cucina bene; mangia bene (the beauty of fresh pasta)
I was given a pasta machine as a gift in 1986 along with a recipe and instruction book. I learned how to make fresh pasta after much trial and error and soon was making different varieties: black pepper, spinach, lemon, herb, etc. I bought some different cutters I could attach to my machine so I could make pappardelle, tagliarini, linguine, and trenette. After I met Bruce in 1990, I introduced him to the magic of fresh pasta, and soon we were entertaining friends on a frequent basis with pasta parties. We would make a batch of tomato sauce and I would make the pasta. Everyone got the opportunity to try their hand at the pasta machine and no one went home hungry! Those pasta parties were the precursor to the small dinner party/interactive cooking class service we are now offering. What a great way to learn a new cooking technique in a totally comfortable setting: your home surrounded by family and friends.
Anyway, I made a lot of fresh pasta when I was in culinary school, and it was cool to see that although I was self-taught, I had been doing it right all those years. I did learn a few new techniques with making stuffed pasta: ravioli, pansotti, tortellini, tortelli, and cannelloni which definitely yielded better results than the way I made stuffed pasta before. Fresh pasta can be made with eggs or without. If it’s made with eggs, it’s most likely from northern or central Italy and is usually served as a tagliatelli, pappardelle, or lasagne. If it’s made without eggs, it will consist of semolina flour and water (or sometimes wine), or for a softer consistency, it can be made with flour, semolina and water. These types of pastas are usually from central or southern Italy such as orecchiette. Of course there are literally hundreds of variations, sizes, shapes, and names of fresh and dried pasta in Italy, many of which no American has ever heard of or had the pleasure of eating. There is a great book available called Encyclopedia of Pasta by Oretta Zanini De Vita. The book was translated from Italian in 2009. Oretta spent 10 years traveling through Italy talking to its oldest citizens and documenting their pasta memories. It’s a fascinating book and a great reference for anyone who truly loves all things Italian as I do.
I have been toying with a dried mushroom pasta. It’s getting to be the time when wild mushrooms are available here in Oregon, and I am thinking about making a mushroom lasagne made with dried mushroom pasta. It would be great to add it our menu for another lasagne option (we have three available now). In the meantime, here is a recipe for fresh pasta which serves 3-4 people. As a rule of thumb, use 2 large eggs to one cup of all-purpose flour. If the dough is too dry add a few drops of water until it comes together, and go get yourself a pasta machine—OR call me to schedule a class!
Fresh Pasta (serves 3-4):
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 large eggs
Water (if necessary)
If you want to add a flavoring such as black pepper or lemon zest, use 1 tbs. for this amount of flour.
You can put the flour and eggs in the food processor to form the dough if you like, but I like to hand knead it. Whichever way you choose, mix the eggs with the flour to form a dough and knead it until it becomes smooth in consistency. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest for at least 30 minutes. Once it’s rested, roll the dough through the various settings of a pasta machine until you get to the thickness you are looking for. My machine goes to 7 and I usually stop at the 6th setting. I find if I go to 7, the pasta is way too thin and falls apart in the water. Cut the pasta by hand into the size noodle you are looking for, or use a cutter if you have one. Fresh pasta freezes really well, so make extra.
Cook the pasta in boiling salted water for a 3-4 minutes, drain, and toss with olive oil or butter and parmesan cheese for a satisfying and simple pasta dish. Once you make fresh pasta, you’ll never want to eat that packaged stuff from the grocery store again!!! Buon Appetito!
By the way, we got published in the local paper today. Here’s a free link to the partial article. Unfortunately, you have to be a paid subscriber to read the rest online.