my left arm from pinching the dough into shape, and Katy was just as certain that she wouldn’t be able to even lift her arms the next day. She was downing Excedrin Back & Body for her poor aching back, and I was whining about how badly my feet hurt from standing for so long. Daddy had disappeared after the first batch was done — apparently, cutting wood was a more optimal way to spend time than watching us torture ourselves!

Not quite in tears, but close, we surveyed the trays of drying bits of our (well . . . Katy’s) extreme hard labor, and just knew: “We’re gonna have to make more.” We had over half the filling still left, so on an up note, I chimed: “We won’t have to make any more filling!” Katy just glared at me, marched to the living room, sat down in front of the computer, and ordered a pasta maker online right then and there! With expedited shipping, it should arrive before our next Cooking Day, which we’ve decided will be December 20th. We’re hoping that we’ve sort of recovered by then. Katy can barely lift her arms today, and I still can’t pinch my thumb and forefinger together with any amount of strength. She had to climb a ladder at work, and found she could barely pull herself up, while I was trying to do some hand sewing, and couldn’t even squeeze my fingers together to tie a knot in a piece of thread. Comparing notes later, we wondered: “How can old ladies do this, if we’re only in our 40’s and it’s wiped us completely out?” I have no good answer — I’m just hoping we recover by the 20th, and that that pasta maker arrives on time!

In case you’re wondering . . . 

Here’s the pasta maker Katy bought: Imperia Pasta Machine, exclusive to Williams-Sonoma. I’ll have to let you know how it works after the next Cooking Day.

Here’s a few shots I managed to capture during the ordeal:

Katy’s antique flour sifter . . . I want one, but you can’t find ’em like this any more. We think that Paula Deen needs to come up with one of these for her line of kitchen utensils.

Beating eggs, oil, water . . . using a Paula Deen flat whisk, a tool Katy swears by (and not in a bad way).

The first tray of finished product: Granny Great’s Tortellini . . .

And here’s the damage done to the Pralines after me, Darin, and Daddy had all taken a turn at them. Who knew it takes that much candy to get through a cooking day? What would we have done without them?

And, if after reading all this, you’re still interested in the recipe . . . I’m not going to publish it unless there seems to be a terrible interest in it, so if you’re a glutton for punishment, like me and my sister, and you really want it, leave a comment, and I’ll then decide if it’s worth putting up the recipe. I mean, it’s not really nice to wish torture upon people you like, is it?

Published in: on December 14, 2009 at 1:14 pm  Comments (6)  

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6 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Our grannies got upper body strength from throwing bales of hay at cattle and then milking a mere 10 – 20 head two times a day. The milk then had to be carried in buckets from the barn to the back porch where it was poured into the cream separator. The cream was then poured into a milk can ( a 5 gallon receptacle with a tight fitting lid) and the skim milk was then carried in buckets back to the barnyard to feed the pigs. The cream separator was then torn down and washed and rinsed with boiling water (which had been carried from the well before this whole process was started). Luckily a windmill pumped up water for the cattle. How do I know all this? I watched my Grandmother in Oklahoma do this many, many times…………twice a day. Why do we think labor-saving devices were invented? This Grandmother died of heart failure (go figure) at age 78. With today’s medicine and lifestyle, she might have made it to 85 or 90. Her mother lived that long but she didn’t milk a herd of cows all through her menopause years. Her husband was a farmer and itinerant preacher so she lived a slightly less vigorous life.

    Rose Marie

  2. […] I was at Katy’s for our Cooking Day last weekend, our brother, Darin, dropped by with his granddaughter, Laney B, who is 20 months old. […]

  3. […] by Christmas. Since I’ll be working at the quilt shop all day Saturday, and having another Cooking Day with my sister on Sunday, I better concentrate and get her quilt finished up, since she’s […]

  4. […] praises of the Imperia Pasta Machine! It was a life-saver! It made Cooking Day #2 much better than Cooking Day #1 . . . making Tortellini should always be this easy . . […]

  5. OH MY GOD, that was funny and I’m SOOOOO glad that you wrote about your pasta experience and that I took the time to read it!


    I had “almost” convinced my DH to make a batch of home made pasta – 1st time for us… and NO, we don’t have a pasta machine, either!

    THANK GOODNESS we didn’t try THAT! LOL

    Tks for sharing!

    *nope – got an Latin/Hispanic name but I’m French Canadian – go figure! LOL*

  6. Tortellini looks like so much work but I can’t imagine how good it must be!

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