Gnocchi with tomato, thyme and fennel seeds / MTC o anche pararsi le terga in corner: Gnocchi freschi al pomodoro, timo e semi di finocchio

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Time flies so quickly it’s hard for me to believe that next month will mark my three years as a participant to the MTChallenge. The toughest, craziest and most instructive foodblogger challenge in the worldwide web. Some challenges I had to give up to, many ones I took part to were spent addressing not so nice thoughts to the challengers but all of the challenges have been an occasion to learn new techniques and recipes. I always tried to participate to the best of my means, were they economical, in terms of the time I had on my hands and my creative resources. But never a challenge had been so tough on me. Gnocchi. Apparently an easy one, but someone like me who has always eaten gnocchi straight from a bag and topped them with butter, sage and parmesan this challenge has been THE CHALLENGE. No wonder I do have the sentiment that I am participating as a loser from the start, except for one thing: finally I was able to make proper gnocchi for the first time in my life. So thank you so much Annarita for her thorough post in which she presents us with three different recipes, perfectly described in every detail.

As for myself this month has been pretty awful. After the ovarectomy intervention I had in August’m facing an hormonal substitution therapy, those who know me well know I’m not prone to victimization and pathos. My mood swings and switches from one day to the other leading me to be quite prone to genocide oriented thoughts, morphing to a state of impatience then to hypersensitivity and numbness that cloud my mind. I thought I had found enlightenment in a handful of carob pods I found on my way walking down from Verezzi to Borgio but I found myself with gnocchi most suitable to the dustbin that to the digestive system of a human being. And then I panicked. The feeling increased exponentially after browsing the images of the challengers on MTC’s website page. Ingredients, techniques, and plating simply out of this world. And I was struggling to put together thoughts and forces to organize a dinner with friends. For once I decided to play it easy. To do my home works without trying to be the best of the class. Not an easy decision. Because to me MTC has always been a training ground for experimenting and trying out in different combinations and techniques. Because I already feel Van Pelt‘s wrath crushing me, and never before I had to undergo such a treatment. But I have to face things for what they are. This period has to be labeled under the word “acceptance”. Acceptance of my limitations, of my moods swings, of what life has thrown on my plate and which I have to swallow down without leaving a crumb and without complaining because let’s face it, life can always be far worse. The only thing I can say is that these gnocchi are good, and simple as simple can be. For once I am participating without putting licorice nor beetroot in one of my recipes, without playing the part of the odd and eccentric one. Because let’s face it, gnocchi speak of home, homemade and simple food. I will be waiting for the next challenge to get back on track with recipes worthy of a feature in one of Jean-Noël Liaut’s books.

Gnocchi with tomato, thyme and fennel seeds
Makes 2 servings

Gnocchi
300 g yellow potatoes
70 g white AP flour

Sauce
270 g rose de Berne tomatoes
2 g fennel seeds
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 handful fresh thyme, chopped
a pinch of dried chilli
extra virgin olive oil

Wash the potatoes and place them whole and unpeeled in cold water.
Choose potatoes of the same size in order to have an even cooking.
Boil for about 30-40 minutes, depending on the size of the potatoes.
You can also use a pressure cooker, cooking the potatoes for half the time.
Drain and peel the potatoes.
Press the peeled potatoes through a potato ricer directly onto the work surface.
Spread the mashed potatoes with a scrapers to remove all residual steam.
Add the salt and flour gradually and begin to knead.
Mix as little as possible otherwise the gnocchi will become tough.
Roll out to a cylinder of about 1.5 cm then cut into dumplings of about 2 cm length.
Hold the tines of a fork at a 45-degree angle to the table with the concave part facing up.
Dip the tip of your thumb in flour, take one ball of dough and with the tip of your thumb press it lightly against the tines of the fork as you roll it downward toward the tips.
As the dough wraps around the tip of your thumb, it will shape into a dumpling with a deep indentations on one side and a ridged surface on the other.
Set on a baking sheet lined with a lightly floured kitchen towel and continue shaping gnocchi
You may use rice flour which dissolves completely in water.
Cook immediately in salted boiling water until the gnocchi come to the surface.
Remove them from the water using a skimmer and top them with sauce.

