One of the great things about writing a blog is reconnecting with old friends. But, also, through this cookbook project of mine, I’m meeting family members I didn’t know I had. This started happening when I was researching my family tree, and has only accelerated through the wonders of the International Network.
My most recent e-mail is from a member of the Belbusti family (the name was later shortened to Belmont). Jim from Houston, TX sent me a picture of his mother’s passatelli-maker.
In the comment thread for the post on passatellis, which are noodles made from bread crumbs and copious amounts of Parmesan cheese, there was speculation about how they were shaped before electric meat grinders and whether they were hand-rolled. He writes:
“My dad had that maker commissioned by a metal shop he used to do business with. It’s one-of-a-kind and loosely based on one my maternal grandmother had. Basically, you take a tennis-ball size of passatelli dough and push it through the holes with your palms. The noodles grow about 1 to 1-1/2 inches long, then drop off the plate. Tilt the thing over a bowl, and out slide the noodles.
She'd dry the noodles on baking sheets laid out on the dining room table, and pay my sister and me $2 a day to keep the cat from jumping up on the table and eating them. What she didn't count on was us eating the noodles. The taste? Think cheesy cookie dough.”
Jim found my site while looking for a recipe for crescia, the Marchigiano Parmesan-pepper bread. Here’s what he remembers about his mom’s version:
“One thing my mom used to add to crescia - she would spike the dough (before rising) with chunks of cheese (I think she used block American cheese!) so that most slices came with a lump of cheese, because 5 cups of Parmesan/Romano per loaf just wasn't enough. And I wonder why my cholesterol is high.”
Yup. We’re definitely family.