Egg pasta dough – pasta all’uovo

I’ve shied away from writing a lot of pasta recipes and posts, apart from the What pasta tools do you really need parts one and two. Silly really. I thought when I started this website that I wanted to show that I had a breadth of food skills, not just the pasta and bread that I was most known for. I have been making pasta (and bread) by hand at home for over 30 years now, so I’m fairly experienced and perhaps I’m rather overdue writing more pasta posts and recipes!

I’ve adapted this post to give considerations and alternatives during this time of lockdown.

For me, pasta dough is less “recipe” and more “formula”. There are two basic formulas: one for egg dough and one for eggless (just flour and water). Both these then are adaptable for different flours, different amounts of egg/yolk, mixes of flours and other ingredients.

This post only focuses on an egg dough. This produces an elastic and high protein/gluten pasta. Use this as your basis to get used to making fresh egg pasta dough and then move on to create and experiment with variations. This dough can be stretched very thin while remaining strong, so it’s perfect for pasta ripiena (filled pasta such as like ravioli) or long ribbons and straw shapes (as they won’t tear or break under their own weight). In short, using an egg dough gives you a lot of options for making pasta at home.

An addition on 4th June: I’ve completed a YouTube video on making egg dough to accompany this recipe:

Notes on flour

You ideally* want to use an ultra-refined white (soft) wheat flour for this base egg dough recipe. You can go on to play around with different wheat species and gluten free flours later, but for the purposes of this ‘base formula’ we’re sticking to the fundamental recipe.

There are various methods of grading flour. Flours can be coarse grained (uses the wholegrain including bran from the wheat grain) to those that are very finely milled (only using the endosperm: the whitest, finest part of the grain). You need a finely milled flour for fine pasta – the finer the milling the smoother the pasta. I’ve planned a blog post on flour, which I hope to post soon.

In these times of lockdown and flour and egg shortages you can be adaptable. Yes, as mentioned *ideally you want to produce the best pasta which does call for finely milled flour, but you can make good pasta at home with plain flour or strong white bread flour. Plain flour will make slightly softer, limper pasta but cook it for a little less time. Bread flour is course and a bit chewy, but with a robust sauce you’ll barely notice.

It’s been relatively easy (up to the COVID-19 crisis when all flours now seem difficult to come by) to find flours labelled ‘Tipo 00’ in the UK. Even McDougall’s sells packets of 00 flour in high street supermarkets. See my resources page for links to online suppliers – Shipton Mill, Bakery Bits, Melbury and Appleton, Sous Chef and more all ship Italian flours.

Portion size

It all depends on the size of eggs you have available but try to use large eggs. Roughly 100g of flour = one main course portion.

  • 100g of flour + 1 large egg

Alternatively, if you have medium or small eggs:

  • 90-92g of flour + 1 medium egg
  • 100g of flour + 1 small egg + 1/2 egg yolk. This ratio makes sense when you are making for two or four people, such as 200g flour + 2 small eggs + 1 egg yolk

No eggs or few eggs? It’s been hard to get eggs hasn’t it? So a few tips on eggs in pasta for lockdown:

If you’ve got one or two eggs left and need to make more than two portions replace the missing eggs with 50g of water, that is for each 100g flour use 50g water instead of an egg. For example, you want to make 5 portions and have 2 eggs, use 500g of flour + 2 eggs + 150g water

I don’t really advise this but you ‘can’ make something with part white flour and part semolina flour with water but so note it’s best to let it air dry before using to stop it going gluey. It’s not that great and if you have some semolina flour its much better to make it wholly with that, which is semola dough (see below1). A way round using plain flour with no egg is to add gluten powder2. I’d advise you to not make just flour and water “pasta” (a famous chef has recently mooted this idea) as it’s really not good and has a tendency to dissolve. I did try making it to see – ugghhh. If you’re in that dire a food situation you’re contemplating plain flour + water dough, I’d say stop and make something else. You’re ruining the experience and taste of homemade pasta and you’ll put yourself off. Better to try and get hold of dried pasta, wait til you can get some eggs or make semola dough1. Or just leave off the pasta making and choose something else for a while.


1If you don’t have eggs the ideal things to do is make a semola/eggless pasta dough, typical of southern Italy and Liguria (I will write this up soon) as semola (fine durum wheat flour) has a high protein content which negates the need for eggs. This pasta is fabulous and is the basis of most dried pasta you can buy.

