I must say, until recently I didn’t really “get” homemade pasta. It’s chewy, sure, and hugs a ragu like a true, attentive Italian lover. But to get that al dente bite I so adore I have always favoured dried pasta, notably my favourite brand, Giuseppe. For my beloved spaghetti with mussels dried pasta is obligatory, and so it’s easy to see how I leaned towards the quick, dried variety.
It wasn’t until a dinner party with my girlfriends where I devoured fresh linguini in a mushroom sauce that I truly appreciated fresh pasta. My friend had cooked the strands wonderfully al dente, so it had the benefit of being fresh AND toothsome. I mean, just come on! The meal was trememdesouly delicious, completely swoon worthy and downright sensual. The following night Ben and I dusted off our pasta machine (a wedding gift from my brother) and got rolling…
True to form, we made enough dough for a party of fifteen, and so decided to freeze two thirds of the dough before the rolling step. For our first batch we made ravioli, which was lovely but, let’s be real, the best part was the butter sage sauce with crispy prosciutto and pinenuts. And I was frankly tired after all the steps of mixing and chilling and cutting and rolling and cutting and filling… I needed a stiff aperitif, not a bowl of pasta.
When our fresh pasta craving arrived a second time, we simply had to defrost a portion of excess dough and get rolling (note, the dough was on the tacky side prior to freezing and I believe this may have influenced the stellar result. Please also note, however, that I have absolutely no authority on this matter).
This time, the whole fresh pasta experience was a pleasure, far less overwhelming without all those steps that come when preparing the entire dough from scratch. We simply rolled it out and whimsically decided upon the linguini attachment to make our desired strands just so.
To fold through our silky fresh pasta I whizzed up a classic pesto using farm-fresh basil and we had ourselves the most splendid meal, crafted so very lovingly and expertly that dare I say no Italian lover could compete. Two generous glasses of red wine diluted our evening and hence may or may not have influenced my affection towards our meal, I’m not entirely certain. But really, what’s not to love…
Homemade Pasta Dough
We followed Jamie Oliver’s recipe from his fantastic instructional book, Cook (recipe link).
Classic Basil Pesto
3 & 1/2 cups Fresh Basil Leaves
1/2 cup lightly toasted Pinenuts
1 small clove Garlic
1/2 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/2 cup Parmesan, grated (I find Grana Padano works just fine in pesto)
Fresh Lemon Juice, to taste
1. Place the basil, pinenuts, garlic and 1/2 the oil in a food processor. Whizz until it starts to form a paste.
2. Stop and scrape the sides down, then add the cheese and blend again, drizzling in the remaining oil until it reaches your desired consistency. Taste and adjust seasoning as desired. Add some lemon juice if you like.
3. Scoop into a jar and cover with more olive oil. Store in the fridge and keep topping with more oil when you take some, to ensure the pesto remains covered. I keep mine for a long time in the fridge. Freezing will keep it fresh and, as my friend Robin encourages, will allow for lovely pesto days even in the middle of Winter. Indeed.
To assemble your meal, I serve a portion of pasta and then top with a spoonful of pesto (as little or as much depending on your preference). I’ll add a little reserved starchy cooking water and incorporate the pesto with the silky strands. End with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, some freshly cracked black pepper and additional parmesan if you desire. Chopped cherry tomatoes are a welcome addition.