Hilopites: making fresh or dry pasta for winter soups and stews

Oct 17, 2015

     I can’t recall any summer of my life that we didn’t make dry pasta at home for the winter. What has changed through the years is my role in this family tradition. When I was little and we spent the whole summer at our cottage, my mother, together with the other housewives in our neighborhood, would organize a ‘’hilopites week’’. During this week they would gather at a different house each day and help each other with the hard work of making enough of this pasta for the rest of the year. More hands can make the process easier, faster and actually fun, with lots of laughter, cakes, coffee breaks and gossip. I and the other kids were given a piece of dough to use as a ‘’play dough’’ so as not bother the mums who were working with their rolling pins and knives. 
     Nowadays we make even more pasta for the tavern, and not just in summer but during winter as well. Rolling pins have been replaced with pasta machines and my adult role calls for fast hands on the bench. 
     Summer’s hot weather is. of course, ideal to dry the pasta in only  two days, but you can make pasta indoors all year long as long as your house is not humid and there is proper heating and fresh air. It just takes a few more days for the pasta to dry indoors. 
Hilopites  are the most common type of traditional pasta in Greece. Though the shape can vary a little from short ‘’linguine’’ to small squares, there is no right or wrong. Here in Peloponnese we make the small squares, shapes that can be easily used in soups, stews and savory pies. The type of flour used is ‘’bread wheat flour’’ but it can be substituted with all purpose flour and, if you like, some fine semolina too can be added to the mix. The other three ingredients are eggs, pasteurized milk, and a little salt for taste and the preservation of the dry pasta.
 Of course you can use this recipe to make fresh pasta too. The nice thing with homemade pasta is that after only three minutes of cooking and some grated cheese added, you have a lovely meal.


1kg bread wheat flour
7 eggs
500gr pasteurized milk
2tsps of sea salt

     In a bowl (or in the stand mixer bowl) beat the eggs, add 400gr of the milk, the salt,
and mix to incorporate. Add the flour to the egg mixture little by little while at the same time mixing the dough until you get a slightly sticky but firm dough. If needed add the remaining 100gr of the milk. (Since not all eggs are the same size, it is better to be on the safe side and save some milk to check if it is needed to achieve the right texture for the dough) Knead the dough on a well floured working surface. Return the dough to the mixing bowl, cover with plastic wrap to protect from drying, and let the dough rest on the kitchen bench for an hour.
     If you use a pasta machine, you cut the dough in small pieces the size of a ping-pong ball. 
     Turn the dial of the flat rollers to the widest setting, - usually number ‘’1’’ on the dialer. Dust the piece of dough and flatten it into a rectangular shape and feed it through the flat rollers. Set the rollers to number ‘’3’’ and repeat the procedure, dusting with some flour if needed. Now follows number ‘’5’’ and finally number ‘’7’’. As the dough sheets become thinner they also become longer so you might need someone to help you transfer the dough sheets to a table lined with a clean bed sheet to rest until the next step.

     If you work on your own you can cut the dough sheets shorter and this way make it easier for you  to hold  the dough with one hand while turning the crank with the other hand. If a piece of dough sheet gets torn, don’t worry; just fold it and roll it again from the beginning. 
 In case you intend to roll the dough by hand, like the old days, you divide it into six pieces.  You roll each piece to a 1mm thickness sheet using enough flour to prevent the dough from sticking on your working surface. Transfer the sheets with the help of the rolling pin to a table lined with a clean bed sheet.
For easy hilopites, you now cut the sheets into 4cm long pieces and simply ’’feed’’ them through the linguine cutter. Transfer the hilopites to the cotton sheet and let them dry as much as needed. 
For the Peloponnesian square hilopites, cut the rolled sheets into 12-15 long pieces and pass them through the linguine cutter (see picture). Now very carefully cut the linguine vertically into small squares (see picture) with a chef’s knife on a cutting board.  Transfer the square hilopites to the bed sheet and let them dry as much as needed or cook them fresh.
Store the dried hilopites in a cookie box for up to a year.

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