After being removing the stem from the tomatoes and engraving a cross on the bottom boil them for 30 seconds.
Remove them from the water using a slotted spoon and dunk them immediately in cold water.
Peel and core the tomatoes and cut them into pieces.
Blend everything until you get a smooth cream and sieve lightly to remove excess water.
Lay aside, add salt, thyme and fennel seeds you have toasted for a few minutes in a nonstick pan.
When the dumplings areready toss them in the sauce, drizzle with a little olive oil and dried chilli to taste.

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MTC o anche pararsi le terga in corner: Gnocchi freschi al pomodoro, timo e semi di finocchio

Il tempo vola. Mi accorgo solo ora che il prossimo mese segnerà i miei tre anni come partecipante all’MTChallenge, la sfida tra foodblogger più tosta, pazza e istruttiva del web. A spizzichi a bocconi, con alcune sfide alle quali ho dovuto rinunciare, un tot di te possino rivolti ai responsabili delle sfide, nuove tecniche e ricette imparate. Ho sempre cercato di partecipare al meglio delle mie possibilità, economiche, di tempo e di risorse creative. Ma mai mi sono trovata tanto in difficoltà come per questa sfida. Gli gnocchi. Eh, pare facile ma per una che gli gnocchi li ha sempre mangiati dalla busta e conditi con burro, salvia e parmigiano reggiano questa sfida è stata LA SFIDA. E per quel che mi riguarda la affronto da perdente in partenza, se non per una cosa: gli gnocchi per la prima volta in vita mia sono venuti perfetti. E di questo devo ringraziare Annarita che ha creato un post ad hoc con un sacco di dritte e tre ricette perfettamente descritte in ogni dettaglio.

Per il resto questo mese è stato abbastanza terribile. Dopo l’intervento di ovarectomia ad agosto sto affrontando la terapia ormonale sostitutiva, niente violini chi mi conosce lo sa che non sono incline a vittimismi e patetismi. Il problema è che sono frullata e passo da stati d’animo inclini al genocidio, all’ipersensibilità ad uno stato di insofferenza ed intorpidimento che mi annebbiano la mente. Pensavo di aver trovato l’illuminazione in una manciata di bacelli di carrube trovati per un sentieri scendendo da Verezzi ma mi son trovata con degli gnocchi più adatti alla pattumiera che al sistema digestivo di un essere umano. E allora panico. Aumentato esponenzialmente dallo sfogliare le immagini delle ricette degli sfidanti sulla pagina dell’MTC. Ingredienti, tecniche, impiattamenti da paura. E io che fatico a mettere insieme pensieri e forze per organizzare una pasta tra amici. E per una volta ho deciso di giocarla facile. Di fare il compitino. Mi pesa, mi pesa assai. Perché l’MTC per me è sempre stata la palestra per sperimentare, per buttarmi in abbinamenti e tecniche diverse. Perché il cazziatone della Van Pelt me lo sento arrivare, e dalla Van Pelt finora non mi son mai sorbita un cazziatone. Ma ci sta. Questo periodo va sotto l’etichetta “accettazione”. Dei miei limiti, dei miei umori, di quello che la vita mi ha sbattuto sul piatto e che mi tocca finire senza lasciare una briciola e senza lamentarmi perché diciamocelo, nella vita può sempre andare peggio. L’unica cosa che posso dire è che buoni sono buoni, semplici sono semplici. E per una volta riesco a partecipare senza metterci di mezzo della liquirizia o della barbabietola, senza fare la strana ed eccentrica. Perché lo gnocco è casa, è casereccio e semplice. Aspetterò la prossima sfida per rimettermi in pista con ricette degne di un libro di Jean-Noël Liaut.

