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Having Italian parents has done wonders for Michela Chiappa’s cooking skills. Although she has no formal training, Michela presents the new four-part series Simply Italian, in which she shows viewers how simple it is to make your own pasta and delicious pasta sauces…
We think that viewers are all going to start making their own pasta after watching your show. We were getting hungry just watching!
Oh my God. Really? Do you know what? It’s so sweet. It’s really quite overwhelming. Most people I’ve spoken to are saying how amazing it is, and I’m like, ‘Really? You’re not just saying that?’
Why do you think that people have been so afraid of cooking fresh pasta?
I don’t know, because all I keep being told is that this is really going to inspire people. My family have always done this, and my dad is baffled because he thinks everybody does this. I guess it’s the same for anyone who has never cooked before and they’ll be terrified when they crack an egg.
Most people will go out and buy dried pasta, and boil it up for 10 minutes…
In general, I don’t think British people see pasta as a special dish, whereas in Italy, most Italians are craving it if they haven’t had a plate of pasta in three or four days. I have a very busy life and a lot of people will say to me, ‘Surely you don’t cook every night?’ And I say, ‘Well, yes. I’d never go and get a quick fix in the supermarket because I can make it just as quickly at home. I guess I know what to do.’
How do packet pastas compare to fresh pasta?
I would never ever, ever buy tortelli from a supermarket. Ever. It’s just a completely different dish. If you eat fresh tortelli that you’ve made, compared to packet ones, well I wouldn’t even describe them as the same thing because you can’t really achieve it unless you use a fresh pasta, because you need the really thin pasta. It’s delicious and it’s really quite special.
Your house must have been the one everyone flocked to when you were growing up…
My sisters and I have lived in Wales all our lives, but our parents are Italian, our first language is Italian, we were brought up as Italians. We’ve gone to school and university here and mixed our traditions with British life. At university, our friends would come and look at our fridge, and say, ‘What the hell, girls?’ We’ve never bought a packet meal in our lives! We were known as the foodies and whenever anyone came to stay, it was all about the food. It always is whenever you come to our house — you are fed! [Laughs]
In the first programme, you make pasta dough from 100g of flour and one egg. How many people will that serve?
Well it depends what pasta you make, but I’d say that’s a really good portion for one person. You’ll create about 150g of dough with that. My dad would probably eat all of that himself, but it could serve one to two people.
Can you use wholemeal flour?
I’ve made it with spelt flour. The challenge is the gluten in the flour, as that’s what makes it elastic. So the minute you start stripping that back out, the harder it is to work the pasta. But I do it with spelt — just hand roll it rather than put it through a pasta machine. But experiment. Give it a go. What’s the worst thing that’s going to happen? You’ve used some flour and eggs. Treat it like play-doh. Have fun. Get your kids involved. Get your hands dirty. If you’re making for a family of four, try either 300g or 400g. If you’ve got extra left over, let your pasta dry for a couple of days, and then store it in jars.
You’ve got no formal training, so how did you end up being a spokeswoman