The story of trofie (or troffie or trofiette) speaks of women seated at the kitchen table rhythmically modelling, one by one, with a swift and expert gesture of the palm of their hands, hundreds of little twists of fresh pasta all identical to each other. It speaks of women who spent slow and monotonous hours preparing the meal for their family of whichever day of the week. It speaks of women who also brought home the bacon with the experience matured in years spent kneading the dough, because restaurants and pasta laboratories in the area brought them at home tender wheat and the next day came to pick up the fresh beautiful trofie just handmade, ready to be cooked or to be re-sold.
Once the repositories of this household art lived only in the small villages overlooking the Golfo Paradiso, a small gulf closed to Genoa: Sori, Recco, Uscio, Camogli. And even today you can find the few remaining knotted expert hands that make trofie without even thinking hidden between the walls of some small house with wooden window frames and faded red plaster overlooking the sea.
TofIie, now known all over the world, have become famous only since the 1960s when the pasta makers s of the area began to widen their market and to offer this special pasta also in the city and along the East Italian Riviera. The success was so rapid that the time to make them by hand was not enough anymore and so the first artisanal machines were invented. From there the jump to the “dry”, longer lasting, version was short. This allowed the trofia, once a small-town fresh pasta, to travel around the world on the harm of pesto sauce, his faithful spouse.
In autumn and winter, trofie were prepared with the addition of chestnut flour as in the Italian Riviera backcountries chestnuts trees were abounding and chestnuts were much cheaper than white wheat, which was most of the times imported.
If you are curious about the nice story of chestnuts in the Italian Riviera, you can have a look at my post “Dried Chestnuts of Bormida Valley”, a slow food presidia of Liguria.
Chestnut trofie have an ancient flavour, slightly sweet and smoked. Their favourite seasoning is always pesto sauce, maybe a little “rude” pesto made with a lot of garlic and pecorino cheese. Traditionally, though, they also go with a simple milk and cheese cream.
The story that trofie take with is definitely intimidating, but I do not surrender that easily, especially when it comes to bake up some dough. So I decided to do trofie by hand, like Sori housewives used to a long time ago. I admit it takes a bit of practice but you get it pretty fast. Certainly one is not immediately able to model wonderful shavings perfectly screwed and all of the same size. Just thinking it as possible would mean disrespecting the ancient tradition. But just with a little patience one can make lots of tapered sticks that pick up the sauce very well. And when they are there, all closed to each other completely dusted with flour, they give such a great satisfaction!
It’s worthy, enjoy!
If you need to see a gesture to understand it, like I do, here there are a couple of the most interesting videos I found on youtube: traditional method, another traditional method, and simplified method for beginners.
If you are in Genoa and want to buy some great fresh trofie here are my suggested pasta makers: Pastificio Danielli, in Via Galata, in front of the Old Fruit Market (Mercato Orientale) and Tiziano, in the neighborhood of Quinto (on the seaside) Via Giannelli.
Did you enjoy in hand making traditional fresh pasta? Therefore you must try also piccagge verdi (a green homemade pasta) or corzetti or even pansotti (the traditional Italian Riviera ravioli filled just with herbs)!
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