How To Make Basic Pasta

We’re doing our best to keep up with one of our goals on our Culinary Bucket List, to never use store-bought pasta again. Obviously, this is a slightly tongue-in-cheek goal; sometimes you just don’t have the time to whip up homemade pasta. But, not going to lie, every time we make our own pasta, it just reconfirms how much we love it and moves us slightly closer to keeping up with that goal! We’ve shared a few recipes with homemade pasta so far – see, Pappardelle with Braised RaguCacio e Pepe, & Homemade Pasta Carbonara. With all of these, we’ve developed our standard recipe for pasta dough. We thought we’d share that here as it’s own recipe for ease of browsing! Over time and trial & error, we think this is the best way to create your basic pasta blank canvas. {This recipe makes between 2 and 4 servings – let me explain. We have a bad habit of making pasta and then inhaling it, leaving us over-full. So – 2 portions. If you have more restraint and/or do not wish to need to unbutton your pants after dinner – 4 portions. We’ve easily doubled this recipe in the past with the same results.}

Basic Pasta Recipe

(Our recipe is adapted & combined from several sources: The Cook’s Book400 Sauces, & KitchenAid’s insert that accompanied our pasta attachments.)
Ingredients: 
  • 1 1/3 cups of all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 eggs
Instructions:
  1. In a large bowl, stir the salt into the flour. Create a well or crater in the center.
  2. Crack two eggs into that center well/crater.
  3. Using a fork, slowly mix the egg into the flour. Try to keep the eggs within the crater, pulling in more and more flour. (If you fail, don’t worry, life will go on.)
  4. Once the egg is mixed into the flour and is beginning to resemble a cohesive dough, turn out onto a clean counter-top, and switch to using your hands. Fold together until well combined. [You made need an extra dusting of flour if the dough is wet and sticky, or to wet your hands if it’s a bit dry.]
  5. Continue kneading the dough, stretching and folding, for at least 5 and up to 10 minutes. By this point, the dough should be smoother and elastic, so that you can form into a ball. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap. Allow to sit for at least 30 minutes, and up to two hours.
  6. The type of pasta you want to make will dictate your next steps. Generally, you will likely cut the dough into smaller portions, flatten with a rolling pin or pasta roller, and then cut as desired.

 

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Pappardelle with Braised Ragu

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I’m learning things today. That’s one of the best things about writing this blog – because I want to actually have something to say in my post, I frequently dig deeper into the history or other technical details of recipes where I might not have otherwise. Take today’s recipe… I knew I wanted to make homemade pasta for dinner and change it up from the usual Homemade Pasta Carbonara. (We may or may not be a little bit addicted to the carbonara recipe – Selim looked at me like I had an extra head when I said I was thinking about making pasta with a different type of sauce.) Then I remembered the time I learned that all meatsauces weren’t created equally – I was at dinner with friends at a restaurant in our old home of Charlottesville, VA, when someone (my cousin Emily I think) ordered the bolognese. I’d never ordered anything similar off a menu because I always thought… 💭 Meat sauce? I can just buy a jar of that off a shelf 🤷 And then I tasted her dish – it was amazing, delicious, and nothing like meatsauce in a jar!

I wanted to recreate that experience tonight. But what recipe to follow? What technically is bolognese and how is it different from ragu? I feel like I see those words on menus used interchangeably. Well, I finally put some effort into learning the details. I now know that a ragu is an umbrella term for meat-based Italian sauces, under which bolognese falls. (Technically, a bolognese sauce is ragù alla bolognese.) A ragu is different from what I was thinking of as “meatsauce” in that the meat is truly the focus, not tomatoes or tomato sauce. It is thicker and less liquidy. And it turns out, while under this umbrella, bolognese sauce is incredibly specific – it has actually been registered in exact detail. The Italian Academy of Cuisine registered it in 1982. The recipe must include the following ingredients to be an official bolognese: beef, pancetta, onion, celery, carrot, tomato sauce, whole milk, dry wine (red or white), and salt & pepper. We aren’t going to stick to that particular formulation, so the sauce for tonight’s dinner is a ragu!

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Pappardelle with Braised Ragu

