The Food Life: Mambo Italiano

written by Charity Keita 1st July 2016

Charity Keita needs to brush up on her “all things Italian” skills in anticipation for the exciting year that lies ahead of her.

Hold the press, steady the horses, stop whatever you are doing! I have an announcement! The results are in: I have been accepted at the prestigious Florence University of the Arts to undertake a one year course in wine business and enology! I can’t begin to tell you how exciting this is. Departure for Italy is scheduled for July, at which point I will do an internship at a wine shop in Rome. School starts in September and I will make sure to write back and keep you all up-to-date on the fun times that will be had, the amazing food that will be cooked and eaten, and of course some precious tips on wine that I hope to learn along the way.

I am attempting to immerse myself in as many aspects of Italian culture as I can and am currently putting myself through an intensive Classic Italian film marathon as well as watching the adrenaline-filled TV crime series show Gomorrah; which fictionalises the story of the city of Naples’ notorious blood thirsty crime syndicate the Camorra. I am also, of course, trying to scrub up on my Italian cooking skills, as I am keen to demonstrate to Italians just how good the Italian food we cook here in Kenya is.

Mambo Italiano

As part of my cooking skills improvement drive, I recently managed to convince my good friend Chef Dario Aloisio to give me a special ravioli making class. I have been eating at Chef Dario’s house for half a decade and have always wondered where he finds the energy to come back from working in a busy kitchen and whip up an amazing meal for the family. Once last year, he made a duck ragu with pesto on lasagna sheets that was so good I spent about a month trying, unsuccessfully, to replicate it.

Mambo Italiano

On this occasion I got to Casa Aloisio to find the pasta machine out, a bowl full of eggs, a packet of the finest Italian flour and a creamy pecorino and sukuma wiki filling all ready for me to put together. The thing about ravioli is that if you have a pasta machine then they are basically a walk in the park. Chef Dario patiently showed me how to knead the dough—the eggs and the flour are a ration of ten to one so in this case we went with one kg of pasta and ten eggs. We then fed it through the machine repeatedly, each time diminishing the space between the rollers until a paper fine dough was achieved; I carefully piped the filling onto the dough, folded it over and then cut it with what he referred to in Italian as a “coppapasta”, which I can only guess translates as a dough cutter in English. The guests for the night; a bunch of kids who are used to eating better than well, were a hard group to please. As the ravioli were plated and a pork and tomato sauce that I was told had been bubbling on the stove for the better part of the day was ladled over, I braced myself for the “constructive” feedback.

ricota and pork raviolli

They loved it! As I rubbed my hands in glee, I realised it was Dario who put in all the hard work and all I did was take part in the assembly line. Still… If I come across a pasta machine on my travels, I’ll be sure to make some killer ravioli!

By the way, how do you say “sukuma wiki” in Italian?

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