“That’s a Happy Sound”

August 20, 2010

Tortellini

I took a break from the post I was working on today to walk to Capone Foods and pick up a few kitchen essentials (wine vinegar, canned Spanish tuna, prosciutto cotto). If you look to the left when you’re paying for your purchases, you can see the pasta machine in the back room extruding continuous sheets of foot-wide pasta that are collected on a large roller. That machine has been a constant source of fascination for He Who Will Not Be Ignored. Today, when I had a look, Al the proprietor mentioned that the pasta would be used to make tortellini on his other machine.

I hadn’t really thought about it before, but it made perfect sense that Capone’s tortellini, which is sold frozen in many different varieties, would have to be made by machine. The alternative would be converting that back room into a sweatshop full of Italian nonnas furiously pinching off individual pieces. When I guessed that the machine would function similarly to a fortune cookine machine (which I had seen on the Food Network), he invited me and He Who Will Not Be Ignored to watch the device in action.

The roll of fresh pasta, on a thick nylon (low-friction) axle, is set on the top of the machine and the free end is fed into a slot. A series of rollers, knives, and pins bangs out four tortellini per second, as seen here (excuse the video quality, converted from my iPhone):

Al told me he’d make about 15,000 tortellini in an hour, as long as the temperamental machine didn’t need to be fussed with. As I returned to the counter to retrieve my bag, I could hear the rhythmic thunking of the machine at work. Al cocked his head to the side, listening. A smile crossed his face: “That’s a happy sound.”

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