Chef José Graziosi raves about “Il Carraturo” his favorite kitchen appliance
I made the acquaintance of José Graziosi in Devonshire, in the United Kingdom shortly before Brexit and Corona shook up Europe. He is chef de cuisine at the Endsleigh Hotel. The listed property was built in 1814 for the Duke of Bedford as a hunting lodge and is nestled in 40 acres of fairytale woodland on the edge of the famous Dartmoor nature reserve.
Endsleigh’s garden also provides a rich source of ingredients for the hotel’s kitchen team. So it’s not surprising that my first meeting with José Graziosi is not in the hotel kitchen, but in the middle of a sea of wild garlic flowers. What is surprising, however, is the small wooden box that José Graziosi has tucked under his arm.
José Graziosi – the name sounds Spanish to me – but it also sounds Italian. And that’s exactly what it is. His mother is Spanish, his father Italian. He grew up in Italy. He went to Great Britain because of love. Before José Graziosi came to Endsleigh, he worked for six years for the English star chef Rick Stein in Padstow, Cornwall, among others. José Graziosi starts every working day at Endsleigh with a garden walk, because here he always finds wild herbs that he incorporates into the daily menu. For example, wild sorrel, which grows among the wild garlic. José Graziosi describes himself as a Nature Boy.
A cooking school in a monastery
José Graziosi completed his training at the Santa Maria convent in Abruzzo, Italy. In this convent school for young chefs, he says, a strict regime prevailed. Women and men lived there separately without earthly distractions and in full concentration on the pure art of culinary art. From that time, José has a kitchen instrument that has accompanied him throughout his career in Italy and later abroad. It is precisely this simple wooden box that he has brought to the interview. He proudly shows the Carraturo, like a violinist shows his Stradivarius.
The guitar of Abruzzo
The instrument looks like a very plain guitar, but “Il Carraturo” is the archetype of the pasta machine. Invented around 1800 in Abruzzo. The name Carraturo derives from a dialect of central Italy and means the process when long narrow pasta is made from the dough sheet. Because of its resemblance to a guitar, the Abruzzese also speak of “pasta a la guitarra”. To this day, José Graziosi uses the Carraturo both professionally and privately and is enthusiastic about it. Because the device is simple and ingenious at the same time. “The only maintenance is to occasionally tighten the wires. Like tuning a guitar,” he enthuses. Far from being forgotten, the device would be appreciated by more and more cooks. In Abruzzo, a Carreturo can be found alongside pasta, cheese and olive oil in delicatessens for under 20 euros.
Perfect pasta and the sound of the Carraturo
A little later, in the hotel kitchen, the pasta virtuoso shows us how José plays on the strings of this kitchen machine. Spontaneously, he adds sepia pasta to the menu of the day, because the demonstrative pasta production should not be for nothing. Is there a secret to the perfect pasta dough, I ask him? “The biggest mistake you can make when tackling homemade pasta dough is to keep it too moist. That gives big problems in further processing,” José says. “The most important thing is to stick to the recipe and always use the best ingredients. Also, the dough needs time,” he explains. Before further processing, it rests in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes. All these rules were apparently followed with the prepared jet-black pasta dough. The dough looks supple. A few times it is pulled through the roller until it has the right thickness and also width.
The work surface and the antique machine are well dusted with type 00 flour. The rolled out dough is placed on the carraturo with a swing. Using a rolling pin, José pushes the dough through the wires. Fine strips fall onto the sloping wooden surface and then slide onto the work surface. This process is repeated until enough tagliatelle are formed.
To prevent the pasta from sticking until further preparation, it is again dusted with flour and later cooked à la minute in salted water. José takes a heap of pasta in his hand after the demonstration and says mischievously: “Tagliatelle à la guitarra.”
Then I ask him about his favorite pasta dish. As is so often the case with culinary childhood memories, the grandmother comes into play. José then thinks of his Nonna Stella, who often prepared egg tagliatelle with lamb ragout on Sundays.
At dinner, we have a reunion with the sepia pasta, whose production process we were allowed to follow. The noodles are combined with crab meat and wild sorrel from the garden. They have an intense, yet pleasant spiciness, achieved through a homemade chili oil.
José Graziosi has since moved on with his Carraturo. He no longer works as head chef at Hotel Endsleigh, but as a private chef, organizing cooking classes and events. In the Endsleigh kitchen, they now no longer use the ancestral pasta machine, but continue to use many herbs from the extensive park. For all fans of English garden culture, this place is a real insider tip. The extensive grounds with follies, grottoes and garden pavilions are the last work of England’s great garden architect Humphrey Repton.
Culinary seconds by Angela Berg
Wild herbs are a big theme in the kitchen at Hotel Endsleigh. That’s also how I encounter sorrel here. It grows in abundance in the midst of the wild garlic carpet, and José immediately harvested a bunch of “sorrel” for the evening menu when we met in the garden. Sorrel as a vegetable is very familiar to me. The favorite soup in our family is sorrel soup. The recipe for the original British Sorrel Soup was introduced by my mother-in-law after a visit to England. There she cheered – in 1953 – Queen Elizabeth on the occasion of the coronation celebrations. Back home, she promptly planted sorrel in the garden and the soup became a stalwart appetizer of countless three-course meals in her home. It wasn’t until shortly before her death in 2015 that I was handed the recipe. The continuation of the soup tradition is thus assured and the recipe including the secret ingredient can be read on the website of my delicatessen Peter be blessed – Genusspunkt Küche.
The cost of half board was not charged by the hotel