6 December

Homemade Pasta

I bought my first pasta machine several decades ago and can count on one hand the number of times I’ve eaten dry pasta since.

Making pasta yourself is easy and so much better. Once you get used to it, you can make the dough and roll pasta for 2 persons by the time the pot of water boils. And then fresh pasta needs only 2 minutes to cook, instead of 10. So it’s better and faster.

You can roll it with a wine bottle and cut with a knife, but it’s easier with a machine. No need to buy a new one, there are lots of used ones on craigslist/ebay etc. (Try to get an older one “Made in Italy” instead of “Made in China” because the Chinese ones have sharper edges and are not so comfortable in your hands.) You don’t need fancy attachments and it’s nice to cut it with a knife or even tear it for a rustic look. The important parts are: the roller, the clamp, and the handle.

You will need to find somewhere to clamp it to, otherwise it’s pretty impossible to use. You will also need something to hang the rolled pasta from. You can use a laundry rack, a broomstick, or even the open doors of your kitchen cupboards.

So now, put a big pot of water on to boil and get started.

For each 1 cup of flower you can feed two people, but if someone is very hungry, better to already double that, then you’ll have enough left for lunch tomorrow.

1 cup of the best quality flour you can find. Mulino Marino 00 is my favorite.
1 of the best quality eggs you can find
1 tsp olive oil
1 very big pinch of salt
(standing by, a cup with water)
(extra flour while you’re rolling)

Mix together the ingredients with your hands, adding more flour if it’s too sticky until you have one solid, smooth piece of dough. Then take about 1/6 of it over to your roller and set the roller dial to #1. Roll the dough through on #1 twice, then proceed to #2 and all the way to #6. If it seems to stick or comes out rough, pat some flour on the dough before going through on the same number again. If you mess up just ball it up and start again from #1. At #6, you will have a loooong piece of dough. You can use this for lasagne, tear it with your hands to make it narrower (that’s my usual pasta “shape”), or you can put it through the cutters to make Fettuccini or Linguini. Then hang it up somewhere and go on to the 2nd piece.

When all of the pasta is rolled and cut it’s time to make the sauce and set the table. The very last thing you want to do is put the pasta in the pot water, because then you are only two minutes away from eating, so everything else needs to already be ready.

My favorite sauces:

  • butter and Maldon Sea Salt
  • butter and Parmiggiano Reggiano or Pecorino grated in large pieces, fresh ground black pepper
  • butter and slivers of salami
  • butter and slices of radiccio (raw or quickly pan-roasted, totally different flavors)
  • butter, fresh flat leaf parsley, fresh mint, toasted walnuts (bake about 10 min until they are fragrant)
  • browned butter (melt in a small frying pan until it gives off a toasty smell and turns slightly brown) with a pinch of clove or nutmeg, toasted fresh sage leaves (bake in the oven about 5 minutes until they become brittle)
  • pan-roasted corn and chunks of fresh goat cheese
  • oven-roasted sliced zucchini and onions and grated pecorino
  • caramelized very ripe fresh tomatoes (cooked in the skillet about 15 minutes over medium heat with lots of butter until they are no longer watery and are about to stick to the pan)

Ok, so you’ve got your sauce ready and called guests to the table and lit the candles?

Make sure you have a colander or strainer ready to drain the pasta. Ask the guests to help you carry the pasta from where it’s hanging and gently drop it into the boiling water. Don’t stir. Don’t walk away. Watch the pasta cook. It will rise to the surface quickly, but what you’re looking for is a change in color, from a translucent yellow to opaque white. As soon as you see this color change, it’s done! Be ready with your hotpads or whatever you need to get the pasta out of the cooking pot as soon as possible into the strainer.

Because it’s delicate you don’t really want to be stirring the sauce and pasta around in a pot, so from the colander or strainer, serve the pasta directly onto the plates and then add the sauce directly to each plate. This also looks nicer. 🙂

If there’s enough pasta for seconds, put that into a serving bowl and add a bit of the sauce (or some butter) and stir it minimally just to prevent the pasta from sticking to itself.

Never wash the machine with soap and water, just brush off extra flour with a large paintbrush and keep it in the original box to protect from kitchen debris.