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X Italian Pasta Dishes
Fusilli con Suc and/or Fusilli al ragu
Originated from: Casacalenda, Molise, Italy
Occasion: Madonna and San Antonio Feast Days
Contributed by: Mary Melfi (her mother's recipe)

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For Home-made Fusilli dough*

4 cups of flour
1 1/2 cups water**

** Measurement is approximate

For tossing
Home-made tomato sauce
Grated Parmesan cheese


Step 1 -- A. To make home-made pasta the old-fashioned way you put the 4 cups or so of flour on a floured wooden board, gather it all up into a mound, make a well or hole in the center, then add water a little at a time, slowly mixing the water and flour. Form the mixture into a thick ball of dough. Continue mixing until the ball of dough cannot absorb any more water (if the dough is too dry add more water, if it's too wet, add more flour). Knead the dough on the well-floured wooden board for about ten minutes.

Step 1 -- Version B. For those who have a Kitchen Aid, or any other type of electric kneader, the process is ridiculously simple and no explanation is required -- simply knead for about 10 minutes at medium speed.

Step 1 -- Version C. For those who don't have a Kitchen Aid and don't want to do it the old-fashioned way, one can mix the dough in a big bowl (It's easier than doing it on a wooden board) and knead for about 10 minutes.

Step 2. When you have a pasta dough that is smooth and malleable, form a ball and then place it under a container. Place a kitchen towel over the container (to keep it warm).

Step 3. Let the dough rest for an hour or two at room temperature.

Step 4. Knead the "rested" dough for four or five minutes.

Step 5. Let the "rested" and "re-kneaded" dough rest for another two to three hours (Actually, one can skip Step 4. Kneading twice is not all that important. The important part is to let the dough rest for a few hours [or over-night], as one will get a more malleable dough by doing this.

Step 6. Remove the rested dough from the container and form in a cylinder roll. Slice a piece of dough (about 2" x 2"), flatten it with your hands, and then pass it through the pasta maker at the widest setting. If it doesn't come out nice and smooth, flour the pasta sheet and pass it through the pasta machine again (The process of passing the dough through the pasta machine, besides flattening it out, also "kneads" it).

Step 7. Adjust the pasta machine to a smaller setting, and pass the pasta sheet through the roller once again.

Step 8. Continue passing the pasta sheet to smaller settings until you get to the required thickness -- about 1/8th of an inch [Thinner than a cavatelli dough]. Generally the second to last setting will get a pasta sheet that is the right thickness. The length of the pasta sheet will not matter as it is will be cut into smaller pieces. After one has finished one pasta sheet, place the remaining pasta ball in the container, cover and process the first set of fusilli (The dough hardens, so it is best to process one pasta sheet at a time).

Step 9. Place the rolled-out pasta sheet on a thinly floured wooden board and cut thin strips of dough -- about 1 1/4 inch long and 3/4 inch wide.

Step 10 -- Version A. Using a fusilli rod roll up the strips of dough around the rod, twisting it to make the desired shape. Remove the fusilli rod, and continue processing all the strips of dough. If one does not have a fusilli rod one can improvise and use a knitting needle, or one can opt for Step 10 -- Version B.

Step 10 -- Version B. If one does not have a fusilli rod one can twist the dough to the desired shape by taking each strip of dough [1 1/4 inch long by 3/4 inch wide] and twisting one end of the strip in one direction, and the other end in the opposite direction with the ends of one fingers.... Keep doing this until all the strips are twisted.

Step 11. Place the fusilli on a lightly floured cookie sheet (one that will fit inside the freezer) and spread the fusilli out. Place the cookie sheet in the freezer. P.S. Technically one does not have to freeze the fusilli, one can air-dry them for about an hour, and then cook them. This might actually might be the best way of preparing them. However, because of the delicate structure of the fusilli, the freezing does help the fusilli to retain their shape.

Step 12. When the fusilli are completely frozen (wait at least two hours), then one can either cook them at this time, or one can place them in a plastic bag or container [frozen, they will not stick together] and return them to the freeze. N.B. Some professional cooks put the frozen fusilli in a strainer, and strain out any excess flour still clinging to the pasta, prior to re-freezing them, but this is not absolutely necessary.

Step 13. When needed, take the fusilli out of the freezer and cook them in a large pot of boiling salted water. Let them cook for about four to six minutes (You can take them out when they rise up to the surface, but many people prefer to cook them longer so that they'll be softer.).

Step 14. Toss the fusilli with home-made tomato sauce and grated Parmesan cheese.

Step 17. Serve warm.


Fusilli are a traditional part of Molisan cooking. Prior to World War II they were generally done on religious feast days -- in particular, The Feast Day of the Madonna della Difesa and The Feast Day of San Antonio of Padua (June 13th). Despite the fact that they were done for these special occasions the pasta used to make the fusilli did not contain any eggs at that time (Pasta that contained eggs was perceived as being of "higher" quality.). In any case, fusilli were (according to my mother) always tossed with "red sauce." At that time people referred to their tomato paste sauce as "suc," sauce, and that was it. Italian Canadians still call their red sauce "suc." However, nowadays most people in Casacalenda refer to this style of tossing sauce as "ragu." Big North American food companies now sell Italian-style tomato sauce as "ragu" so slowly first generation Italians (Those who are still lucky enough to be around) sometimes might use the word, "ragu," instead of "suc" when they speak to their great grandkids about what kind of sauce they made..... In the 1930s "red sauce" was perceived as being of "higher" quality than Southern-style "white sauce" (one without tomatoes) and so that's why "red sauce" was used on feast days. Nonetheless, not everyone in the countryside made fusilli (Too much trouble!). My own mother never made them in Italy, nor did she make them in Canada. She decided they're too difficult to do. In fact, if one isn't too particular (One doesn't expect perfection!) fusilli are quite easy to do. One simply twists the strands of pasta with one's fingers, and you get a pretty nice looking fusilli. They're not as easy as making cavatelli, but simple enough (If one is in the right mood, that is).... Photo: Mary Melfi.

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