Tajarin: The thin, rich pasta of Piemonte

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We had worked up an appetite. Exploring the small streets and impressive wine museum of Barolo one sunny fall day, we found our stomachs growling and feet aching. It was time to find lunch in this well-known wine town in Italy’s Piedmont region.

Lunch in Italy is no small affair, of course. Many of the best restaurants offer the same menu at lunch and dinner, including the famous antipasti, primi and secondi courses that can lead to serious napping if all three are consumed at midday. But we just looked at it as fuel for more exploring on foot until it was time to eat again around 8 p.m. Besides, who can resist the pastas of Piemonte, perhaps the best fuel for the rigors of sightseeing?

In this region, tajarin (tie-yah-REEN) reigns as the most popular pasta. Our first encounter with it was at the sidewalk trattoria we found in Barolo. After one taste of the thin, bright yellow pasta topped with an earthy porcini mushroom sauce, we had to find out more about tajarin.

The word is Piedmontese dialect for tagliatelle (or it’s narrower version, tagliolini). It is made fresh by area cooks who use a higher proportion of egg yolks than found in pastas from other regions. Tajarin can contain up to 40 egg yolks per kilogram (2.2 pounds) of pasta dough, according to Matt Kramer in “A Passion for Piedmont: Italy’s Most Glorious Regional Table” (1997).

“A good pasta dough for tagliatelle from, say, Bologna (which is known for its fine egg pasta) uses two eggs for every hundred grams of Italy’s soft white flour. That works out to 20 eggs per kilogram of dough, which is pretty rich,” Kramer writes. “In Piedmont, such a ratio is the starting point.”

The eggs do make the dough softer, cautions Kramer. Home cooks in the region always use a pasta machine for rolling and cutting the delicate strands. The width of the noodles often varies from cook to cook, but Kramer notes that “the Piedmontese do agree with the Duchess of Windsor: No tajarin can ever be too rich or too thin.”

Luckily, the pasta also is available dried, for those not willing to crack that many eggs for homemade pasta. Classic toppings for tajarin include butter and sage sauce, pork and veal sugo or porcini mushroom sauce, like the one we raved over in Barolo.

font: http://www.chicagotribune.com/features/food/sc-food-0117-tajarin-pasta-20140118,0,5824710,full.story

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