(Recipe adapted from Bon Appetit magazine)
Ingredients: 
Ragu:
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Check out these gorgeous heirloom tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 10oz ground pork sausage
  • 1lb ground beef
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 large carrot, diced
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 3 small tomatoes
  • 1 1/2 cup dry red wine
  • 1 cup beef broth
  • Salt & pepper
  • Parmesan cheese
Pasta:
  • 2 cups AP flour
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 tsp olive oil
Instructions: 
  1. In a dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium heat.
  2. Add both types of meat, removing the sausage from casings if needed. Season liberally with pepper and a pinch of salt. Cook until browned and then remove to the side, retaining a coating of fat in the dutch oven.
  3. To this, add the diced onions and carrots. Cook for 8-10 minutes, until well softened.
  4. Now add the minced garlic, tomato paste, and thyme. Stir frequently, cooking for 3 minutes.
  5. Pulse the tomatoes in a food processor. [Yielding ~2 cups]
  6. Return the meat to the dutch oven. Stir in the wine and tomatoes. Increase heat slightly to a vigorous simmer. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until liquid has reduced by half and thickened.
  7. Lastly, add the beef broth and bring to a boil. Then reduce heat and cover. Check to ensure there’s a light simmer. Braise for at least two hours, checking and stirring occasionally.
  8. Meanwhile, prepare the pasta dough. On a clean, dry counter-top, mix together the flour and salt and form it into a volcano (a mound with a crater scooped out in the middle). Crack the eggs into that center well/crater.
  9. Using a fork, slowly mix the egg into the flour. Try to keep the eggs within the crater, pulling in more and more flour. (If you fail, don’t worry, life will go on.) Once the egg is mixed into the flour enough that it’s not trying to run away anymore, switch to use your hands. Fold together until well combined. [You may need an extra dusting of flour if the dough is wet and sticky, or to wet your hands if it’s a bit dry.]
  10. Continue kneading the dough, stretching and folding, for at least 5 and up to 10 minutes. By this point, the dough should be smoother and elastic, so that you can form into a ball. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap. Allow to sit for at least 30 minutes, and up to two hours.
  11. Once the dough has set, roll out and divide into quarters. Using the pasta roller attachment on the stand mixer, flatten out (to #5 if using KitchenAid’s model). Let the flattened dough rest on a floured surface.
  12. Using a sharp knife, slice into 1 inch wide noodles. Cover with parchment paper if still waiting on the sauce.
  13. Remove the lid from the dutch oven and increase heat to return liquid to a fast simmer. As the last bit of liquid is being soaked up, turn off the heat and stir in 2oz freshly grated Parmesan cheese.
  14. Cook pasta in boiling, salted water until al dente – it will only take a minute or two with the fresh pasta.
  15. Top pasta with sauce and additional Parmesan cheese!
Serves 4-6.

Cacio e Pepe

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Number 10 on our Culinary Bucket List states, “Figure out how the Italians’ make pasta cacio e pepe a million times better than we can. Also, master that twirling the pasta at the table trick.” If you’ve ever been to Rome, you know what I’m talking about. Literally ever Roman restaurant we set foot in served some type of cacio e pepe. It draws in tourists’ attention for its theatrical table-side preparation, but turns out it’s also delicious! Not lying, I think my cousin Scottie ate cacio e pepe for almost every meal when we were in Rome after the first time she tried it.

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All of us in St. Peter’s Square! From L to R: Selim, family friend Henry, Ally, Ally’s brother Jeffrey, and cousins Scottie, Jayme, & Luke

How is it that good though? ‘Cacio e pepe’ literally means pepper and cheese. It’s that simple – pasta + pepper + cheese. But somehow, when we came home and tried to recreate it, it never turned out the same. It was mind-boggling – how are we screwing up something that seems so simple?? The cheese would get all clumpy, and we wouldn’t really get a “sauce” per se.

Well, apparently we’re not the only ones. I found this article from Serious Eats that addressed our dilemma, from the point of view of someone who knows way more about cooking and testing recipes that we do. Thank goodness for smart people! Read it and learn like we did. We followed all of the tips and tricks in the article and were rewarded with a much better result. While it’s still not as good as what we had in Italy, and we still don’t know how to do the twirl the pasta at the table trick, it’s good enough to share!

