AN ODE TO FRESH PASTA
Oh pasta how I love you so
I think about you day and night
I always make your silky dough
And cook it to al dente bite
I experiment with different flavours
Always trying some thing new
And creating tastes to savour
Like this beetroot pasta too
Seriously, you might think me writing an ode to pasta is a little odd. But other Italians will surely understand this true love of pasta (won’t they?!). While there are some pretty amazing artisan dried pastas out there to buy, nothing will ever beat fresh pasta.
Making pasta is a tactile thing. It connects you to the end product in a way that dried pasta just can’t. Working the dough with your hands and knowing the exact moment when the gluten has developed because you can feel the change – THAT is special.
Don’t wait till you have people over the try pasta from scratch, just try it at home for a couple of people and get used to how it feels. It’s actually rather quick and easy if you are only making pasta for two and it gets easier every time you try it.
I recently caught up with a group of five close friends who are all cooks and lovers of food. We each brought a dish with us and finished off the cooking in our friend’s kitchen. As the Italian of the group, I felt it was my duty to bring handmade pasta so I decided I would try something new. I had bought a packet of beetroot powder from Herbies some months ago and decided it would make its Chew Town debut as perfectly pink pasta.
Fresh pasta can sing with nothing more than olive oil and garlic, so to serve my Spring Pasta I used fennel, pine nuts, rocket, tomato, chilli, parsley and parmeggiano reggiano.
Handmade Beetroot Fettucine
600g “00” Flour (bread and pasta flour)
1 tbsp olive oil
Pinch sea salt
3 teaspoons beetroot powder
NB: The best ratio for pasta is as follows: 100g flour = 1 egg = 1/2 teaspoon beetroot powder = 1 serve (so for 6 people, the above ingredients are sufficient).
Place the flour on a clean bench and sift in the beetroot powder and sea salt. Make a well in the centre and crack the eggs into it. Beat the eggs with a fork until smooth. Using the tips of your fingers, mix the eggs with the flour, incorporating a little at a time, until everything is combined. Then add the olive oil.
Knead the pieces of dough together until one large lump of dough forms. You then need to work it until the dough become smooth and silky. I should warn you, it may feel like the dough won’t ever come together but keep persisting as all of a sudden it feels silky and smooth and this means it is ready. What you are trying to do is develop the gluten in the flour and if you don’t do this properly, your pasta will become mushy when you cook it instead of al dente.
Once you have worked the dough sufficiently wrap it in glad wrap and put in the fridge for 30 minutes.
Remove dough from fridge and cut a lump of the dough (about the size of a small orange) flattening it out with the palm of your hand. Set your pasta machine at the widest setting and roll the lump through. Then set the machine down a level and roll the dough through again. Continue this process going down a level each time until you get it as thin as you desire (the second thinnest setting is better for fettucine). Repeat with all of the dough until you are left with fresh lasagna sheets.
Add the fettucine attachments and roll the lasagna sheets through. This will cut the sheets into fettucine. Be sure to hang the fettucine to dry, or keep the fettucine well floured until you need to cook it.
Fresh beetroot fettuccine (as per the recipe above)
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 garlic cloves
1 long red chilli, finely chopped
1 large fennel, thinly shaved
1 punnet fresh baby tomatoes, quartered
Pinch sea salt
Pepper, to taste
Generous handful grated parmeggiano reggiano
2 large handfuls rocket, to serve
2 tablespoons toasted pine nuts, to serve
Fennel fronds, to serve
2 large buffalo mozarella, to serve
Heat a large pot of salted water over medium heat until it is boiling.
Meanwhile, in a large fry pan heat olive oil, then add garlic and chilli till fragrant. Add fennel and tomatoes and fry until fennel is translucent.
Add fresh pasta to the boiling water and cook until al dente (this will only take a couple of minutes as fresh pasta cooks quickly). Once cooked, drain the pasta in a colander and add to the frypan with the fennel. Remove the frypan from the heat and stir in the parmeggiano cheese, rocket, and pine nuts. Mixing well with tongs till the pasta is coated with oil.
Serve the pasta on a large plate and top with buffalo mozarella torn into pieces and fennel fronds.