Gnocchi freschi al pomodoro, timo e semi di finocchio
x 2 persone

Per gli gnocchi
300 g di patate a pasta gialla
70 g farina 00

Per il sugo
270 g di pomodori tipo rosa di Berna
2 g di semi di finocchio
1/2 cucchiaino di sale
1 manciata di timo fresco tritato al coltello
un pizzico di peperoncino essiccato
olio evo

Per la procedura degli gnocchi copio paro paro il testo di Annarita che spero non me ne voglia.
Lavate le patate e mettetele intere e con la buccia a cuocere in acqua fredda. S
scegliere patate delle stesse dimensioni in modo da avere una cottura uniforme. Dopo circa 30/40 min (dipende dalla pezzatura) saranno pronte.
Potete anche usare la pentola a pressione dimezzando i tempi.
Appena pronte scolatele e privatele della buccia.
Passatele al passaverdure o allo schiacciapatate direttamente sul piano da lavoro.
Allargare le patate schiacciate con un tarocco in modo da far uscire tutto il vapore residuo.
A questo punto aggiungere il sale e la farina poco per volta e iniziare a impastare.
E’ bene impastare il meno possibile altrimenti gli gnocchi diventeranno duri. La farina dovrebbe essere il 25% – 30% rispetto alle patate ma come dicevo sopra può dipendere da molti fattori.
Meno farina richiedono le patate e meglio è, gli gnocchi saranno più morbidi.
Una volta formata una pagnotta tagliatene dei pezzi con i quali ricavare dei filoncini che allungherete con le mani, facendoli roteare sulla spianatoia fino allo spessore di circa 1.5 cm poi tagliateli in gnocchi di circa 2 cm.
Passate ogni gnocco sui rebbi di una forchetta, esercitando una certa pressione farli scorrere dal basso verso l’alto oppure usare un riga gnocchi, in questo modo assumono la caratteristica rigatura e si formerà l’incavo che accoglierà il sugo.
Non li infarinate troppo altrimenti risulteranno appiccicosi, eventualmente usate della farina di riso che in acqua si scioglie completamente.
Cuocerli subito in acqua bollente salata pochi alla volta, appena risalgono in superficie sono pronti per essere conditi con il sugo.

Per il sugo fate sbollentare per 30 secondi i pomodori in acqua bollente dopo averli privati del picciolo e aver inciso una croce nella parte inferiore.
Con una schiumarola prelevateli e tuffateli immediatamente in acqua fredda dopodiché sbucciateli, privateli della parte interna bianca e tagliateli a pezzi.
Frullate il tutto fino ad ottenere una crema omogenea che filtrerete per togliere l’acqua in eccesso.
Mettete da parte, salate e unite il timo e i semi di finocchio tostati qualche minuto in un padellino antiaderente.
Quando gli gnocchi saranno cotti conditeli son il sugo, un filo d’olio e peperoncino essiccato a piacere.

Con questa ricetta partecipo alla sfida dell’MTChallenge sugli gnocchi

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Maroggia’s Mill Cookbook: Leftover Cake Muffins / Il Ricettario del Mulino di Maroggia: Muffins con resti di torta

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What remains of the cake…what to do with it? Sometimes, even though not very often, a bit of cake may remain uneaten, waiting to be finished and eventually ends drying up. Or in the worst cases, as it happened to me with Antinea’s birthday cake, a part of a layered cake might break effectively becoming unusable. And what about the tops, cut to level perfectly the cake layers? Too much cake to eat, at least for me! I then asked myself what I could do with those poor cake crumbles, but also with the double Gruyère cream I had bought in excess (rather than running out an ingredient I have a tendency of buying too much) and the ridiculous amount of eggs I was given by my aunt, who has now taken the habit of delivering about a dozen every week…high cholesterol anyone? Adverse and hostile as I am to cake pops, an option which seems amongst the most popular when it’s up to use leftover, I thought of using the leftovers to flavour a batch of muffins, a sweet recipe which has been missing for quite a while in my column for the Maroggia’s Mill. In fact my last sweet muffins recipe for Maroggia’s Mill Cookbook has been the one for Beetroot, Orange and White Chocolate Muffins.

