Our Daily Breather: Maintaining Sanity During A Pandemic In Our Daily Breather, we ask writers and artists to recommend ways to find calm in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis. Rhiannon Giddens shares a homemade pasta recipe.
NPR logo Our Daily Breather: Rhiannon Giddens Is Making Homemade Pasta

Our Daily Breather: Rhiannon Giddens Is Making Homemade Pasta

Rhiannon Giddens Ebru Yildiz/Courtesy of the artist hide caption

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Ebru Yildiz/Courtesy of the artist

Rhiannon Giddens

Ebru Yildiz/Courtesy of the artist

Our Daily Breather is a series where we ask writers and artists to recommend one thing that's helping them get through the days of isolation during the coronavirus pandemic.

Who: Rhiannon Giddens

Where: Limerick, Ireland

Recommendation: Making homemade pasta


So the obvious thing is, COVID-19 has turned everyone's lives upside down, some more than others. How it has done it varies from person to person; I know that I am particularly grateful to acknowledge my privileges of being able to shelter in a safe space, the ability to see my children and have enough money in the account (for now!) to not worry about the immediate future. I even get to cook as much as I want!

But the thing I've missed the most is my partner, who lives a 2 1/2-hour drive away. In the Before Time, 2 1/2 hours was nothing — a couple of podcasts, a mug of slowly cooling tea and you're there before you know it. In the days of lockdown it might as well be in Australia — a stretch of empty highway impossible to travel.

Now, my partner is from Italy — he grew up in Torino, but his entire family is from Sicily — and in the time we have been together he has seriously made me re-think my relationship with food. I grew up with some ideas of good food (I'm from the South, after all) but as I progressed through my youth and into my adulthood, "food as sustenance" became my mantra. A source of calories and occasional burst of (usually chemicalized) flavor. Meeting Francesco (and his mother-the-amazing-cook) slid the scales from my eyes and I have been learning what good, fresh ingredients, a little knowledge and a lot of love can do.

Ever since our tour was cut short and we made our way to our respective homes to be separated for who knew how long, I've been cooking like crazy — pasta from scratch, biscotti of many different types, sauces I've never made before, him on the phone, coaching me through it ... It's one way I can feel close to him — I put my hands in the dough, smell the soffritto lazily simmering, and know that we will be eating together soon.


Rhiannon Giddens' Recommendation

Here's Rhiannon Giddens' recipe for fresh tagliatelle for four:

Ingredients:

  • 200 g '00' flour
  • 100 g semolina
  • 3 eggs
  • Bit of salt (1 t)
  • Bit of oil (2 t)

Instructions:

  1. Weigh the flour and mix it in a bowl before placing it on a large chopping board.
  2. Make a well in the center and crack open the eggs in to the well.
  3. Sprinkle the salt and oil over the eggs, and start to stir the center with a fork, breaking and mixing the eggs, and slowly incorporating the flour as you go. Make sure not to break the walls too soon, or the eggs will flow like lava down Vesuvius and you'll have a mess on your hands.
  4. As soon as I am starting to get a good amount mixed in the center, I take a pastry scraper and start mixing in the flour that way, but you can keep on with the fork if you'd rather. Eventually you will start seeing a dough form and it'll get to the point when you need to use your hands. The dough will be very sticky and you just keep going until you have a smooth, elastic ball. Incorporating flour will change to kneading once you have enough, and you keep that going for about 10 minutes. It's important to really knead it the whole time — it starts to turn silky and the texture will be really gorgeous when cooked.
  5. Let it rest for 30 minutes (or up to 24 hours in the fridge — if you do this, make sure to let it warm up a bit out of the fridge before you roll it out).
  6. Now, I learned this from a wonderful chef from Verona where I took a cooking class a few years ago — I asked her what she thought about hand rolling vs. pasta machines, and her opinion was that she liked the hand rolled better, for the texture. But if you are making it for lots of people often, a machine is the way to go. I do this once a week, twice at the most, and I love to roll out dough, so I don't have a machine.
  7. I separate the dough into four segments, and roll each out into sheets thin enough to see your hand through; if the dough is a bit tacky, be generous with the flour on the board and rolling pin. You will need a long one, a mattarello as they call it, and preferably one without the spinning handles.
  8. When you've rolled out a sheet, sprinkle flour on top and fold the edges to the middle; sprinkle flour again, and fold the edges to the middle again, one more time and then you have a little log that you then slice into the width you want. Once they are all cut, you slide your fingers underneath, and toss them a little bit — if you have floured it as you ought, the dough unrolls into tagliatelle — place the tagliatelle on a floured board and toss further with flour. You can then prepare the sauce, because it's good to let it rest a bit before you cook it, and it cooks so fast you want to make sure the sauce is ready to go, as you will just have time to get the plates and parmigiano out once you put the pasta into a pot of boiled, well-salted water (use rock salt if you can, and be generous).

Rhiannon Giddens released There Is No Other in 2019.

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