2Gluten powder can be purchased from online bakery suppliers, such as Bakery Bits (see my resource section).

Notes on amounts

I have to add here that 100g for a person is on the large side of what is a single serving – this is fine if the pasta is the majority part of a main meal or people are very hungry! It’s too much if there are a lot of other ingredients as well as the pasta, say for lasagne or spaghetti with meatballs. It’s certainly too much for a starter, so consider your total amounts. For me, about 90g per person is ideal for a main and about 65g for a starter.

Working the dough

It’s easiest to work with at least a 200g dough. Any less is really a lot of effort and time for a tiny amount of food – better to make more that you need and freeze half, see below3.

Pasta dough should be fairly hard work – you need your upper body strength when working by hand. If it’s too easy, there’s not enough flour in it. Likewise, if it’s really ridiculously tough then there’s not enough egg/liquid. To work the dough, transfer the whole force from your shoulder down through your arm to the heel of your hand into the dough. Be rough with it!

Unless you’ve mis-measured or your large egg is really extra-large, all the egg should mix with all the dough. Have you seen those pasta videos or instructions that say discard the extra flour?! There should be no extra flour: it should all mix in with enough force if you’ve weight and prepared properly.

Resting the dough

After kneading, cover the dough (linen cloth, cling film, beeswax wrap, bag etc) and put somewhere cool. It doesn’t have to be a fridge unless it’s a very hot, dry day. But do over all of it, if there are air gaps you’ll get a crust.

Rest for at least 30 minutes.

Making in advance

3 If you want to make egg pasta dough way in advance, then freeze your dough. This does deteriorate the dough a little (in comparison to using it just-made). I find it defrosts better if you cut up the dough into chunks, rather than freeze the large ball of dough. You can also make your pasta shapes and freeze them.

You can make it the day before and leave in the fridge (as it’s raw egg, then I don’t advice leaving it for longer than 24 hours).

Method

Make by hand and you’ll need to knead for up to 10 minutes. Stick the ingredients in a STURDY food processor and it will take but a couple of minutes. Please note do check your food processor manual before making pasta dough in it – most cannot cope with the density of pasta dough and may break!

For me, I always hand mix apart from a couple of highly coloured vegetables doughs which may stain my table. As you get more used to pasta making and stronger arms it will take less time – I can knead dough in just a few minutes now.

  1. Measure out the right amount of Tip 00 flour and tip onto a table
  2. Make a well in the middle, so it looks like a volcano crater
  3. Tip the eggs into the middle (you can crack them straight in here – I usually do as eggs are reliable nowadays – or you can crack them into a bowl first if you’re worried about adding a gone-off egg)
  1. Use the tips of you fingers with your lead hand, in a circular motion to mix the eggs gradually into the flour, working slowly outwards through the ring of flour – go anti clockwise if you are right handed and clockwise if you are left handed
  2. Steady the ring/crater of flour with your other hand, so that it doesn’t collapse and your egg runs off across the table
  3. Slowly incorporate the flour into the egg by dragging a little in from the ‘crater’ with each hand rotation
  1. Once the flour and egg have been combined, start kneading the dough
  1. The dough will naturally take up the correct amount of flour for the eggs you have – it shouldn’t leave any ‘spare’ flour on your work surface (though don’t panic if you really can’t work it all in. The reason for this may be a small egg or just not being used to working the dough hard enough)
  2. Should the flour be taken up very quickly by the egg (maybe larger than average eggs or you’re in high humidity etc), then flick a little more flour onto the table to continue kneading it in
  3. The dough should be difficult but not be very dry: it should not crack or crumble when kneading. It is tricky, but not impossible to add more liquid to a dry dough. The easiest way I’ve found to do this is to wet your hands (flick off the excess) and knead this in. Once tricky thing about this is if you are working on a slightly slippery surface it’s difficult to knead a dough with a wet exterior – working on wood helps this (the grain acts as a grip)
  4. A guide for dryness/stickiness of dough is that if you are going to use a pasta machine to produce sheets (sfoglie) it’s better to have a dryer dough and if you are making handmade shapes (such as orecchiette or trofie) then slightly more pliable is best
  5. Kneading pasta dough is much tougher than kneading bread dough but it s similar technique. To start with, the dough will be very tough to manipulate. If you find it too tricky, try putting the heel of your palm on the dough (as normal) but lean into the dough with the whole weight from your upper body by leaning in to it right from your shoulder, through your arm and down to your hand. As you knead the dough will become more elastic and easier to manipulate
  1. Knead with your palm to spread the dough out away from you, then roll the dough back with your other hand. Turn or flip over the dough and continue
  2. You will have to knead for about 10 minutes as someone new to pasta (although if you’re very strong you’re at an advantage and may be quicker). You’ll get faster as you get more practiced and stronger
  3. The dough is ready when it has a slightly shinier and smoother surface and is more easy to stretch and knead
  1. Another way to tell is by gently making an indentation in the dough surface with a finger – the dough will slowly spring back (though pasta dough never will fill in the indentation completely)
  2. Round the dough off into a ball and cover it – your choice of linen, wrap, a bag or whatever – just ensure that it’s covered or the surface will start to dry out and crack
  3. Any cool-ish, area out of the sun or the top of the fridge will be fine to rest your dough (though if your kitchen is very warm then it really should go in the fridge and, also please note the next point because of raw eggs)
  4. Leave the dough to rest for 30 minutes ideally. It can be left for a day in a fridge (don’t leave it out of the fridge longer than the 30 minutes because of the raw egg involved)
  5. After the dough is rested it’s ready to use in your preferred recipe