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Friselle Wholemeal / Friselle con farina integrale

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Summer is almost over but some juicy tomato are still hanging on the plants of most of home gardens…a wonderful opportunity to try out a great classic of Italian baking: friselle. Have you ever tasted one?

Before moving on to the recipe let’s find out more about these delicious baked goods. Frisella (or frisedda, freseḍḍa, frisa or friseddha in the various variants of Apulia) is a bread biscuit which is only partially baked, cut in half and then baked once more to dry it. It is typical of Southern Italy regions such as Campania, Puglia, Basilicata and Calabria. Before the war, wheat flour friselle were reserved for the most affluent and celebrations. The poor ate barley flour or barley and wheat flour friselle. The characteristic shape is the result of transportation and storage needs, in fact friselle were strung on a cord to facilitate transport and storage. Fishermen used to wet them with sea water to make them soft and to be able to eat them.

Generally the bread is rubbed with garlic, wet with water and seasoned with fresh tomato and a drizzle of oil, but you can be more creative and use all sorts of ingredients…I even had friselle with lumpfish roe once! Friselle keep for several days if kept in a tin box but personally I can get through a batch in just a few days with the pretence of a snack or an aperitif!

Wholemeal Flour Friselle
Makes 12 Friselle

400 g white AP flour
250g wholemeal flour
320 g water
13 g salt
3 g instant yeast

In a bowl mix the flour and yeast.
Make a hole in the centre and pour in the water.
When the water is almost completely absorbed, add the salt and knead vigorously for ten minutes.
Place the dough in a bowl, cover with plastic wrap or a cloth and let rise in a warm place for 1 hour and a half or until doubled.
Divide the dough into pieces of about 80 grams each and shape into short and fat sausages.
Cover with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature for about an hour.
After that time roll the sausages to a length of 30 cm.
Shaped into donuts and arrange the first 6 pieces baking pan lined with parchment paper.
Brush them with water and place the other six donuts on top.
Let rise for about an hour or until doubled.
Fifteen minutes before cooking turn the oven to 200° C.
Bake for fifteen minutes, the friselle must remain white on the outside.
Remove from the oven and cut them in two while still warm.
Put the friselle back on the baking pan and in the oven with the cut side facing up and bake for 40′ at 180° C, on hot air mode.
Lower the oven to 140° C and bake for another 30′.
Cool completely on a wire rack.

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Friselle con farina integrale

L’estate ci sta salutando ma qualche succulento pomodoro è ancora disponibile sulle piante degli orti domestici…una ghiotta occasione per cimentarsi in un grande classico della panificazione italiana: le friselle. Alzi la mano chi non ne ha mai assaggiata una!

Ma prima della ricetta un poco di storia, che non guasta mai. La frisella (o friseḍḍa, freseḍḍa, frisa o friseddha nelle varie varianti pugliesi) è un biscotto di pane che viene dapprima fatto cuocere parzialmente in forno, tagliato e poi ricotto per renderlo secco. è tipico di regioni del Sud Italia come la Campania, la Puglia, la Basilicata e la Calabria. Prima del dopoguerra, la frisella di farina di grano era riservata alle tavole dei più abbienti e alle occasioni celebrative. I poveri consumavano friselle di farina di orzo oppure di orzo e grano. La caratteristica forma è data da esigenze di trasporto e conservazione. Le friselle venivano infatti infilate in una cordicella per favorirne trasporto e conservazione. La frisella era infatti un tipico pane da viaggio in quanto facilmente trasportabile e a lunga conservazione. I pescatori usavano bagnarla in acqua marina per renderle soffici e poterle consumare.

Generalmente il pane viene strofinato con dell’aglio, bagnato e in seguito condito con pomodoro fresco e un filo d’olio, ma a me è capitato di mangiarle con un sacco di altri ingredienti…perfino le uova di lompo! Le friselle si conservano più giorni se tenute in una scatola di latta ma personalmente mi bastano pochi giorni, la scusa di uno snack o un’aperitivo e le friselle non ci sono già più!

