Chilopites are traditional Greek egg and milk pasta which are cut either long like tagliatelle and fettuccine or in very small pieces of about 1 cm long and are ideal as a side dish or in soups.
They are cooked in many ways: as a side dish with myzithra on top, which is a local cheese for pasta, or with veal, chicken or lamb in a tomato based sauce.
When some of these products are easily found in supermarkets you take them for granted and do not bother to make them yourself or even learn how they are made. Up to now I had never made them but like everybody else, I used to buy them and in fact the only thing I knew about chilopites is that the dough had eggs in it. Occasionally when wevisited Sparta, we would bring some along with us, which are prepared in small local home businesses. I have heard of one where you can give them the ingredients to make them for you and you just pay them a small amount for making them and even half drying them in their furnaces.
Originally I was planning to post a dish I have prepared more than a month ago with chilopites and have not posted it yet. However, half way through writing the recipe I wanted to post, as I usually do I decided to find out more about chhlopites. I searched the internet and could not find information about the ingredients used or on how they used to make them. At the time my husband was out, so the first person I thought to ask was my sister-in-law Rena. However, Rena had some memories from her childhood but didn’t know all the answers to my questions. Whatever she did not know she asked my mother-in-law, who by the way is 95 years old but her memory is as sharp as a blade and can still remember with details about the past and how they used to make them in their village Isioma, Karyon, Arcadias.
My mother-in-law, apart from having some minor health problems with her feet and cholesterol, is otherwise perfectly healthy and in fact until she was 80 -85 years old she would make crochets and never wore glasses in her life, first for all her children, and then for her grandchildren. She has made for all of us hand crocheted blankets, table spreads, hand made lace and many other things. Many years back I used to consider them old fashioned but as I am growing older I seem to be appreciating them more and many of them can be seen in my pictures.
At the time I called, she was lying down and I didn’t want her to get up so that I would ask her directly. I asked my sister-in-law whatever I wanted to find out about and whatever she did not know then she would ask my mother-in-law. This is what I managed to learn from this conversation.
During the years she lived in the village, and that was until 1960, all the women used to prepare their own pasta. They would usually make their chylopites during the period end of June till end of July, when they had plenty of eggs and flour, the weather was good for the pasta to dry and the children were at home to help. The women would arrange between them which day all of them would gather at one house to make chilopites. All of them would bring along some of the ingredients. One would bring two or three eggs and the other some milk, or both, as they would make large quantities, to last until the following summer. They would then rest for a couple of days and would arrange to go, all of them again, at someone else’s house until all of them had their round. Even the children would help during the procedure by fetching ingredients, watching out on the younger children or helping out whenever they were asked to do something but mainly helping to cut the pasta into small pieces.
Today, I was not planning to cook as I had leftovers from yesterday but after speaking on the phone I changed my mind and decided to make the pasta and consequently I will have this as the main theme for my post.
I had already finished with the dough and was already rolling out the first piece when my husband returned home. I was so glad because it was already 1.30 and I had to hurry up as my daughter would soon be back from school and I needed some help. I began telling him about my previous conversation and as I was rolling out and he was using the manual pasta machine to cut the pasta, he told me some things he remembered as well.
He remembered the women gossiping and how much fun it was to have so many people around their house and the children would contest amongst them who would cut more and whose shape would be better, by cutting them diagonally. Also he remembered that on that day the children would not drink milk because it was reserved for the chylopites.
Everything was hand made. They would roll out the phyllo by hand and would then leave it to dry for a little before cutting the smaller pieces with a knife.
Then they had to spread them on tablecloths somewhere to dry, so all the tables, sofas or other surfaces were packed with chylopites.
My husband remembers that they made huge quantities to last until the next summer. So, if those spaces were not enough to dry them on, they would put some clean sheets on the floor and would lay them there to dry for a couple of days. It was then their responsibility to toss them around during the drying process at least two or three times a day. When they had dried, they had large linen bags, like pillow cases but even bigger and would store them in there and tie the top with a string.
When talking to my mother in law earlier, she also remembered that they would also keep some without cutting them, just as the linguine are today and they would call them “makarounotes”, meaning macaroni shaped. As a special treat in the end they would prepare some dessert, like diples but as they did not always have honey, they ate them with sugar.
It seems that I did not make the quantity they used to do but I have cooked twice as much as I should and the rest we cut them into small pieces and they are on my table to dry for a couple of days and will make a couple or more dishes with them. Later on my husband went and tossed them and I could feel he was moved by the familiar smell and the memories they brought back from his childhood. His exact words were “That’s exactly how they would smell then”.
That’s what I prepared for today, makarounotes with leftover tomato sauce and I am submitting it for this week’s Presto Pasta Night, hosted by Ruth, of Once Upon a Feast and wishing her to have many more Presto Pasta Nights.
Homemade Makarounotes chilopites
- 1 kilo strong wheat flour or 00 flour
- 3 – 4 eggs (I used three)
- 2/3 cup of milk (preferably ewes’ milk)
- ½ teaspoon salt
- Chicken broth (or water with I spoonful olive oil)
- 1 teaspoon salt
Dried myzithra cheese
Or tomato sauce
In the mixer bowl put 2/3 of flour as well as salt and eggs and start mixing. Add milk gradually, until the dough is ready. If the quantity of milk is more than needed just add some of the remaining flour until the dough does not stick on to your hands. Cover with a clean table napkin and let it rest for half an hour.
Take small pieces of dough and roll it out on the pasta machine.I have rolled it on the attachment of my electric mixer gradually from number 1, to 5 and then number 8, making sure to add some flour on the rolled out dough.
Then it will have to be rolled out again on the other attachment which cuts the pasta into stripes or if you don’t have one, you can cut them with a sharp knife.
Once the shredded pasta comes out you must dredge it in flour so that they will not stick together. Place on a clean table cloth and cook immediately, otherwise if stored you will have to leave it for a few days to dry.
Heat the chicken broth or boil water and add olive oil and salt. Put the pasta in and stir occasionally as they keep floating.After ten minutes drain and serve in a big platter on in individual plates.
Grate myzithra on top.
In a small sauce pan heat butter, which should be really hot. Pour a couple of spoonfuls on top of myzithra.
I skipped this procedure as I still had leftover tomato sauce to serve with the pasta.