The Passing Down of Pasta

June 18, 2013 | By | Comments (11)

(Photo by E. Spencer Toy)

Sunset recipe retester Kevyn Allard, an avid home cook, had never made fresh orecchiette pasta before. But for a story in our June issue, we asked her to give it a go, to make sure our recipe worked. Strangely enough, her uncle Mike had called her just days earlier. He had a gift for Kevyn, he said: her Italian grandmother’s pasta knife, which he’d just rediscovered nearly a decade after her death.

Kevyn’s grandmother, Rose, was from Puglia, the birthplace of strascinati, or “dragged pastas”—a whole family of Italian pastas formed by dragging nubbins of dough across a wooden board; orecchiette (“little ears”) is the most famous member. (Ladies in Bari, the capital of Puglia, do it by hand to this day, and it’s a marvel to watch.)

Rose’s version, which she just called strascinati, was a simpler, shell-shaped type, and Kevyn had vivid childhood memories of her Nonna making heaps of it using her special knife. Although Kevyn had been too young at the time to learn, and her own mother wasn’t interested in cooking, many a family photo show Rose in the act of teaching some relative or the other how to make the pasta of their heritage. Afterward, she’d tuck the knife away in her purse, ready for the next time.

Fiorentino - strascinati

Using her special pasta knife, Rose Fiorentino shows her son Mike how to make strascinati in the early 1990s. 

Uncle Mike sent Kevyn the knife. It was delicate and a little worn, with a fancy column handle and a rounded tip; it had probably been made in the 1920s. As fate would have it, a week after she received her gift, Mike passed away. “It’s almost as though Grandma was telling him to hurry up and give it to me,” said Kevyn.

She brought her grandma’s knife into Sunset’s test kitchen, and proved to be an ace at making orecchiette, right out of the gate. Some things are meant to be.

Orecchiette 101: Make this simple pasta at home tonight.

Two great recipes: Serve Orecchiette with clams, chiles, and parsley or cherry tomatoes, marjoram and ricotta salata



  1. Paul Mastrototoro

    I recently saw this and i remember making stracinats with my grandma zingarelli
    also from Bisceglia near Bari.The picture brought back many great memories.

    October 9, 2015 at 9:23 am
  2. Holly (Fiorentino) Cornelison

    I love this article! After watching my grandmother make this pasta for many years, I decided to recently give it a try. It took me quite a while to get the hang of it and I am so amazed at how quickly she was able to make her pasta. She always had it waiting for us each time we would visit her. I miss her so much and am so glad that Kevyn was able to bring her memory to Sunset. Also love the story about Uncle Mike and the knife. God is good!

    June 20, 2013 at 7:45 pm
  3. Steven Fiorentino

    This was very nice to see. I can remember Grandma saying Manga, Manga, make Grandma happy. I was happy to comply and usually fell asleep under the table with Dad after. “Food Coma”!

    June 20, 2013 at 12:12 pm
  4. Cheryl Zingarelli Love

    I recall the making of the pasta by my grandmother, Rosa Zingarelli and my Aunt (shown the picture) on several occasions. They were always eager to show any of us how it was done. These are delicate pasta’s that were a staple in our family for many decades. I love the photo and how adorable she looks in it. Thanks for passing this along. I miss them so very much. Thank you Kevyn!

    June 19, 2013 at 11:12 pm
  5. Lisa Fiorentino

    It’s wonderful that Kevyn and Sunset have strived to keep us all in touch with our roots! I have great memories of watching in awe as my grandmother cooked incredible meals from scratch. She made pasta dinner every Sunday for as many members of the family that could show up. We would sit for hours around the table eating and talking until we were so full we could hardly move! Thank you so much for honoring our tradition with this article.

    June 19, 2013 at 5:18 pm
  6. Bev Watson

    So wonderful of Barbara to share Tony’s mother’s mother’s article! Thanks guys. This is great! Loved the article and the family connection. Something for the Fiorintinos to cherish and pass on to grandchildren.

    June 19, 2013 at 4:58 pm
  7. Christy Ferreria

    I kinda remember her making pasta, but I was young and not interested at the time. It is very sad because I lived in the same town as her and I should have taken the time to learn. I did not have the knowledge then and I should have cherished the time that you do have with your love ones. I had to age fast (most people say that I have a very old soul) do to the very tragic events in my life. I work right by Grandma’s old house and I tend to drive by there often staring at her house and wishing that she stilled live there and hoping that I could go inside and visit with her and my father and have some pasta.
    Thanks for the memory,
    Christy Ferreria

    June 19, 2013 at 12:37 pm
  8. Matt Allard

    What a great story! Brings back a lot of great memories of family, love and food. The Fiorentino way!

    June 19, 2013 at 11:43 am
  9. Margo True

    Hello Arlene and Karen,
    Now Kevyn can teach you!

    June 19, 2013 at 9:39 am
  10. Karen Christensen

    This picture brings back such fond and vivid memories of my grandmother making stascinati. My two sisters and I would go there all of the time and she would be amking them- with that knife. My regret is that I never truly learned from her how to make them correctly. She was the best cook. Grandma was a special lady and I love her always!!!

    June 18, 2013 at 9:06 pm
  11. Arlene Fiorentino

    Dear Sunset, Kevyn has alerted her family, and it’s a huge one, to check into your story. I am “Uncle Mike’s” widow and can assure you that Scottish fingers are not adept at forming strascinati, since I never could master the art. Mine were called “lumpies”. Thank you for the memory.

    Arlene Fiorentino

    June 18, 2013 at 5:18 pm

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