Friselle con farina integrale
x 12 friselle

400 g farina 0
250 g farina integrale
320 g acqua
13 g sale
3 g lievito di birra istantaneo

In una ciotola unite le farine e il lievito di birra.
Fate un foro al centro e versatevi l’acqua.
Quando sarà quasi completamente assorbita aggiungete il sale e impastate energicamente per una decina di minuti.
Mettete l’impasto in una ciotola, coprire con pellicola alimentare oppure un panno e lasciate lievitare in un luogo caldo per 1 ora e mezzo circa o fino al raddoppio.
Dividete l’impasto in pezzi da circa 80 gr ciascuno e formate dei filoncini tozzi.
Copriteli con pellicola alimentare e lasciateli lievitare a temperatura ambiente per un’ora circa.
Trascorso il tempo riprendete i filoncini e allungateli ad una trentina di centimetri.
Richiudete a forma di ciambelline e adagiate sulla placca rivestita con carta da forno i primi sei pezzi.
Spennellateli con dell’acqua e adagiatevi sopra le altre sei ciambelline.
Fate lievitare circa un’ora o fino al raddoppio.
Quindici minuti prima della cottura accendete il forno a 200° C.
Infornate e cuocete per un quarto d’ora, le friselle devono rimanere ancora bianche.
Togliete le friselle dal forno posandole e tagliatele in due mentre sono ancora calde.
Rimettete le friselle in forno, in modalità aria calda, con la parte tagliata verso l’altro e cuocete per 40′ a 180° C.
Abbassate il forno a 140° e proseguite la cottura per altri 30′.
Fate raffreddare completamente su una gratella.

Maroggia’s Mill Cookbook: Whole Wheat Flour “Pain de Lodève” / Il Ricettario del Mulino di Maroggia: “Pain de Lodève” integrale

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Wholemeal flour. I must admit it, its’ a kind of flour that I use little…very little. Blame it on my passion for pillowy white bread, but maybe it’s about time to change my habits and try to use it more often in my recipes. Alessandro, our favourite miller, was recently a guest of Swiss Italian television to talk about this very special kind of flour and I was asked by him to develop a recipe specifically for the occasion for Maroggia’s Mill Cookbook. Quite a challenge since I usually use whole wheat flour just to add flavour and hardly in amounts greater than 30%. But the results of this recipe were so good that I’ll try to introduce more often whole wheat flour in my recipes.

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Stale Bread and Fennel Seeds Brittle Biscuits / Biscotti al croccante di pane raffermo e semi di finocchio

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A couple of months ago I was interviewed by a young local journalist, Ivan Campari, for a series of articles he is publishing on the newspaper LaRegione featuring young people from the Mendrisiotto area. For this I have to thank my friend Alan Alpenfelt, the mind behind the independent Radio Gwen and the acting company V XX Zweetz who was interviewed too and gave my name amongst others. To greet both the photographer and the journalist I decided to bake a batch of biscuits, which proved providential as the only good picture of me is one I am transferring them from the baking tray to the rack! I am such a terrible photography subject as I always feel very embarrassed and pull faces and eventually end up throw evil glances at the camera.

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Maroggia’s Mill Cookbook: Savoury Vegan Babka with Black Olives and Sun-dried Tomatoes / Il Ricettario del Mulino di Maroggia: Babka salata vegana con olive nere e pomodori secchi

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I had been working on a new vegan dough for my last episode of “Cuochi d’artificio” a few months ago and fell in love with it. The use of cocoa butter has proved decisive for its softness, something I would never imagine possible without the use of butter. Having experimented with sweet dough I thought it might be interesting to develop a recipe for savoury brioche, and here it is. For the shaping I looked back to the good old babka (check out my Chocolate Babka and Licorice, White Chocolate and Strawberry Babka). The result? A pillowy soft, scrumptious, fragrant and summery bread! Even my friend Nevia, who is skeptical about “bread which has stuff in it” tried a slice and loved it! Perfect to whip up some Sunday brunch sandwiches, eaten alone or with a nice cream cheese.
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Furesta Nera Cake (or my version of Black Forest Cake) / Furesta nera (o anche la Foresta nera a modo mio)

