Lounging around on a hot Saturday afternoon, you don’t want to think too hard about dinner. You read your book, you cheat and start the Sunday crossword puzzle a day early, you watch old episodes of “Lydia’s Italy” on Tivo. Perhaps it’s that last fact, though, that propels you–hours later–off the couch, into your kitchen, scratching your head. It’s 7 PM and what are you going to make? You see a bag of flour. You see eggs in your refrigerator. You spy a can of tomatoes on the shelf. “Might I?” you ask yourself. “Noooo.” But then you consider again and you settle on it: you are going to make fresh pasta–yes, pasta from scratch–and serve it with spicy tomato sauce.
Yes, this really happened to me this weekend. It all happened very fast. Granted, I had some practice learning how to make fresh pasta in this pasta video for food2.com, which I hope you’ve already watched 8 times:
The key, really, is confidence. If you believe you can make fresh pasta easily, you will make fresh pasta easily. Here’s how I did it this time around:
I mounded 3 cups of flour on a cutting board and created a well, Mario Batali style. Into that well I cracked three eggs (effectively halving Chef Forgione’s recipe). I poured in 1 Tbs of olive oil, 1 Tbs of water, and a sprinkle of salt. With a fork I beat the eggs together and slowly incorporated the flour. This process is not for the faint of heart: if you’re nervous, use a bowl—it’s very possible your flour well will fall apart and the eggs will drain on to the flour. But, again, this is all about confidence. Be confident! This will not happen to you!
Once it all comes together, lift up the mass of dough that’s together and dump all the remaining shards and gunky stuff into the trash. Flour the board and knead your pasta dough for several minutes. It’s fun! It should become smooth and glutinous and almost rubbery. Stick a finger in, as the chef shows you in the video: if the hole seals up relatively slow, your dough is ready.
Wrap it in plastic and let it rest 20 minutes.
While that’s happening, bring a big pot of water to a boil and start on your sauce.
I sliced 6 cloves of garlic and placed them in a saute pan with 1/4 cup olive oil. I turned on the heat and here’s the key to making the sauce spicy: I added a bunch of red pepper flakes. 1 Tbs, probably, which will make your sauce very spicy. Do this to taste, though. If you don’t like spicy, use less. But this is a spicy tomato sauce, after all.
As those toast in the hot oil (make sure the garlic doesn’t burn) add 1 Tbs of tomato paste, which should also heat in the oil. Stir everything around and then add one can of San Marzano whole tomatoes which you can cut up a bit in the can. Careful! The oil will sputter and spatter and then calm down. Add a big sprinkling of salt, stir everything around, and turn down your heat. You will let this simmer, probably for 20 or 30 minutes, while you go make the pasta.
To make the pasta, you need a pasta machine. I realize not everyone has one, but they’re pretty cheap. Mine cost somewhere between $30 and $50 and it’s excellent. I wish I had the more expensive kind that latches on to your KitchenAid mixer, but I don’t. This will suffice.
Only thing is, the clamp is really bad. It doesn’t clamp to my table so I had to call Craig in to hold it down while I passed the pasta through each of the settings.
Cut your pasta dough into 3rds. Stretch the first 3rd flat and crank it through the widest setting on your machine. Do that again. You may even fold it in half and do that again. It’s all very casual.
Proceed to crank the dough through each setting, making the gap smaller and smaller each time, until you’re in the thinnest setting. Make sure to flour your dough here, it’s about to get stretched super thin. Once you got it through the last setting, flour again, fold up like in the video–in thirds–and cut into strips. I cut this pasta dough into wide strips creating what the Italians among you might call “pappardelle.” I thought the wide noodles would match well with a chunky, spicy tomato sauce.
Ok, so do this with the rest of your dough and that’s it! You’ve got fresh pasta and your sauce is almost ready.
Now everything happens very fast. Add salt to your boiling water. Check your sauce: is it ready to go? It should be chunky and flavorful (make sure to taste it). I had some fresh mint in the refrigerator, so I took it out and sliced up a few leaves which I added to the sauce to temper the spice. It worked nicely.
Drop your pasta into the boiling water. It’ll cook really fast: 3 minutes or so.
You can check to see if it’s done by lifting a noodle out and tasting it. If you’re wimpy like me, run it under cold water first. If it’s still chewy but cooked through, you’re good to go.
Use a spider and lift all the noodles into the sauce:
Let it cook in there for another 30 seconds so it absorbs some of that sauce. Now turn off the heat, drizzle on good olive oil (it brings out the flavor) and sprinkle on some cheese (we had Pecorino).
Voila! Fresh pasta with spicy tomato sauce in less than an hour. Does this post put me one step closer to losing the “amateur” in my title? I think so. I really think so.