Pasta Making course in Battista – Palau, Sardinia, Italy

We woke after a wonderfully quiet night in Padru as the big day had arrived. No, we have not yet had our visit from the big man in the red suit. Today, we were booked in for a Pasta Making course. We had contacted Simonetta Bazzu not long after we arrived in Sardinia, after having seen her on Stanley Tucci’s “Searching for Italy” programme available on BBC IPlayer (thanks again Claire for the recommendation). Simonetta was very much the star of the show. She has left behind a career in her family’s very successful construction company, built by her father and a doctorate in law to pursue her passion to pass on the cuisine of Sardinia, taught to her by her grandmother. We have been looking forward to this for a long time. We managed to work our timetable with Simonetta’s, after the cancelled Scilly ferry, as she now also travels the world promoting Sardinia cuisine for Eataly.

The setting for the course was Battista, now a ghost village with only one part time resident plus Simonetta’s house which she uses for her course, though lives elsewhere currently. The village was once home to 35 families of 5-10 people, an important trading hub in the route to the mountains for shepherds and farmers with their animals. Simonetta has now bought a number of the derelict buildings and embarked on her lifetime project of renovation. Her first completed project was the house of her grandparents, which from the outside, with no windows at the front, looks uninviting. However inside there is a living room with mezzanine bedroom, the original stove remaining on the front wall, the one room was once home to a family of 8. This then opened to what would have been the barn for the animals, now an open plan living / dining/ kitchen with an open log fire in the corner. It was one of the most homely welcoming houses we have ever visited.

Arrived at Battista

The day started with a coffee and home baked Christmas bakes – to give us energy for hand pasta making. We soon moved on to the 15ft+ long wooden dining table with tree trunk legs which supports courses of up to 15 in the summer. Today we were lucky enough to have Simonetta to ourselves for the day. We used organic semolina developed by Simonetta grown in a specific region of Sardinia renowned for having the right soil and using traditional grains. A simple mix of semolina, water and salt, no eggs here – it was only the rich northern Italian’s who could afford to make their pasta with eggs. First, much elbow grease for kneading, then you could feel the elasticity change in the dough followed by a short 10 minute rest. We were then ready to make several different types of traditional Sardinia pasta:

  • Maccarones de busa
  • Chjusoni
  • Maloreddus
  • Lorighuttas
  • Bruca
  • Spitzulas
  • Gravellus
  • Culurgiones

As anyone who knows us will guess, Kevin was the natural talent at the pasta making, being the chef in our house. Much to Kevin’s delight, Simonetta told me more than once what a lucky woman I am 😂 as he excelled on the pasta making. I think she was pleased we were not hopeless as she mentioned a course with some Australians which overran by hours as each shape took 15 mins to make. Simonetta is very passionate about preserving the traditions of her beloved island of Sardinia and gives free courses to any Sardinian wanting to learn. This really comes across throughout the course in her enthusiasm for her subject.

After a really impressively large pile of pasta was made from one bowl of semolina, it was time to visit Simonetta’s artisan winery preparing wines from her own vineyard in Battista. She does have the advantage of a vintner for a husband though. The wine is prepared with a hand press and she had several years vintage racked up. She selected a bottle for us to have with our lunch, which she went off to prepare from the pasta we had made that morning. We took the girls for a walk around the small hamlet of Battista in the sunshine.

The derelict houses of Battista awaiting renovation

Lunch turned out to be quite a feast of home made food. No meat, as traditionally meat was a rare occurrence, animals being used for milk and cheese and too precious to slaughter for food. We had two pasta courses, one of Maccarones de busa, literally macaroni made with a knitting needle, long tubes of pasta cooked with local cheese and artichokes. Alongside this there was a tomato and home grown aubergine salsa, made with just olive oil and onions. Plus several “starters” – goats cheese of different ages, one with a kind of jam, another with honey and walnuts, a pie with artichokes and cheese.

Then a second pasta course, a favourite of Simonetta’s son, Ivan, Chjusoni made with the funny pimply side of a grater! Served again with a very simple tomato sauce which bears no resemblance to any that you buy in the UK, so much simpler but tastier. all washed down with Simonetta’s red wine name after her son Ivan and her sadly deceased brother, his namesake.

We had sample of local liqueurs as a digestive and were presented with the gift of a bag of the special semolina and a pasta making ladle. We are very excited to give this a go at home! It seems that Sardinia is one of only 5 “Blue Zones” in the world where people regularly live to 100 years old. The food and wine are apparently part of this secret. It seems part of Simonetta’s secret to a healthy body is making pasta fresh each day. I think it is like the effort to eat celery, calories burned in the production of pasta offsets some of that consumed! We can certainly understand how the haven which is Battista and the simple life of growing and making your own food in such a homely setting, would be a much better recipe for a long life than more modern ways of life.

When we stepped out from the course, the clouds had gathered and we saw some spectacular skies of sunbeams and shadows playing across the hills as we headed north. We took the drive all the way to Palau on the north coast. Tomorrow, we will take the 20 minute ferry to La Maddalena, a small island off the coast, that we can see from where we are parked at the marina.

View to Madellena island

For anyone interested in a course with Simonetta – her website is below. Highly recommend.

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