Everyone knows that pasta is a very important part of Italian cuisine and most people love it! I actually had a tour member complain one time that she was getting too much pasta; once, every other day. My Italian friends just shook their heads when they heard that…is that even possible? While we don’t eat pasta every day at home, we easily eat it three or four times a week alternating with soup or risotto. It’s quick, easy, healthy and tasty even when you don’t sauce it. Italian fast food is pasta asciutta, dry pasta, dressed with extra virgin olive oil and Reggiano Parmigiano. Add a salad or some other side of vegetables and you have a great meal in less that 30 minutes. When I want to do something special for my boys, I make Tajarin, Piemontese for tagliatelle.
On a few of the tours that I guide we have hands on cooking classes which usually entail making some sort of pasta. Invariably someone asks me if I actually make my own pasta at home and my answer is yes! I manage to make plain, fresh pasta a few times every year and Mauro and I team up to make ravioli a couple of times. My goal with this post is not to give you a step by step on how to make fresh pasta, but to encourage you to just do it! It really takes less time than you think it will. Today’s pasta was made in one hour and twenty minutes from start to finish, which includes cleaning up.
Making pasta is usually a weekend activity for me so why am I doing it on a Wednesday? First, because it’s a Wednesday and I have time. You know why if you’ve been following my blog. The second reason is that two sets of neighbors just gave me fresh eggs. I have eggs and since I am leaving for a tour of Rome on Saturday I need to use them now. The third reason is that I thought it would me a nice treat for my boys, good eaters that they are. They will be very happy with mamma tonight!
If you have never made fresh egg pasta before, don’t worry, It is easy! There are two ingredients, flour and eggs. I always use the proportions given by Marcella Hazen in one of my favorite Italian cookbooks, Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking. A gift from my dad, I have had this book for more years than I have been in Italy.
1 cup of flour and 2 eggs makes a standard portion for 3 people.
The second thing that is useful is a little hand cranked pasta machine. Although you can use a rolling pin and knife fairly easily, this is a time saver. We had this Atlas machine growing up which aside from the brand, is identical to the machine we inherited from Mauro’s mom, Maria.
The genuine in this case means you know what’s in it. Our box is a little worn but this machine is brilliant and has cranked out a lot of pasta, literally, for almost 50 years! Today I used 3 cups of flour and 6 eggs. While kneading, I probably added almost one extra cup of flour a bit at a time. It depends on how humid it is and how big your eggs are…you want your dough to be soft but not sticky. It was humid today and I was very liberal with the flour, making sure my pasta sheets were well floured as I rolled them out. You can check out how my pasta progressed in the following pictures but if you want a step by step recipe you are going to have to consult Google. Remember, my point today is that you shouldn’t be intimidated by pasta making, it didn’t take that long!
Once I have made my pasta I just leave it spread out on a tablecloth to dry for a few hours. If you make extra, once it’s dried, (6 hours) you can put it on a tray and freeze it but I never make that much. This 6 egg batch will feed us twice but if I use my pasta within a few days I can simply keep it in the fridge.
The next big step is deciding how you want to dress your pasta. If you do nothing more than butter or oil and fresh Parmesan it will be delicious. I also thought about brown butter and sage… but since I went to all the work of making pasta, I decided a sauce was in order. Basic tomato or a meat sauce? I have some swordfish in the freezer and my homemade canned sauce in the cantina so I whipped up a Swordfish Ragu. I am going to roughly explain how I made my sauce since I rarely follow recipes while doing my everyday cooking and just throw things in the pot. If you want a real recipe, as I said before with the pasta, ask Google. When I have an idea in my head I will often look at five or six different versions of the same thing and come up with my own recipe based on how much time I have or whether it requires a trip to the store. I happened to have right ingredients on hand today and it only took me about 10 minutes of active prep time and 30 minutes of simmering.
I made a base by mincing 2 shallots, 1 clove of garlic and a medium sized carrot. Put enough extra virgin olive oil to cover the bottom of a medium size pot and saute for 5 minutes. At this point I added about 8 oz. of swordfish cut into small cubes, a 1/2 cup of white wine, 2 Tbls. of rinsed, chopped salted capers and a basic tomato sauce. Season with salt and pepper and simmer for 30 minutes or so, stirring occasionally.
Once you have everything ready all that is left to do is cook your pasta. Once you have a big pot of salted water boiling the Tajarin cook in 4/5 minutes. Toss them with your sauce and enjoy…
So here’s where I got distracted…I was going to take a picture of my pasta once it was dressed and ready to eat but in addition to my hungry family hovering around me in the kitchen I was also trying to deal with the plumber arriving shortly, (one of our toilets broke) and the electrician on the phone, (our driveway gate broke). Everything came together, or not, at the same time so the pasta was put on the table and mostly devoured and the picture was forgotten. I guess you are going to have to make it for yourself to see how it comes out!