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Originally published May 17, 2013 at 11:50 AM | Page modified May 21, 2013 at 5:01 PM

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Italy on the plate by way of Ballard

Five-year-old Pasteria Lucchese specializes in handmade pastas plus a short roster of sauces and sweets found year-round at the Ballard Sunday Farmers Market and at other local seasonal markets.

Seattle Times food writer

See how it's done

To watch the master pastamakers in action and learn, see www.seattletimes.com/pacificnw.

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SAMUELE LUCCHESE had me at "Ciao."

And that was before I tasted the farmers market pastaman's chard pansotti ("the ravioli of Genoa!").

What's more, when the magnanimous Genovese turned me on to his wife's rice pudding — grains of Arborio fattened with cream and finished with a big kiss of vanilla — I could have kissed her, too.

Sara Lucchese learned that sweet trick during a year studying the culinary art in Florence, Italy. Though it wasn't until she went looking for a pastry chef's job back home that she met her Italian sweetheart, a former Olympia restaurateur.

"As soon as I saw her," Sam says with a wink, "I knew I was in trouble."

Five-year-old Pasteria Lucchese (say loo-KEH-ze) specializes in handmade pastas plus a short roster of sauces and sweets found year-round at the Ballard Sunday Farmers Market and at seasonal markets in Wallingford, Queen Anne, Madrona, Lake Forest Park and Edmonds.

When he isn't charming market matrons or delivering ravioli to restaurants such as BOKA and La Fontana, Sam works side-by-side with his bride in a garage next to their Ballard home. Viewed from the street, their commercial kitchen looks like something Snow White might find in an enchanted forest: a cottage fit for a cottage industry.

On a warm spring day, the scent of thyme-roasted rabbit and the sound of Ziggy Marley waft through its Italianate double doors. ("Guess where we got them? Home Depot!")

"Ciao!" they call as neighbors pass, pushing strollers or stopping in their running shoes to shout "What's cooking?"

This mom 'n' pop shop comes outfitted with a professional KitchenAid mixer, a hand-cranked Imperia pasta roller and a recent investment — a pair of commercial pasta machines that allowed them to crank up the volume on restaurant sales. "But this!" says Sam, brandishing a handheld pasta wheel, "That's all you need!" Sara chimes in.

Proving the point, they deftly run those simple gadgets through pasta sheets meticulously piped with wild boar filling. Then they fold, pinch and crimp each broad strip to produce wild boar plin. (At $13 for a two-serving package, it's always a sellout.)

They work swiftly ahead of the weekend rush and cherish Sunday afternoons when, by 4 p.m., they can put their feet up. "That's our day off."

On my next day off, I intend to take the couple's advice, pull out my trusty (if dusty) Atlas pasta maker and roll my own, incorporating Lucchese tricks of the trade:

Forget the all-purpose flour, says Sam. "You gotta use tipo 00," finely milled Italian soft-wheat flour; he favors le 5 Stagioni brand, available at DeLaurenti. I'll also need large, fresh eggs and my kitchen scale: "Weigh 100 grams of flour for one egg," says Sam. "But if you use 300 grams, use three whole eggs plus a fourth yolk."

Sara encouraged me to go old-school Italian: "Put the flour on the table, make a volcano, add the eggs to it and use a fork to break them up. Add a pinch of salt and, with your fingers, slowly incorporate the flour from the edges," kneading until the dough is "tender but not sticky."

"Then let it rest," Sam insists. "Do it old-fashioned! Grab a pot and put it over the dough, upside-down. My grandma, she'd never use plastic wrap. Never, ever, ever!"

Once rolled, filled or cut, my pasta should be cooked immediately — or frozen on a flour-dusted sheet pan, to be bagged up after.

And when I put my big pot on to boil, urges Sara, "Salt the pasta water. You want it to taste like the sea."

Nancy Leson is The Seattle Times' food writer. Reach her at nleson@seattletimes.com. Mike Siegel is a Times staff photographer.

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