Pasta Grannies: A Heartwarming Peek Into Italian Home Kitchens
Updated: May 9
I first came across the Pasta Grannies YouTube account while living in Turin back in 2018. Pasta Grannies posts short episodes (roughly 10 minutes or less) featuring one nonna (grandma) - 65 and older - making a pasta dish from scratch in her home kitchen.
With a small crew as their captive audience, these women tell their stories and invite viewers in to witness the creation of traditional pasta dishes.
Creator of Pasta Grannies Vicky Bennison worked in the field of international development for years, before moving on to writing food guides and cookbooks. It was during this time that she developed the idea for Pasta Grannies. You can find a great interview with Bennison here, where she describes in detail almost everything you might want to know about her beloved project.
Pasta Grannies is equal parts good humor and focused execution. I am captivated by the "granny" featured in each episode. As I watch their hands kneading, rolling, and shaping the pasta dough, I note how at ease each woman seems to be while she practices something that may have taken years to master. These cooks share their techniques and personal stories generously. Sometimes I wonder if the grannies think it is hilarious that an international production crew is taking the time to film something they could do with their eyes closed.
Bennison explains on the Pasta Grannies' website, that she created the series to "celebrate these women and their skills by filming them;" by doing so she is also doing a great deal more. As pasta-making becomes less common with each successive generation, documenting this part of Italy's cultural heritage becomes increasingly important.
There are currently over one-hundred episodes on the Pasta Grannies website and on YouTube. Bennison's cookbook Pasta Grannies: The Secrets of Italy's Best Home Cooks, is a compilation of the recipes she has collected from the women who have welcomed her and her crew into their kitchens over the years.
Pasta Grannies showcases the diversity of Italy's culinary traditions beautifully. By organizing the episodes and recipes (in the cookbook) by region, viewers and readers can appreciate each dish in the much larger context of "Italian food".
In addition to learning the how (how the pasta is made), we also learn about the who (who is this home cook, and who - or perhaps which cultures - may have influenced this dish), what (what is the significance of the ingredients being used), why (why use a particular pasta shape, or, why does one region use egg in pasta dough while another region does not), and finally, the where (which region, or regions, of Italy claim the dish today).
In addition to honoring the simple preparation of food, this happy virtual gathering place reveres the experience, wisdom, and dedication of these women. It also reveals Italy's complexity and highlights strong traditions fostered over centuries.
In each episode, we are invited into the heart of an Italian home. As viewers are warmly welcomed into each granny's kitchen, we are reminded that food is so much more than sustenance. It is an expression of care, of culture, and of history. It is memory and legacy.
Pasta Grannies is an incredible reminder of the treasures contained within the minds and hands of these - and all - of the older generations of home cooks around the world.
Selected Pasta Grannies Videos:
"Pasta Grannies meet 100 year old Letizia - our oldest Pasta Granny yet!"
Letizia, from Trapani in Sicily, explains that although she is is "no longer young" she still enjoys making the same pasta that her grandparents and parents made for her; "the same pasta she made for [her] children during the war to keep them from going hungry."
"Pasta Grannies make cappelletti with Velia & husband Venanzo"
Velia and Venanzo live in the region of Marche, on a farm that overlooks a lake. While Velia does most of the heavy lifting, it is clear that Venanzo enjoys being in the kitchen with Velia, helping where he can (or where he is allowed to!)
"Pasta Grannies celebrate World Pasta Day with a lasagna competition!" Filmed on October 25, 2018 (World Pasta Day), this episode features a lasagna competition, in Turin's Mirafiori Sud. As the video's description states: "Progetto Essere Anziani a Mirafiori sud" (To Be Elderly in South Mirafiori) "uses pasta events to get women and men involved, thereby combating loneliness".
Where to Find Pasta Grannies
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Update: I will add to the Writing in Turin collection periodically, to give me the freedom to explore other, non-Turin-related subjects as well.