In colleges, my sister studied abroad in Siena, Italy. She could barely put two sentences of Italian together at the end of her experience…she mostly studied wine and Italian men. But she came home with a killer hand-made pasta recipe. And while she might call me on a weekly basis for meal suggestions, and help with recipe substitutions, she is still the authority in the family on home-made pasta dough. It’s something we do together whenever she is in town.
For this round I was ready to make a ton of pasta, and freeze it. And I wanted to use the bountiful herb garden I was “passively cultivating.” It’s a real jungle back there because I can’t seem to find the time to maintain it.
I sifted through the hip-high cilantro and lettuce plants, to snip bunches of fresh parsley, chives, sage, and basil.
I knew we’d need marinara sauce for all this fresh pasta too, so I put a pot of that on as well. Working loosely off a recipe I learned at a class at The Loretta Paganini School of Cooking, I used garlic and onion, grated celery and carrot, whole peeled tomatoes, a pinch of crushed red pepper, salt and pepper, and lots of the fresh parsley and basil.
While that simmered, we got to work on the first dough. The ingredients are few…it’s the technique that’s still tough for me.
3 c. flour, unbleached
3 large eggs
1/4 c. dry white wine
1 tsp. salt
Water or extra flour, if needed
You start by creating a “mound” with your flour, and make a deep well. Meanwhile crack the eggs in a bowl and break the yolks up with a fork, then add the wine and salt to the eggs. Carefully pour the egg mixture into the well. Then, using a fork, slowly bring the flour in to the egg mixture. When the flour is totally absorbed, begin kneading by hand for 20 min…no shortcuts! Add water if it seems dry, or sprinkle more flour if it’s too wet. Gather it in a ball and place it in a mixing bowl, covered with plastic wrap, to rest for 30 min…no shortcuts there either.
The first batch was dinner that night: a classic fettuccine with marinara. We made a second batch of dough for me to make ravioli with. I whipped up the filling while Lexi, and my eager daughters, kneaded.
I wanted to use all that beautiful sage. So I sautéed some mushrooms in olive oil, with garlic and shallots. Then I added chopped sage, and a drizzle of truffle oil. I mixed that with some ricotta, salt and pepper, and more truffle oil and let it cool while we rolled the dough.
First we cut the fettuccine, as we’ve done every time before. You start on the widest setting, cranking that pasta machine to gradually reduce the width until the dough is the desired thickness, then cut it. (angel hair, linguine, fettuccine, etc.) We sprinkled a tablecloth with flour and let it dry while we moved on to the delicate ravioli.
For those, we rolled the dough out, same as before. Then we laid the sheets of pasta over my grandmother’s old ravioli plates. I put a generous teaspoon of the filling in each pouch.
Then we placed a second sheet on top, and used a rolling-pin (and the back of a spoon) to “stamp” or cut them. We tore off the excess around the edges then carefully popped out each delicate little ravioli.
To be honest, these usually don’t turn out so well for me…but these looked beautiful!!
Last round of dough was experimental. I chopped up a ton of fresh chives and we incorporated that into the dough during the kneading process. Toss this pasta with a little butter and you’ve got something pretty spectacular.
There was salted water boiling on the stove…time to taste the fruits of our labor! First course was the fettuccine and marinara. It didn’t disappoint. While we poured a second (or fourth?) glass of wine, I browned some butter and added more chopped sage, plus seasoning. When the ravioli were cooked through in the water, I drained them and added them to the saute pan to brown them up. Sprinkle some grated cheese on top. Perfection.
I had a full heart and a full belly at the end of the evening. It was so much fun for my girls to share in a special sisters pasta night! I hope they carry on the tradition.