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Antinea is a special person. We’ve known each other for little over a year but it is as if it were a life time that we have been friends. It was a mutual friend who introduced her to me. With the impending 35th birthday I thought it would be good for me to start some kind of physical activity to keep fit. Amongst the various options the most popular for women in their thirties seemed to be pilates and talking to Marko it came out that her friend Antinea is pilates instructor. There was a nice vibe from the start and despite my stiffness and the struggle to assimilate her teachings I decided to trust her, committing to exercising and trying to overcome my limits. And so it was. I’m sure that without her there would have been no “Cuochi d’artificio” and I am convinced that pilates has greatly contributed to my physical and psychological well-being, giving me not only a new body but also a new mindset. Perhaps at my age I have finally reached a state of equilibrium and for that I must thank Antinea too.

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Maroggia’s Mill Cookbook: Bread in a can / Il Ricettario del Mulino di Maroggia: Pane in lattina

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Today for Maroggia’s Mill Cookbook I want to present you with a very practical and entertaining recipe, as well as delicious of course! Bread in a can is the perfect example of how man can use anything as a cooking tool. Really, there is no point in owning multiple moulds and bread tins when you can re-use tin cans. Besides the result is so nice and the rounded slices of bread are perfect for making appetizers!

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“Cuochi d’artificio”: Sweet Pesto Snails / “Cuochi d’artificio”: Lumachine al “pesto dolce”

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And here we are, time flies doesn’t it? This is my last episode on this season of “Cuochi d’artificio” as the program is taking a well deserved summer break. A challenging adventure which made me grow so much and discover the fascinating world of tv production, one experience I hope to have the honour and privilege to repeat next year. This episode has for a theme snails. Well, nothing more suitable for bread, as dough is often shaped in this guise, and bread snail can be found in bakeries filled with all kind of ingredients, both sweet and savoury. In the past I have used this shaping to make my Crunchy Licorice Snails, Rye and fennel seeds snails with blood oranges and red onion chutney and Poppy seed snails. This time around I thought it could be fun to bake snails that at first glance might seem stuffed with basil pesto…while instead they are flavoured with a fresh mix of minced mint, pine nuts, white chocolate and a touch of grated lemon zest. The dough is 100% vegan. The use of cocoa butter makes it particularly soft, the best vegan bread I have developed so far…it’s really light as a feather and very similar to brioche dough. You can change the filling omitting white chocolate and put another 100% vegan ingredient. Unfortunately my knowledge in this area is limited and my attempt to produce a vegan vanilla custard failed miserably.

Here is a list of the required ingredients and step by step instructions to bake the bread and to make the filling. Here you can see the episode where I explain all the steps to bake these cute snails at home.

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Maroggia’s Mill Cookbook: Pecorino flavoured Tagliatelle / Il Ricettario del Mulino di Maroggia: Tagliatelle al pecorino

Maroggia's Mill Cookbook- Pecorino flavoured Tagliatelle - Il Ricettario del Mulino di Maroggia- Tagliatelle al pecorino 1

Recipe for fresh pasta I’ve already posted plenty on Maroggia’s Mill Cookbook…from farfalle with walnuts and thyme sauce, to the pici with sausage, coffee and hazelnuts sauce and trofie with chestnut and pumpkin sauce. But what I had never tried before was putting another ingredient in the dough…why not try with some cheese to add flavour and taste to the pasta? Luckily Maroggia’s Mill flour for pizza never disappoints me…add my aunt’s happy hens’ eggs and a little cheese and voilà, cheese flavoured pasta! The dough is a bit more delicate than usual fresh pasta, since the presence of cheese tends to make it more prone to breaking. For this reason I advice you to roll it in fairly thick sheets to obtain rustic tagliatelle.
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