When I used to browse for interesting historic recipes, for years I would stumble on websites full of fabulous equipment or pretty amazing ingredients I could never hope to find, or if I did, affording would be yet another issue. But not everything takes special equipment or ridiculously hard to find ingredients and we can make some pretty darn cool stuff with what we find just kicking around the kitchen… or house.
Macaroni is something that just came to mind. For years I figured, well I can’t make that, I do not have an iron rod the right size and so I didn’t make it. Silly me. So, today, just for fun, I decided to simply use what I had. For starters, I just used a thin wooden dowel. Now this was not quite as thin as prescribed in the instructions but it sure worked in a pinch and I made quite a few! While I was at it, I also played with different lengths where the smaller lengths pulled off the dowel easier but longer ones (as prescribed) did mean a lot more noodles in less time. Then it was mentioned that I was using skewers to roll them… ugh! Why didn’t I think of that? So I gave it a go… well, if that isn’t a great substitute for the iron rod suggested by both authors. I am not sure how many I would want to make like that though, the thinner the rod, the more difficult the task it seems, though the results are lovely.
In the picture you can see a test I did with a wood dowel, a metal skewer and a darning needle. All provide the means to make a hollow tube of pasta with their own pluses and negatives. If we were to do a large feast with macaroni, I would want a macaroni party to make these… skewer or just dowel (rubs sore neck, scrunches back…).
So… how do we make these?
Well let’s just look at some instruction..
(*with a note on recipes: Martino’s recipe does make a pasta that will puff a bit, probably why he also cautions on not using too much egg white, Scappi’s doesn’t so much and will make a yellower pasta. When working out a recipe that works for you, depending on your flour, humidity etc., I would start with 1/2 lb, 2 egg whites and an ounce of water mixing a little flour at a time if not firm enough. I would also suggest leaving the dough to sit for about an hour before using.)
Martino (1465)… white flour and egg white and rose water or common water. (no more than one or two egg whites) Make sure it’s very firm, shape into long thin sticks the size of your palm and as thin as hay. Take an iron rod as long as your palm or longer and as thin as string and place it on top of each stick, then roll with both hands over a table. Remove the rod and the macaroni will be perforated in the middle.
Scappi (1570), used a recipe with breadcrumb (4oz) soaked in milk, flour (1lb + extra flour to make very firm) and egg yolks (4) with sugar (2oz +). He also talks about letting the pasta dry out before using an iron stiletto to shape the macaroni however he also mentions using flour to keep the dough from sticking to the iron. I didn’t roll out the pasta and let it dry and yet had no issues with sticking of any sort, so am guessing the dough that was made for rolling was much wetter than we tend to use today.
So basically, with this, your using a thin strip of rolled pasta and forming it around your dowel (yes, using the larger wood one here so the pasta is a little thicker as well… call it a sort of blown up version of the tiny metal rod stuff). This is then rolled smooth useing the palm of your hand and the table. After this is done, you can easily pull out the dowel, being careful not to crush the pasta as you do it. Before cooking, let it sit to dry for a while, which according to the original instructions, this would be dried out completely.
If you have the time, and hopefully the manpower, to make a large batch of macaroni using a metal skewer (last picture above) to shape it, this method is likely to be your easiest one.
To make this using a larger dowel (as shown in the pictures), it may be equally easy to roll the dough very thin (having a pasta roller makes this even easier bit not necessary) and cut it in somewhat wider strips and wrapping them rightly around the dowel and then pulling out the dowel as before. The results from doing it this way are very comparable.
and that’s it, you just leave it to dry and then cook and serve according to your recipe. To note, both authors seem to be game for soft cooked macaroni served with cheese, butter and sweet spices with sugar (such as sugar and cinnamon).