I’ve been wanting to make fresh pasta for a while now. Growing up watching episodes of Molto Mario and lately being inspired by homemade pastas at Babbo, it’s something I’ve had in the back of my mind for months… my current culinary day-dream if you will. It both seems easy to do, but yet challenging to do extremely well, and I’m up for the task!
Now, I know you can make pasta by hand without a machine. You can roll out the dough thinly with a rolling pin and hand cut anything from sheets to the differing sizes of pasta (tagliatelle to pappardelle to spaghetti). Michael Ruhlman, whose experience and knowledge as a home cook I highly respect, recently wrote an article about making pasta without a machine and even without using the traditional well method (which I’ll get to in a moment). But, pasta machines don’t un you that much and so I splurged with my christmas gift cards. My pasta machine has an attachment for cutting pasta as well!
To break into the world of homemade pasta, I decided to start off simple with Spaghetti all’Amatriciana. This famous Roman dish hails from the town of Amatrice in Italy and is comprised of spaghetti tossed in a spicy tomato sauce flavored with onions and pancetta.
It’s a step up from a tomato sauce and was flavorful and easy to make. Simply saute your chopped pancetta with diced onions until the onions are translucent and the pancetta crisp. Add your peeled tomatoes, breaking them up in the pot roughly, and add a couple tablespoons of crushed red pepper flakes. Season with salt and pepper and let simmer until the sauce has reduced.
The keys to making pasta (with a pasta machine or not) is forming the dough, which I’ve always seen prepared using the well method. As Ruhlman discusses, you really could make the dough in a bowl, but I found a cutting board to work just fine.
For your dough, you’ll need: about 3 cups of flour and 4 eggs*. You’ll want to mound your flour on the cutting board and form a well in the center. Add your eggs and whisk in flour slowly, incorporating it. Once you have the dough forming, knead with your hands for about five minutes and form into a ball. Let it rest at room temperature for at least twenty minutes before rolling out.
*This was Mario Batali’s recipe, but I’d also trust the late Marcella Hazan who recommended 1 cup of flour for every two eggs.
Then you’ll want to roll out the dough. Using my pasta machine for the first time took a little getting used to, but after a few tries I got the hang of it. You basically roll the dough out on the widest setting, decreasing the settings each time until your pasta is a thin sheet. Fold the pasta onto itself in thirds and repeat this process twice.
Once you’ve done that, roll it out again at the lowest setting. For spaghetti, I then rolled it through the pasta cutting attachment! Boil for about 3 to 5 minutes and toss in the sauce!
All in all, both the sauce and the pasta (with a little pecorino Romano sprinkled on top) were easy to make and a great Sunday night dinner. A little cheesy garlic bread (made by my lovely roommate) and you’ve got yourself a feast!
No big deal guys, I’m secretly turning into a little Italian grandmother.
- ⅓ pound pancetta, cut into 1-inch chunks
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 onion, thinly sliced
- ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1½ tablespoons red wine vinegar
- ¾ cup tomato puree
- ¾ pound spaghetti or bucatini
- Freshly grated Parmesan
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat.
- Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over moderately low heat. Add the pancetta and cook until it renders some of its fat, about 5 minutes. Do not allow it to crisp. Add the onion and cook until soft, about 10 minutes. While the onion is cooking, add the pasta to the boiling water.
- Add the red pepper flakes and parsley to the onion mixture and cook briefly to release their fragrance. Add the vinegar and simmer briefly until it evaporates, then add the tomato puree and ¼ cup of the pasta water. Simmer briefly to blend.
- When the pasta is just shy of al dente, drain it and return it to the warm pot over moderate heat. Add the sauce and cook briefly so the pasta absorbs some of the sauce, then transfer the pasta to a warmed serving bowl and shower with the pecorino. Serve immediately.