I'm Italian and I love pasta, but still I don't eat it every day. Growing up was different. I had pasta almost every day, sometimes even twice a day. The sauces changed, but pasta was our staple.
Now I eat it occasionally, which make it more of a special dish. I like to make my own pasta, even though there are always a few packages of store bough pasta in the pantry. For me, pasta is ever-changing – each pasta tells its own story through its shape, and the ingredients that go into the dough. A dough made with flour and eggs has its roots in abundance and wealth, while a flour and water dough -- my favorite -- is a proud statement of simplicity and an echo of poverty in times past. As often happens, creativity flourishes in constrained situations, and we continue to enjoy the fruits of that creativity when we enjoy those recipes by choice today.
I love to go through the steps of mixing flour and water, kneading it, letting it rest and then playing around with the shapes. When I shape the mallureddus pasta with the back of a fork instead of the traditional straw basket I still can connect with my roots and experience the pleasure of creating something. Using just two ingredients reminds me that all that the best things in life are the simplest.
This recipe is from my paternal grandmother. When my father was still a child, she moved with my grandfather from Sardinia to Florence, looking for better economic opportunities.
I remember my grandma calling me on the phone and saying, "I made Mallureddus, when are you coming for dinner?".
These little “calves” (the meaning of Mallureddus in one of the Sardinian dialects) are usually served with a thick sauce of tomato and sausage, but since my father has been a vegetarian since he was a child, my Grandmother’s version was made with tomato sauce.
To make this a truly Sardinian recipe, leave the garlic cloves whole, gently fry them with olive oil for a couple of minutes and then remove the cloves. In this way the oil will be infused but you won't have pieces of garlic in the sauce. And add a small bunch of basil to the tomato sauce one or two minutes before it's ready, without chopping the basil.