Saturday, April 6, 2013
it's the pasta!
In a lovely article in the New York Times on March 1, David Tanis writes about the glory and joy of making fresh pasta by hand, and then serving it with little (if any) sauce. The article is called "Noodles with No Need to Dress Up", and is illustrated with photos as above, showing the hand cutting of the pasta -- in the photo it looks like pappardelle. He describes creating the deep well in the large pile of flour, adding the eggs, stirring, mixing and kneading -- all the actions that we who also make our own fresh pasta know and love.
As David says: it isn't something you master in one go, but it is not rocket science either. "There's a learning curve," he says, and only experience tells you how the dough should feel and how thin to roll it. We would add that the most important "feel" is for the moisture. Each batch one makes varies in how moist it is and it does take experience to get the feel of it -- and either adding flour or gently adding moisture to get it right.
Unlike the wonderful wizards of the rolling pin, those lovely Italian ladies who are absolute magicians in rolling out the pasta, turning it, and rolling it to perfection, we do use the pasta machine to stretch it out to the proper thickness. Then one also can cut the sheets into the strand widths one wants with the machine, but doing it by hand, as shown above, gives the result a special look and feel.
The most important point -- and the one requiring repeating -- is that the pasta is best served (no pun intended) with little sauce. As all the great Italian cooks tell us: it is about the pasta, not the sauce. A little butter and cream (alfedo); cheese and pepper (cacio e pepe) or just some pancetta and herbs, and one has a perfect pasta dish. That's all it needs.
For a more complete step-by-step demonstration of making fresh pasta oneself, go to the "pasta" section at www.classicpasta.com. And thanks David: keep it simple!