Creating Sustainable Pasta with Sicilian Roots: An Interview with Alessandra Lauria of The Pasta Studio
Born in Sicily, Alessandria Lauria is a professional pasta maker, teacher, and restaurant consultant currently residing in Lisbon, Portugal. She’s the founder of The Pasta Studio, where she hosts live and virtual pasta-making experiences, often rooted in her Sicilian heritage.
As part of our Pastai Talks Instagram live interview series, we sit down with Lauria to learn more about her pasta-making journey and find out some more about her technique. Note: you can also watch our IGTV video interview with Alessandra Lauria Pasta here.
Tell us a little bit more about you.
I am currently based in Lisbon, Portugal but I’m from Sicily. I’ve lived abroad for around 16 years. I create culinary experiences and events, courses about pasta making, and do restaurant consulting.
What brought you to Portugal?
As soon as I finished my pasta training in Padova and Bologna, there was a girl who invited me to come to Lisbon to help her open a pasta restaurant. As soon as I came here, I fell in love with the energy. It’s sort of a combination of the London mindset–with a start-up and entrepreneurial vibe–and the climate and warmth of Italy. I also started gaining a lot of interest in my pasta making from the people here, so it ultimately gave me a reason to stay.
How did you get into pasta making?
When I lived in London, I started thinking about what I wanted to do. I was a little bit lost…I was Italian but also an immigrant. I started to go back to my roots and I realized that I missed the traditions from where I come from.
Pasta is an important tradition in my family. They can’t go a single way without eating it! When I thought about pasta I thought, “Ok, this is very simple but at the same time very complicated.” Simple because it’s flour and water. Complex because there are so many possibilities for ingredients, sauces, textures, flavors, and what the pasta looks like. I felt like there was so much to explore.
Why did you attend a professional pasta school and what did you learn from the experience?
As an Italian, you never feel like you’ve mastered a cooking skill. Even with my Italian background, I felt like I wanted to know pasta inside and out. Like Alan Ducasse. He knew the ins and outs of chocolate making.
It was difficult being back in Italy because I wasn’t very well accepted in my own country. They’d called me the “English girl” because of my accent! But I learned a lot and I still continue to consult many of my teachers today.
How would you describe your pasta style?
Southern Italian and modern at the same time. I’m very passionate about sustainability, knowing where the grains and ingredients come from. You won’t easily find me making pasta with 00 flour, unless I know where the grains come from. I also like to play with foraged ingredients and edible flowers.
What’s your basic pasta dough recipe?
I typically start with 100 grams of flour and 1 egg. But I don’t immediately add everything together. Depending on how warm or cold it is outside and the flour that I’m using, I’ll adjust by starting with more or less flour. I’ll also keep in mind the size of the eggs that I’m using. Or if it’s a really hot day, I know I need to add more hydration to the dough. For me, it’s important to understand your ingredients and know that it will never come out the same.
I believe that pasta recipes are an approximation – it’s ultimately your palate that will really define the dish.
Do you lean more towards a wet dough or dry dough when you make pasta?
Definitely a drier dough because once it’s too wet there’s no way to go back. When you let the dough rest, you’re going to relax and hydrate the dough. Of course, you need to know what shapes you’re going to make to know the dough consistency. I explain a lot of these nuances in my pasta course, Semola.
What’s your biggest pasta failure?
My biggest mistakes and failures are around gnocchi. I’ve messed up so many times. There are so many things to think about: the way you cook the potatoes, the way you mash the potatoes, the way you knead the dough, etc.
I actually created a free gnocchi guide that you can download on my website to help other people with making gnocchi.
What kinds of pasta tools do you use?
My spronella (pasta wheel) is my favorite! I even have a tattoo of it. I also love my pasta scraper, it saves my life. And I love the little board to make gnocchetti and cavatelli. Pasta tools are like jewelry for me.
What tools would you recommend for beginners?
What shapes do you recommend for beginners?
The most difficult pasta I’ve found are trofie. Making trofie is really a skill you have to learn. I still feel like I need to master it.
What other resources would you recommend for people learning how to make pasta?
All the books about the Slow Food movement! There are many about pasta making that are really good, as well other books that speak more about Italian regional cuisine. Encyclopedia of Pasta and Pasta Grannies are classics. I also like to follow other pasta makers, it’s always nice to exchange recipes and knowledge with them.
What’s your favorite pasta dish at the moment?
I’m really into Timballo right now, which is one of the pasta dishes we’re going to make in my Taste of Sicily course. It’s this sort of pasta cake with eggplant, kind of like lasagne. Another one of my favorites is succareddi with pistachio pesto and confit tomatoes. I could eat pistachio pesto every day for the rest of my life!
What’s coming up next for you and The Pasta Studio?
I’m launching a new course called Taste of Sicily. It’s a live course, where you can cook with me. We’ll go through seven stops, each with its own dish and there will also be many guest experts.
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