Ciriole alla Ternana – Part 2

September 28th, 2011
Le Ciriole di Irma

Part 1 – Pasta Fresca

Part 2 – The Story of this Recipe

Part 3 – Ciriole – Making the Pasta

Part 4 – Ciriole alla Ternana – The Complete Dish

About This Recipe

From Alessandro –

I’ve known that I wanted to include this recipe in our collection for quite a while, so when I went to visit La Romita in April 2011 I leapt on the opportunity to learn from a master. Some of our past participants might remember Irma Cruciani. Irma was a fixture at La Romita for years, overseeing the cleaning and in many ways taking care of Edmund and the Quargnalis in between workshops. Although she has retired from her position at La Romita, her Ciriole are famous amongst the family and staff . I went down to her house and asked her if she’d show me how to make them. She readily agreed!

I learned the recipe that Irma uses, I learned the basics of the techniques for making it, but I also experienced first-hand the difference between the “prescriptive” recipes that we learn from books or articles (!), and way recipes live and breath in Italy. Traditional ciriole are made with just flour and water, but since she knew that the pasta we were making wouldn’t be served until the next day, she added a couple of eggs since they allow the pasta the keep longer. She said that she generally adds eggs anyway since fresh pasta without eggs is more sensitive to cooking time. But from the context of our conversation, it was clear to me that these were still “Ciriole alla Ternana” – adding eggs was a contextual choice, not a heretical one.

The technique:

Irma’s method for making pasta was developed in a world before stand mixers and food processors. You make a mound of flour on your work surface, create a well for the wet ingredients, and combine the two by gradually incorporating the walls into the liquid. While it seems like a mess waiting to happen, it’s not that difficult a technique to learn and is eminently suited to making pasta, since the process of working the dough picks up almost all of the flour on the work surface.

In my own kitchen, I’ve found that the “Mound Method” becomes harder the smaller the recipe. If you’re using any less than 2 cups of flour, there just isn’t enough volume to the walls to hold the liquid.  If you ever wish to make fresh pasta for one, a mixing bowl is probably the best way to go.

Irma’s kitchen is modest, with an average amount of counter space, so for pasta making she pulls out a couple of special tools. One is a board about 4 feet by 3 with another piece screwed to the underside as a stop, so when she sets it on her dining table she can knead and roll the dough without chasing the board.

The second special tool is a meter-long rolling pin! I have had success rolling pasta in my own kitchen using a traditional rolling pin, though I had to divide the pasta into smaller batches and roll oblongs instead of the glorious disk that Irma created.  I have also had good results using a large dowel from the hardware store that I lightly sanded and treated with olive oil.

There are several modestly priced pasta machines on the market to handle the rolling and cutting, but this dough is very gratifying to work with since it’s texture is so forgiving. Pie dough must be babied to keep from over-working, but pasta dough responds to vigor and variances in thickness, tears, etc are hidden by the cutting. True, masters can make perfectly uniform slices, but you don’t need to be a master to create something wonderful to eat!

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