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Cacio e Pepe

(Recipe adapted from this Serious Eats article & recipe)
Ingredients: 
  • 1 1/3 cup AP flour (plus slightly more for dusting your counter, hands, etc)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 4 tbsp olive oil, divided
  • 2 tbsp melted butter
  • 40 turns fresh ground black pepper, divided
  • 2 cups finely grated Pecorino Romano cheese
  • 2-3 tbsp pasta water
Instructions: 
  1. Start by making the pasta dough. On a clean, dry counter-top, mix together the flour and salt and form it into a volcano (a mound with a crater scooped out in the middle). Crack two eggs into that center well/crater.
  2. Using a fork, slowly mix the egg into the flour. Try to keep the eggs within the crater, pulling in more and more flour. (If you fail, don’t worry, life will go on.) Once the egg is mixed into the flour enough that it’s not trying to run away anymore, switch to use your hands. Fold together until well combined. [You made need an extra dusting of flour if the dough is wet and sticky, or to wet your hands if it’s a bit dry.]
  3. Continue kneading the dough, stretching and folding, for at least 5 and up to 10 minutes. By this point, the dough should be smoother and elastic, so that you can form into a ball. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap. Allow to sit for at least 30 minutes, and up to two hours.
  4. Once the dough has set, roll out and divide into quarters. Using the pasta roller attachment on the stand mixer, flatten out (to #4 if using KitchenAid’s model). Let the flattened dough rest on a floured surface. Then cut into spaghetti noodles using that attachment. [Follow your particular pasta roller/cutter’s instructions for doing these things.] Tip: keep your hands and the surface of the dough lightly floured during this process.
  5. Meanwhile, bring a pot of water to a boil with a dash of salt. Use less water than you typically would – just enough to cover the pasta.
  6. Add fresh pasta and cook until al dente. This only takes a few minutes with fresh pasta – it will take more like 6-7 minutes with store-bought pasta.
  7. In a second pan, heat 3 tbsp of olive oil and the first 20 turns of black pepper over medium-low heat.
  8. Add 2-3 tbsp of starchy pasta water and the melted butter to the pan. Stir to combine with the olive oil.
  9. Using tongs, lift noodles out of their pot and place into the pan as well.
  10. Slowly add the cheese and the remaining 1 tbsp of olive oil. Stir vigorously while adding the cheese so it doesn’t get clumped up.
  11. Add more pasta water as needed to ensure all noodles get coated with the sauce.
  12. Top with 20 more turns of black pepper and salt if you think it needs.
Makes 2 large individual servings, or 4 non-fat-American-sized servings.

Herbed Shrimp Pasta Salad

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Given that my sister Amy was the center of attention for her own graduation celebration, she got to pick which dishes my mom made for the party. One of her absolute favorites is this pasta salad with shrimp. Pretty much any time Amy gets to pick, this is what she asks for. This family favorite comes from my aunt Townley, although she says she thinks she got it from a neighbor years ago. Isn’t that always how things like this work? We’ve always known it as ‘Townley’s Shrimp Pasta Salad,’ but she got it from the neighbor, who probably got it from someone else, and on and on. Maybe one day, Amy’s friends will know it as ‘Amy’s Shrimp Pasta Salad,’ since she’ll make it so many times. And maybe one of you will like it so much and go on to make it so many times that it because known as YOUR shrimp pasta salad!

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Herbed Shrimp Pasta Salad

Ingredients: 
  • 1 lb medium shell pasta
  • 1 lb baby shrimp
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 tbsp dill
  • 2 tsp Old Bay seasoning
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 of an onion, chopped
  • 1 tsp oil
  • Salt & pepper as needed
Instructions: 
  1. Prepare the pasta according to instructions or however you normally do it.
  2. Drain the pasta, but while still hot, stir in the mayonnaise, dill, and Old Bay.
  3. Meanwhile, sauté the onion and garlic in the oil. Once softened, add the garlic and onions into the pasta, along with the shrimp.
  4. Stir everything together and top with a salt and pepper to your liking.
  5. Refrigerate until serving.
Makes ~8-10 servings if using as a main dish for a luncheon or similar. Is plenty for way more guests than that if part of a potluck with other dishes like we did for the party!

Pasta with Roasted Red Pepper & Goat Cheese Sauce

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Happy middle of March! Who cares about mid-March you say?? I do! Mid-March means the NCAA basketball tournament. I love the Madness! The brackets, the buzzer-beaters, the underdogs, the team spirit, the heart and soul… I love it all!

This weekend has been a little bit of a roller-coaster for me though. I’ve enjoyed my time glued to the couch, flipping between games. But then my hometown VCU Rams fizzled out in the first round. My Virginia Cavaliers and South Carolina Gamecocks each had strong second halves to win their respective first round games. We went to Greenville, SC to hang out with my brothers and immerse ourselves in the tournament festivities downtown, which was really fun! But then… UVA lost in the second round in pretty much the most soul-crushing fashion imaginable. So that was definitely a down moment. And by down I mean, I may or may not have shed a tear or two.
I pretended it didn’t happen today and watched the games all afternoon. This pasta dish may not be your most traditional game-day food, but we enjoyed it none the less.

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Pasta with Roasted Red Pepper and Goat Cheese Sauce

Ingredients: 
  • 8oz pasta
  • 2 large red bell peppers
  • 2 tsp olive oil, divided
  • 2 tbsp milk
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 6oz herbed goat cheese
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1/8 tsp crushed red pepper flakes (or to taste)
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 5 turns of fresh ground black pepper
Instructions:
  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
  2. Rub 1 tsp of olive oil over the peppers and place them on a foil-lined cookie sheet. Roast peppers for 30 minutes. They will begin to blister.
  3. Allow the peppers to cool slightly. Remove the seeds and stems.
  4. Place the peppers and the milk into a food processor. Give it a few spins until you have a nice puree.
  5. Meanwhile, heat the other 1 tsp of olive oil over medium heat.
  6. Mince the garlic and brown in the olive oil for ~3-4 minutes.
  7. Turn heat down to low and add the red pepper puree, goat cheese, and all of the remaining spices to the pan.
  8. Cook over low heat for ~15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until ingredients are well-combined and heated through.
  9. As the sauce is coming together, prepare your pasta.
  10. Serve sauce overtop of pasta and enjoy!
Makes 2 large servings or 4 smaller side dish servings.

