Gragnano: the roots of pasta in Italy.
Wheat and flour as a combination to make a basic pasta dough was introduced by the Arabs from North Africa to Sicily in the 1100s. It was in the 16th century that in the Naples area they learned how to mix and compress this dough through a dye and make PASTA! Since then, 130 factories were founded in Gragnano, and many still exist today. Gentile is one of the oldest, and just outside their door today is a narrow winding street in which the pasta used to hang on sticks to dry. "Scasciamusch...", or fly swatters, were 8-12 year old boys that were hired to keep the drying pasta free of flies that the passing cows and sheep would bring with them!
Artisan pasta today and yesterday... not much has changed
Today, modern equipment pushes the pasta mix through a bronze dye and extracts long flat strings of pasta which is then cut and placed to dry for 48 hours at a low temperature in aerated drying chambers. The extruding pasta is cut by one of the Gentile brothers as it extrudes and immediately placed on a stick
Bronze Dye Extraction - movie
Click on the movie link to download a video showing the Gentile pasta makers, including the younger Gentile brother, Paquale, cutting the long fusilli as they get extracted through the bronze dye. He then positions them with rapid hand motion to dry over an ancient stick, just as they used to do centuries ago. Also included in the video is a recipe as it is prepared by signora Maria Sorrentina mother of Pasquale showing a wonderful presentation of Fusilli alle Melanzane.
Hand Made Fusilli - Neapolitan Style
The timeless and widespread art of the hand made Fusilli today lies in the experienced hands of four women that work at the Gentile factory. With one rapid hand movement, they wrap the flat fusilli pasta around a "knitting needle" type of instrument, curling it into a spring and removing the needle rapidly so that the pasta maintains its shape. The result once the pasta dries is an array of differently shaped long Fusilli per pack of pasta that when spilled out on a table is a wonderful sight to behold. And what is more they will keep their original and unique shape when cooked!
Fusilli with Ricotta - Neapolitan Specialty
- 1 lb of Hand Made Fusilli Napoletani
- 1 onion
- 1/2 cup of extra virgin olive oil
- a few leaves of fresh basil
- 2.2 lbs of Neapolitan Passata Tomatoes
- 1.8 oz grated parmesan cheese
- 7 oz of ricotta
Chop the onion and saute in a pan with the olive oil until golden brown. Add the passata tomatoes and simmer for 30 minutes. Add the basil after turning off the flame. Cook the fusilli in salted water for 33 minutes. Add the ricotta to a bowl and add to this the tomato sauce and blend until creamy. Add the cooked and drained fusilli, mix together, and serve with some leaves of fresh basil and grated parmesan cheese.