Sunday Supper: Italian Indoor Picnic
Last weekend, I made fresh pasta for E’s Italian family. It was huge.
I’ve made this recipe twice before, once with a pasta machine, but that doesn’t make it any less nerve-wrecking. E’s father is from Northern Italy, known for its bounty of mountain cheeses and meats (think carbonara, gnocchi etc) At home though, they gravitate towards lighter fares like a simple salad with vinegar or pasta with garlic and tomato.
I’ve always considered fresh pasta too eggy for my taste, and not al dante enough compared to its dried counterpart. In fact, I didn’t like fresh pasta until I started making my own. I ensure you it is not as intimidating as it sounds (if you are not serving it to Italians), and is definitely worth the effort.
We took a trip to Long Island this past weekend and came back with a selection of beautiful local produce. Fresh farm eggs contributed to the golden yellow hue of the pasta, which was served with a fresh basil and rosemary infused San Marzano tomato sauce. After a quick arrangement of cheese, cured meats, dried fruits and antipasti, dinner was served.
The pasta was well-received, and whether out of courtesy or genuine liking, I think I deserve a pasta machine now.
Classic Fresh Egg Pasta
Serves 4 as a main, 6 as a starter. Adapted from Serious Eats.
10 ounces (about 2 cups) all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
2 whole large eggs (use the freshest egg you can find)
4 yolks from 4 large eggs
1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more for salting water
- Make the Dough. On a large, clean work surface, pour flour in a mound. Make a well in the center about 4 inches wide. Pour whole eggs, egg yolks, and salt into well and, using your fingertips, break up the eggs carefully. When combined, gradually incorporate flour into the eggs using circular motion, until a wet, sticky dough forms.
- Using a bench knife, scrape excess dough from fingers. Gather and fold in extra flour into the dough, turning it 45 degrees each time, until dough feels firm and dry, and can form a craggy-looking ball, 2 to 5 minutes.
- Press the heel of your hand into the ball of dough, pushing forward and down. Rotate the ball 45 degrees and repeat. Continue until dough develops a smooth, elastic texture similar to a firm ball of Play-Doh. If dough feels too wet, add flour in 1 teaspoon increments. If dough feels too dry, wet your hands and keep kneading.
- Rest the dough. Wrap ball of dough tightly in plastic wrap and rest on countertop for 30 minute.
- Roll the Pasta: Meanwhile, place a sheet of parchment paper on a tray or cutting board and dust lightly with flour. Unwrap rested dough and cut into quarters. Set one quarter on work surface and re-wrap remaining dough. With a rolling pin, flatten the quarter of dough into an oblong shape about 1/2 inch thick.
- Roll the dough out into a rectangular shape, around 8" by 12". Fold both ends in so that they meet at the center of the dough, and then fold the dough in half where the end points meet, making sure not to incorporate too much air into the folds. Using rolling pin, flatten dough to 1/2-inch thick, and kneading into a thin rectangular sheet, around 12" by 16".
- Repeat step 6 twice, rolling out the dough thinner each time, until it is very delicate and elastic to the touch, and slightly translucent.
- Place rolled dough onto a work surface or baking sheet lightly dusted with flour or lined with parchment paper, folding the dough over as necessary so that it fits; sprinkle with flour or line with parchment between folds to prevent sticking.
- Cover dough with plastic wrap or a kitchen towel to prevent drying, then repeat Steps 5 through 9 with remaining dough quarters. If making noodles, cut dough into 12- to 14-inch segments.
- Cut dough sheets into noodles: Trim the dough sheets into 12-14" segments, and trim off any edges that are not straight. Fold the sheet into thirds along the long side. Using a sharp knife and without pressing onto the dough too hard, cut into strips of the width of your choice.
- Gently loosen the pasta strands and place over a rack (I use chopsticks) to dry out for 10 minutes. Place on parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet and gently cover with kitchen towel until ready to cook. Pasta can be frozen directly on the baking sheet, transferred to a zipper-lock freezer bag, and stored in the freezer for up to three weeks before cooking. Cook frozen pasta directly from the freezer.
- Cook pasta. Bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil. Add pasta, stir gently with wooden chopsticks, tasting at regular intervals until noodles are just set with a definite bite, about 1 1/2 to 2 minutes. Drain, toss with sauce, and serve.