For Proust in his work À la Récherche du Temps Perdu, it was the taste of the crumb of a madeleine cake that brought memories involuntarily flooding back to him. For me, it is the aroma of melting butter as it hits a pan of hot pasta. This smell never fails to transport me back to the apartment on the via Guelfa in Florence that I was lucky enough to live in during the third year of my degree. The apartment consisted of two floors ninety-seven steps up an old building on the edge of Florence’s seemier side, a stone’s throw from the red light district of the via Nazionale. The bedroom I shared with my friend Simone was on the top floor and opened out on to a roof terrace that had a more or less 360° view over the roof tops of Florence. It was stunning. An Italian visitor, on seeing it, exclaimed to us, “Ma, si può abbracciare il Duomo!” (You can throw your arms around the Cathedral!”) and in the evenings, when the church bells were tolling all around and the dusk was settling, it was truly magical. I was a lucky, lucky girl.

Simone and I would go out a lot in the evenings – there were always people giving out free entrance tickets for the clubs. When we stumbled in, in the early hours, we would be ravenous. A pan of pasta would go on immediately and would then be simply dressed with butter, dried basil and Parmesan. This is how I ate it for my lunch today. My body may have been in my kitchen here in England but, with my eyes closed, my mind and not a small portion of my heart were in Florence.

Gluten-free tagliatelle

Makes 500g fresh, uncooked pasta (Serves 2-3)

260g gluten-free plain (all-purpose) flour
15g cornflour (cornstarch)
1 tsp xanthan gum
½ tsp salt (optional)
3 eggs
1½ tbsp olive oil
cold water

You will also need a pasta rolling machine with a tagliatelle attachment and a very large saucepan

First of all, cut a strip of greaseproof baking paper about 30cm long and wide enough to fit underneath the rolling machine. You will need this when cutting the pasta using the tagliatelle attachment.

Put the dry ingredients into the bowl of the food processor. Blitz for a couple of seconds to mix the flours and break up any lumps. Add the three eggs and the oil. Blitz again to combine and gradually add a little cold water through the funnel until you have a soft dough.

Tip the dough out onto an unfloured work surface and knead into a ball. It should be soft and ever so slightly tacky to the touch*. Now either wrap the ball in clingfilm or return it to the bowl of the food processor and put the lid back on to keep the pasta from drying out.

Place a large plate dusted with flour next to the rolling machine. Working with a small, plum-sized piece at a time, roll the dough out on an unfloured surface with a rolling pin until it is a few millimetres thick. Try to get either the width or the length approximately the same width as the pasta rolling machine. Passing the dough just once through each thickness setting, starting at 2 and ending at 6 or 7, roll the piece through the machine**. Make sure you carefully support its weight with your free hand. Dust each side of the pasta sheet with flour*** and make sure that the greaseproof paper is in place before putting the pasta through the tagliatelle attachment. Slide the greaseproof paper out from under the machine and tip the tagliatelle onto a plate. Repeat until all the pasta is used up****.

Put a large saucepan of salted water on to heat. When the water has reached a rolling boil, add the pasta and put the lid on straightaway. As soon as the water has come back up to the boil, drain the pasta and serve with your favourite sauce.

 

*If the dough is sticking, flour the work surface and knead the ball of dough. Then break the ball up and return it to the food processor. Blitz into small pieces to distribute the flour more evenly, tip back onto the surface and knead into a ball.  Likewise, if the dough is too hard and dry, break the ball up and return it to the food processor. Blitz into small pieces and add a little more water. Once it has come together again, tip back out onto the work surface.

** The sheet will have slightly raggedy edges and may have a few holes. This is to be expected and it won’t be noticeable when cut into tagliatelle. If the dough disintegrates as it goes through the rollers, it is probably too dry. See *

***This is really important because it will stop the pasta sticking and clumping together.

***The plate of pasta can now be covered with clingfilm and refrigerated until needed.

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