A project documenting ancestral family pasta recipes in Italy

There are hundreds of styles of pasta in Italy, and their origins and how they are made are different. Even the way they are served varies. Italian pasta ranges from pasta added to vegetable soups – such as zumari to short pasta – abbotta pezziende, ricci, gnocchi, corzetti and avemarie, and many more.

Today an interesting project is to document and share old recipes of pasta dishes made all over Italy.

Started by Vicky Bennison, who worked in international development in places like Siberia, South Africa and Turkmenistan, before moving on to writing books. She has written “The Taste of a Place” food guides that tell you where to find good food and wine in Corfu, Mallorca and Andalucia. The books have been recommended by The Observer, The Times and Delia Smith Online, among others.

Bennison has a home in Marche, central Italy, where – almost 10 years ago – she noticed that only elderly women were making pasta by hand on a daily basis. “The over-80s are the last generation to have had to do this to put food on the table. For all the younger people, it’s a choice,” she says. “I thought of two things: I would like to take stock of their skills; and second, it’s a good opportunity to celebrate older women who are too often invisible in food media.”


Working on the project brought her throughout Italy, from the mountains of Alto Adige to the Egadi Islands in Sicily. “Our youngest grandmother was 44 when we filmed her, and our eldest is 102.”

The series has also been turned into two cookbooks.

Bennison says she turned to making videos because of the physics of making pasta. The Pasta Grannies YouTube channel went viral five years ago and both cookbooks “talk” to the channel, complementing it and giving fans something tangible to read and enjoy.

So far, 430 women (and a few men) have appeared on the channel. And their collective stories of culinary heritage are incredible. For example, there’s the 100-year-old story of Giuseppa, which Bennison says might appeal to younger, less wasteful generations. “She was a seamstress specializing in traditional Sardinian costumes who loved her job so much that she was not interested in getting married. She finally did in her thirties (which is very unusual for the time). redesigned her coat twice, she still wears it as a jacket, more than 60 years later, she only recently gave up the vegetable garden.

Then there is Maria, 100 years old, from Calabria, who made chairs and at the same time had to take care of her farm. She spends most of her year with her daughter in Rome but returns to Calabria for the summer months. “Wherever she is, she makes a little vegetable garden, in pots if necessary. It makes where she is a home. Her story is described in book two.”

For Bennison, the channel is a fun way to use new technology to make “old-fashioned” cooking accessible and inspire younger audiences. “Pasta Grannies stats tell me that the YouTube channel and Instagram feed are most popular with 25-35 year olds – so there are a lot of young people interested in cooking from scratch – although that’s not “It’s only weekends. And of course, it’s ceased to be women’s work. Now men are just as enthusiastic.”