Hasta Pasta

Spinach and Giorgio recently loaned me their pasta maker, so I dragged this heavy contraption across town on BART. If I got jumped in Oakland, I could hit the assailant with a metal brick. This stainless steel, hand-cranked machine is indeed made in Italy. Ruben was in town this weekend, so why not make pasta?

First, we had to learn how to make pasta. Giorgio warned us that for pasta Italians traditionally mix flour with either duck or goose eggs. So we marched over to overpriced Bi-Rite Grocery to buy six large, hard-shelled duck eggs. Next, we watched Youtube videos of Chef John making spinach fettuccine through an attachment on an electric stand mixer. How fancy.

Pasta simply is one egg mixed with one cup of flour plus a whole lotta work. No water, no other craziness. The kneaded dough rests in the refrigerator to form malleable play-doh that is fed between the twin rollers of the pasta maker at successively thinner settings. We learned quickly that any debris, like cornmeal in the semolina flour, will tear sad columns in the rolled pasta. Fortunately, the dough seems infinitely processable – just roll up the scraps and start over. Because Spinach forgot to include the machine’s table clamp, pasta making was a happy two-person job with Ruben feeding sheets into the machine and me cranking the rollers.

I blended a roasted butternut squash with French soft cheese and thyme. We pressed the bright orange mixture between cut pasta squares to make butternut squash ravioli. I slid on the machine’s noodle attachment to cut ribbons of fettuccine. Ruben fried some garlic, I grated a wedge of Pecorino Romano, we cooked the Roman classic Cacio e pepe (cheese and pepper).

Fresh pasta only boils for about a minute, after which diners must immediately eat. We stuffed ourselves with butternut squash ravioli in sage butter and garlicky fettuccine. This was not only the best pasta I have ever eaten but also so novel in texture (like Chinese noodles) that I was trying pasta for the first time. Fortunately, we stopped halfway to avoid eating a pound of pasta each. Both the fettuccine and ravioli reheat well in a microwave.

With a ton of leftover squash filling and two duck eggs, I made thirty more ravioli today. The ravioli took awhile to fill, but unstuffed homemade pasta, such as spaghetti, would be quite fast to prepare. As with pita bread, tortillas, and hamburger buns (all products I now make myself), I may be ruined by fresh pasta.