* Making fresh pasta
* All rounder tomato sauce
* Pea pasta with mint pesto
* Roasted pumpkin pasta with spinach and walnuts
MAKING pasta takes time but it can be quite meditative and rewarding.
Kneading dough, getting it smoother and smoother with each turn has a tactility to it and it adds an appreciation for this very old way of creating something delicious to eat.
The flour that is generally used for pasta making has a higher gluten content than a flour you would use to bake a cake.
It is called ‘00’ and allows for the dough to be stretched and pulled very thin.
The fine grains create a smooth, shiny finish. Spaghetti or tagliatelle are my favourite pastas to make.
There is something about swirling the long ribbons with my fork and slurping them up that conjure up images from old movies.
Homemade pasta works well when it is treated with simplicity, allowed to speak for itself and not shouted down by an overpowering sauce.
Done simply with some fried garlic, chili, and olive oil works a treat or warm pasta tossed in some sage butter is another great quick fix.
Simply chop your sage very finely and mix it with some brown butter on the pan and season with black pepper, stir this through your warm pasta and you are done.
It can be served with a fresh green salad if you wish.
Most evenings, after a days work, dried pasta will do perfectly well, there are some very good quality dried pastas available. I usually choose an egg pasta which is more similar to the homemade version.
Most people will eat between 100g and 150g of dried pasta, this will be about an inch and a half diameter bunch of spaghetti.
There are a few tricks to ensure you dried pasta is cooked to perfection.
Use a saucepan large enough, fill it three quarters full with water and a generous sprinkling of salt. Bring the water to a rolling boil and add the pasta, but do not break it, push it down gently until it is all fully submerged. You will need to give it a stir every now and then so it does not stick.
The Italians say you should cook pasta until it is al dente, and they are the ones who know best, this means that it is still firm at its core.
Al Dente literally means “firm to the bite”.
Some people say you should throw your spaghetti at a wall and if it sticks it is done.
Making fresh pasta
200g of flour, it is best to acquire Italian ‘00’ flour
Sieve your flour into a pile on a clean countertop. Make a well in the centre.
Lightly beat the egg yolks, egg and oil. Add a generous pinch of salt.
Mix the eggs into the flour by pouring into the well and bringing it together completely with your hands.
If it is too dry, sprinkle it with a little water or you can add an extra sprinkle of flour if it is too sticky. Knead the dough until it begins to feel like a smooth ball rather than rough.
Wrap your dough in clingfilm and leave it in the fridge for at least a half an hour.
There are two ways to make pasta the old fashioned way with perseverance and a rolling pin or the other with a pasta machine.
Either way the aim is to get the sheets of dough as thin as possible and to work it so it is smooth and shiny.
The gluten in the flour will allow it to stretch very thin.
If you are rolling it I would advise doing this in small sections and like using the machine fold the dough over its self five times and then roll thiner each time.
Put the machine on its widest setting and roll a lump of pasta dough through it, lightly dusting the pasta with flour if it sticks. Turn the machine down a setting and roll the pasta dough through it again.
Fold the pasta in half, turn the pasta machine back up to the widest setting and roll the dough through again.
Once this is done work the dough through all the settings on the machine, from the widest down to the narrowest.
When you have put it through the narrowest setting fold the pasta in half lengthways, then in half again, then in half again once more until it is square. Put it through one last time.
Cut to the shape required and place between two damp tea towels.
All rounder tomato sauce
Heat the oil in a large saucepan and sauté the shallots until they have turned translucent, add the garlic and carrot and stir fry for a minute.
Add thyme, chilli powder and oregano and continue to stir fry until the carrot softens.
Stir in the cherry tomatoes, vinegar and honey. Allow to bubble away on a low heat for thirty minutes with the lid on the pot.
Blitz the sauce to a smooth paste. Taste and season and gently simmer with the lid off for a further ten minutes.
You can pour the sauce into a sterilised jar and keep in the fridge for a few days or eat straight away.
It is good as a simple pasta sauce, as the topping of a pizza or you can add some fried chorizo of grated cheese to bulk in up.
Pea pasta with mint pesto
Put the pasta on to boil and drain when cooked.
Heat a small dash of the oil and sauté the shallots until they have turned translucent, add half of the garlic and fry for another minute. Set aside.
Warm the peas in some boiling water and drain.
Place most of the peas, the two remaining cloves of garlic, the pine nuts, parmesan and remaining oil in a blender and blitz to a rough paste.
Toss the shallots, courgette strips and peas through the pasta. Gently coat everything in the pesto and taste and season. Sprinkle with the spring onions and serve.
Roasted pumpkin pasta with spinach and walnuts
Place your slices of pumpkin onto a roasting tin, add the honey, a little oil, the rosemary and sprinkle with the paprika and seasoning. Place into the oven at 190 degrees and roast until soft.
Put the pasta on to boil in lightly salted water and drain when cooked, but still retaining a bite.
Cut the pumpkin into bite size chunks, discarding the skin. Toss the pasta in the roasting dish so that it is coated with the other ingredients.
In a pan wilt your spinach in a knob of melted butter and stir it through the pasta and the pumpkin.
Sprinkle with the Parmesan and toasted walnuts. Taste again and season if needed. Drizzle with a little oil if needed.
This also works well with some chorizo.
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