If you have a question for me please do leave one below, or a nice comment! Thank you


Instructions and visual steps on how to make egg pasta dough, including tips and help on creating pasta when ingredients are hard to come by

Gnocchi

gnocchi

Gnocchi are gorgeous, pillowy-soft little morsels. They’re made with potato and flour so are the carbohydrate part of your dish. You can make them without the egg (then making them vegan) but in my trials I do think they benefit from the addition of the protein for their structure.

For me gnocchi are a great additional to your cooking repertoire, as they are another carbohydrate type for your meal and provide yet another choice in cooking potatoes.

Some say these are pasta. They’re certainly a pasta shape and there are some regional pastas, such as rascatielli from Puglia, that have potato in them but potato in a pasta shape is usually just a proportion in comparison with the flour. In gnocchi the potato is the majority ingredient. Whatever your thinking on this (could this be the next jam or cream on scones first debate!?) they’re certainly an excellent source of carbohydrate and a real change from other methods of cooking potatoes or using pasta in a dish.

During this time of lockdown cooking and being frugal with what you have, it may seem wasteful that you are using additional flour and egg, rather than just cooking baked potatoes. However, it does make the potatoes go much further as not only does it add to the whole ingredients, it also helps the potatoes fluff up a little. Nutritionally, it adds protein and further carbohydrate too. Also consider that baked potatoes are rarely eaten without butter and mash can have butter, milk or cream and/or cheese added to it.

Notes

Enough for four people.

It’s difficult to halve this recipe as it has an entire egg in it, but you can make all the gnocchi and then freeze half:

❄️ Freezing tips – Freeze the gnocchi in one layer on a tray, not bunched up together. when frozen they can then be placed in a bag or tub together. Do not thaw – just use them straight from the freezer (if you thaw them first they will go mushy)

Cooking time: Takes about 1 hour 40 minutes, however there’s only about 30 minutes of activity! 1 hr 10 of this is just the potatoes baking in the oven

Serve with any sauce or ragu that you would make for pasta. Goes particularly well with cheese or rich tomato sauces. Also you can just fry them off in herbed oil as a cicchetto (Italian tapa).

gnocchi making ink sugar spice

Equipment list

  • Baking tray
  • A large bowl
  • Sharp small knife
  • Cutting board
  • A couple of clean tea towels
  • Butter pats, garganelli board or a fork with long tynes (not essential but used to give the ridges)
  • Baking tray
  • Pastry cutter, sharp large knife or a sturdy fork (Don’t use a masher)

To cook – either:

  • Large frying pan (skillet) and olive oil, with a slotted spatula or;
  • Large saucepan with boiling salted water and a sieve/scoop

Ingredients – gnocchi

  • 1 kg of Maris piper or similar potatoes
  • 1 medium egg
  • 200g flour (ideally 00 type but normal plain flour will do, and you can substitute cornflour or other gluten free flour if you prefer)
  • 5 g Salt
  • