I found myself alone in the kitchen last night. Kneading pasta.
It was my first time making ravioli by myself. I had only made pasta at my parents’ house in Massachusetts, with my Grampa leading the charge. He has meaty hands. They are the hands of a man who has worked his entire life turning a wrench. A big one.
We are Italian.
My mom grew up in a house in Quincy where pasta lay drying on newspapers in the kitchen. In the dining room. And in the living room. The first time I made pasta I was 28 years old. My nana was still alive. She was tasked with making the filling. Cheese. And sausage. She never liked pasta, but helped make it anyway. She was Scottish.
The last time I made ravioli was over Christmas.
My dad found the pasta maker and clamped it to the kitchen table. My mom located the eggs, flour, and salt. My Grampa began a process he has done from memory countless times over the past 89 years. Only this time there was no prosciutto hanging in the back porch. No olive press in the basement.
He dumped a bag of flour on the table and made a well in the center. He filled it with a carton of eggs. He used a fork to beat the yolks, slowly pulling flour towards the growing pool of yellow. This took a long time. We all looked on waiting for something to do. D was there, too. He is German.
Eventually, Grampa began working the dough with his hands, sweeping the dust into the pile. He folded the dough onto itself. Again. And again. When he tired, my dad stepped in. Then my sister. Then me. And around we went.
The first time we made pasta as a family, my Grampa claimed he didn’t remember how. And maybe he didn’t. But his hands did. They rolled the dough until it was shiny and slick to the touch. He didn’t add olive oil to make the pasta more manageable. It was just the result of working at it. Hard.
Last night, I decided I needed to make ravioli in my new apartment. I wanted to see if I had really been listening. I began the only way I knew how. With a pile of flour on the countertop, a well for the eggs, and a fork.
I would like to tell you that the ravioli came out just like my Grampa’s. That I was an expert at stretching the pasta. That I was able to work the dough into shiny submission.
Instead, I will tell you the truth: they came out okay. The dough never had a satiny texture. I couldn’t figure out how to feed it into the machine in a way that created perfectly even sheets. And I overstuffed the ravioli, the cheese oozing out the sides. But I guess that is part of the learning process.
Because my Grampa showed me how to make pasta so that one day I could do it myself. And I did.