Homemade Pasta Carbonara

carbonara3In 2015, we went on a trip to Italy & Turkey. After eating our way through Rome, we became mildly obsessed with fresh pasta. So we got the pasta attachments for our stand mixer and have been trying to master making pasta from scratch ever since. The first time we attempted homemade pasta, we decided to make carbonara to go with it. It was so good that I honestly don’t think we’ve made pasta without carbonara since. But this dinner is exactly why we made this blog! We’ve done things slightly different each time, with obviously slightly different results. And we can never remember what alterations improved (or didn’t improve…) the final dish!  Hopefully this will remedy the situation.

Generally when we make this, Ally is responsible for the pasta, and Selim is responsible for the carbonara itself. For the pasta, we make the dough fresh and by hand, and then use rolling and cutting attachments for our stand mixer to create the pasta. If you don’t own said attachments (go get them!), you can roll and cut the pasta by hand. I have no knowledge or ability to do such a thing, but allegedly it can be done ;).

Cheese: Try using other styles of cheese.  Any hard cheese will work well here.  Obviously, traditional carbonara has only Italian cheese (Parmesan and/or Pecorino), but this version isn’t 100% authentic by any means. Some of our favorites for carbonara include: aged mahon, manchego, and asiago.  In the future, we’d like to try a hard Swiss or sharp cheddar.  Play around with the cheeses to find out which combos you like best!

This meal begs for wine to accompany it. Tonight we drank Stone Mountain Vineyard’s 2011 Merlot.

Homemade Pasta Carbonara

(Our recipe is adapted & combined from several sources: The Cook’s Book, 400 Sauces, & KitchenAid’s insert that accompanied our pasta attachments.)
Ingredients: 
  • 1 1/3 cups of all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 6 eggs, divided
  • 6 strips of bacon or pancetta
  • 1 onion, finely diced
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced/pressed
  • 2 tbsp olive oil (try turffle oil for a different flavor)
  • 8oz hard Italian cheese (Parmesan, Pecorino), shredded
  • Fresh ground black pepper
Instructions: 
  1. Start by making the pasta dough. On a clean, dry counter-top, mix together the flour and salt and form it into a volcano (a mound with a crater scooped out in the middle). Crack two eggs into that center well/crater.
  2. Using a fork, slowly mix the egg into the flour. Try to keep the eggs within the crater, pulling in more and more flour. (If you fail, don’t worry, life will go on.) Once the egg is mixed into the flour enough that it’s not trying to run away anymore, switch to use your hands. Fold together until well combined. [You made need an extra dusting of flour if the dough is wet and sticky, or to wet your hands if it’s a bit dry.]
  3. Continue kneading the dough, stretching and folding, for at least 5 and up to 10 minutes. By this point, the dough should be smoother and elastic, so that you can form into a ball. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap. Allow to sit for at least 30 minutes, and up to two hours. pasta2
  4. Once the dough has set, roll out and divide into quarters. Using the pasta roller attachment on the stand mixer, flatten out (#5 if using KitchenAid’s model). Let the flattened dough rest on a floured surface. Then cut into your desired type of noodles using that attachment. [Follow your particular pasta roller/cutter’s instructions for doing these things.] Tip: keep your hands and the surface of the dough lightly floured during this process.
  5. If you have two people, the other person can start preparing the carbonara while one is working on the pasta. If not, finish working with the pasta and set aside on a floured surface and begin to work on the carbonara.
  6. Slice the bacon into lardons. In a deep sauté pan, or a sauteuse pan (I just learned the name of this!), cook the bacon over medium-high heat. Top with five turns of a pepper grinder. Once the bacon has released much of its fat and is becoming crispy, add the onions to the pan. Cook for ~5 minutes and then add the garlic to the pan. Continue cooking another ~2 minutes and then turn the burner off, leaving the pan on the burner.
  7. Meanwhile, bring a pot of water to a boil. Add the fresh pasta to the boiling water. Cook for only  two minutes!! Strain.
  8. Add the pasta once strained to the pan of bacon, onion, and garlic. Stir a few times to mix.
  9. In a large bowl, whisk the remaining four eggs vigorously with the olive oil. Then add 7oz of the cheese, continuing to whisk together. Top with another five turns of the pepper mill.
  10. Stir the cheese/egg mixture into the pot of noodles. Toss to thoroughly coat the noodles. Serve immediately, topped with the remaining cheese and another bit of pepper if desired.

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Makes 2 very large individual servings, or 4 non-fat-American-sized servings.