The other afternoon, I couldn’t stop fantasizing about thick, tender ribbons of fettuccine, coated in a slick, peppery carbonara sauce, or translucent purses of ravioli, cradling mushrooms and chopped greens. I was gripped with another intense longing for pasta. Never one to deny myself a craving, I called up my friend Carlo, who owns a pasta maker, and we dove right in.
I’d say making pasta is equal parts tricky and simple — slightly tricky at the outset, then astonishingly easy all the way to the finish line. I decided to use Marcella Hazan’s fresh pasta recipe (she of the famous tomato-butter sauce!), which requires two cups of flour for every two eggs. Easy enough to remember. (While I used simple all-purpose flour, other recipes recommend dopio zero flour, which has a high protein content and is also great for pizzas).
The process, at the start, is a little fussy: build a small volcano, crack the eggs into a crater at the top, and gently, steadily, work the egg into the flour. (A little egg will run down the sides of your volcano like lava. No stress. I folded it back in and reshaped until combined). After it comes together into a shaggy ball of dough, knead like crazy for about five or six minutes until the glutens develop. The finished dough will be smooth, soft, pliable, and a beautiful pale yellow.
(At first, your pasta dough may be a little fussy and brittle, as you can see from Carlo’s first attempt! But after we ran his dough through the pasta press a few times, it turned surprisingly supple and soft. And I promise you can’t taste the difference!)
I was so happy with the fettuccine that we made. The wavy, marigold-colored ribbons, barely dusted with flour, was exactly what I had been fantasizing about earlier that afternoon. I didn’t want to distract from the perfection of the pasta, so the sauce was simple, just a few cups of halved cherry tomatoes, minced shallots, and chopped garlic, fried at high heat in a little bacon grease and olive oil until the tomatoes released their sweet, rose-colored liquid. I added a fat splash of white wine, and piled on chopped basil, parsley, shaved Pecorino, toasted pine nuts, and reserved bacon to finish. We made a big mess — flour everywhere! — but it was worth it. Think I may just invest in my own pasta maker!