Web Original: Critic’s Notebook: From Italy With Love

I first heard of Italian 00 flour while reading Nigella Lawson’s fun and functional cookbook, How to Eat. She calls for this specialty item often in her recipes, urging readers not to substitute with good ol’ all-purpose flour. Double-0 flour is finely ground to a soft, powdery texture and is the ingredient of choice for chefs, like Marc Vetri who specialize in subtle, silky handmade pastas.

Well, recently I spent several hours in my kitchen cranking out handmade ravioli. And, surprise, my pasta’s texture was not as good as I’ve had at Vetri and Osteria. I blamed the utterly plebian all-purpose flour, and resolved to hunt down a bag of the imported 00. In the past, I’ve assumed getting my hands on this stuff would involve Internet research and steep shipping and handling fees. To my delight, it costs $4.99 per pound and is available in both Di Bruno Bros. stores. I wish I had tried to find it sooner. As Nigella promised, it truly does make a difference. My most recent batch of pasta sheets were supple and translucent, delicate and silken. Don’t break out grandma’s pasta maker without it.