An Italian transplant’s simple steps to making pasta at home
You may know Matteo Servente as a filmmaker and gelato-maker extraordinaire. But, as it turns out, he makes a fine pasta too. Matteo moved from his home in Italy to Memphis in 2008 for his film work. In the process, he found a great community. “Like a lot of people, I didn’t know how long I was going to stay, but it ended up being a 15 years (and counting) affair,” he says.
Friends and work are the main reasons he’s still here, but he says, “I love this place for much more than that, despite some of its serious issues.”
He’s definitely put down roots.
With a three-year-old son and an American partner, Amber, his goal is to establish as strong a connection as possible with his side of the family. Hence, his gelato business, Zio Matto Gelato and the pasta parties he regularly throws for his and Amber’s friends.
Like his son, his business was born during the pandemic “to bring to Memphis the authentic Italian experience of savoring the most delicious cold treat, prepared the right way,” he says. Thanks to the enthusiastic response he’s gotten since 2021, the business is growing; plans for a brick and mortar are in the works.
Matteo didn’t do much cooking when he lived in Italy because he didn’t have to. That changed when he moved to the U.S. “I love to cook, and for me, it’s all about simple ingredients and the right combinations—much like when making gelato,” he says.
“Nothing beats homemade pasta (tagliatelle, ravioli) with butter and fresh sage sauce.
Pizza helps lift my mood as well. And I make a pretty good one.”
Since pasta-making is normally a social event for Matteo, he invited me to one of his pasta parties. Having failed at making pasta on numerous occasions, I was thankful for the hands-on experience.
Here’s what I learned:
His recipe is simple: eggs and flour. He uses one egg per person, and about 100 grams (1/2 cup) of flour per egg. Now, here’s the trick: Depending on the size of the eggs, you may or may not need all of the flour, so you stop incorporating it when you get the right feel.
You should also plan on just sprinkling flour everywhere when rolling it out—on the table, in the pasta roller, on your hands, back on the pasta…
When using a roller, start at the highest setting and work your way down. When you get through the lowest setting, you can switch to the roller that shapes the dough or hand cut your pasta. Be sure to sprinkle more flour on the cut pasta so it doesn’t stick together!
Cook for a few minutes in water that’s been boiled with a “fistful” of salt and then add to a warm pan covered in melted butter and fresh sage.
Matteo’s Top 5 Noodle Dishes
Needless to say, I haven’t tried all the Italian places in town or all of their dishes. But, if you put me on the spot like that, I’d say:
Tamboli’s Bucatini e Burro
That’s what comfort food is for me. Nothing beats a simple pasta dish, cooked the right way. At Tamboli’s they’re keeping it real and close to what it needs to be: essential, delicious and incredibly satisfying.
Ciao Bella’s Beef Brisket Gnocchi
The match between the juiciness of the meat and the texture of the gnocchi makes this one quite hard to beat.
Ecco’s Spaghetti Aglio e Olio
Once again, simple is the key. Doesn’t get more stripped down than this, but if you’ve ever made yourself a plate of pasta growing up in Italy, this is the one that has made you the happiest.
Andrew Michael’s Raviolo al’Uovo:
I just love this concept. And the yolk burst never gets old.
Catherine and Mary’s Bucatini:
Give me fennel, and I’m a happy person. Add the crunch of the bread crumbs sprinkled over the most fun pasta shape, and you’ll have me in your corner for good.