Soon, hopefully very soon, we will be traveling the world again, exploring the sights, sounds and flavors that are so important to our lives. In the meantime, I look through my photo albums, reliving past trips. I also cook meals that remind me of those destinations.
Memories of Milan
The dog is barking, time for his walk. The kids are fighting and the TV is on too loud. It’s almost time for dinner and, in that quiet part of your mind, you remember a trip to Italy.
You walk happily on a narrow Italian street in Milan’s Brera neighborhood. It starts to rain. On the corner of Via Brera and Via Madonnina, you duck into Ristorante il Cestino. You enter tentatively. The cozy restaurant is mostly empty. At a long table at the back of the restaurant, in front of the long refrigerated counter with fresh seafood laid out on trays of ice, servers are having the staff meal.
Agostino Ragno, owner and maître d, sees you in the doorway and invites you to take a seat. Lunch service begins in 15 minutes. While you wait, he offers you a complimentary glass of Prosecco. You read the menu as the staff finishes their meal and lays out silverware and plates on the tables with white tablecloths.
Outside, the rain turns from drizzle to downpour. You watch people with umbrellas, and those without, walk more quickly as they search for sanctuary. Sipping the Prosecco, you relax. You smile to yourself as you read the menu; you have found a quiet place.
All the dishes look wonderful. Appetizers, salads, fresh seafood and freshly made pasta. You see the perfect meal for you. Agostino returns, announcing the restaurant is now open. You order a green salad and a plate of pasta with clams.
You remember that the wait was only few minutes. As you sip your Prosecco, people stream into the restaurant. By the time your meal arrives, every table is taken.
The pasta is simplicity itself. Clams and a few flakes of parsley, the sauce seasoned with black pepper and a bit of salt. Each strand coated with butter and clam nectar. No grated cheese, because Italians do not eat cheese on seafood pasta, and it isn’t needed.
The room is filled with voices and the sounds of plates and silverware, of orders being taken and dishes laid upon tables. But you don’t notice. You are focused on that plate of pasta with clams. You are in heaven.
Now that you are home, you want to recapture that moment in Milan. It’s time to make pasta.
In these safe-at-home times, it’s fun to cook. Making pasta brings Italy into the kitchen. If you have kids and they enjoy working with Play Dough, they will love making egg pasta.
If you always thought making pasta was too difficult. Don’t worry. This recipe requires no Kitchen Aid stand mixer, no baking sheet, no food processor, no dough hook, no drying rack, no exotic ingredients, no special skills.
All you need is a pasta roller -- a rolling pin will do -- a sharp knife, tongs, a colander, white All-Purpose flour (AP) and a fresh egg.
For sauce, you can go light with olive oil, black pepper and sea salt or more substantial with a shrimp with pesto or tomato sauce with meatballs or sausage. Whatever you choose, prepare the sauce before the pasta so you are ready to serve as soon as the pasta comes out of the boiling salted water.
About the flour. Italians use a finely milled version of white pasta flour called “00.” If you can’t find it, no worries, AP works. Also, because the pasta is fresh, it needs less cooking. Five minutes is plenty. When it enters the salted cooking water, it expands, so if you want spaghetti, cut the strands very thin. If you want tagliatelle, pappardelle, fettuccine or linguine, cut the strands wide. You can even make ravioli or lasagna by cutting the pasta sheet into squares, but that will be for next time.
Some cooks, myself included, like to use semolina flour on the cutting board to prevent sticking. The coarser flour adds texture.
The recipe serves two. To make more, multiply the ingredient proportions, but to roll out the pasta dough, work in batches with the 2-serving sized amount of 1 egg and ½ cup of flour.
Cook the fresh pasta dough the same day you make it. If you don’t need all the cooked pasta, store it in a refrigerated, air-tight container to use the next day.
To salt the pasta water use kosher salt or any salt without iodine.
Prep time: 15 minutes
Waiting time: 45 minutes
Cooking time: 5 minutes
Total time: 65 minutes
Yield: two entrée servings or four side dish servings
1 farm fresh large or extra large egg
1/2 cup AP or "00" flour + 3 tablespoons AP flour or semolina flour to dust the cutting board and dough
1 tablespoon kosher salt or non-iodine salt for pasta water
- Bring the kids or anyone who wants to help around thework surfaceso everyone can kneed the dough. Place the All-Purpose flour or "00" flour on the cutting board. Using a fork, make an indentation into the top of the mound to create a "volcano" like in science class.
- Crack open an egg and place inside the volcano.
- Use a fork to mix the egg into the flour until egg and flour are mixed together. Don’t leave any wet dough on the cutting board. With your hands, form the dough into a ball.
- Sprinkle 1 tbsAll-Purpose flouror semolina flour on the cutting board. Knead the dough by rolling it back and forth. Sprinkle more flour if the dough sticks. Keep rolling the ball of dough for 10 minutes. Everyone can have a turn. Don’t worry about over-kneading the dough. For pasta, the more you work the dough, the better the texture.
- When the ball is smooth, wrap the dough inplastic wrapand let it rest 30 minutes at room temperature.
- Unwrap the dough. Sprinkle 1 tbsAll-Purpose flouror semolina flour on the cutting board. To flatten the dough, use a rolling pin. The ball of dough will become a circle. Turn the disk frequently so the dough has an even thickness. Flip the dough frequently as well and dust the cutting board with flour so the dough doesn’t stick. When the dough is as thin as a sheet of paper, you are done.
- Leave dough on the cutting board, uncovered, to air-dry 30 minutes.
- Run water into alarge potto two-thirds full. Place on a high flame and bring to a boil. Add kosher or non-iodine salt.
- To be ready todrainthe pasta after it cooks, place a colander in the sink.
- Make certain your chef’s knife is sharp.
- When the dough is air-dried, dust both sides with a sprinkling of flour. Without pressing, gently fold the circle of dough in half like a napkin. Dust with flour and fold a second, third and fourth time until the folded dough is about 1” wide.
- With the salted water boiling, it’s time to cut the dough. Ask yourself, what kind of pasta do you want? Thin or thick. Just remember that the pasta will double in width when it cooks.
- Using a sharp chef’s knife, cut the folded dough into strips, something your older kids will have fun doing. Once the dough is cut, the magic happens. Everyone should have the chance to lift the strips of dough in the air and separate the strands. Amazingly, the strands land on the cutting board. Your dough is nowcut pasta!
- Gently drop the strands into the boiling salted water. To prevent sticking, use tongs to swirl the strands in theboiling water. Do not cover. After 5 minutes the pasta is cooked.
- Drainpasta in a colander.
- Use tongs to tosscut pastain the colander so the strands do not stick together. Serve hot with the sauce of your choice, dusting with freshly grated Parmesan cheese. Buon Appetito!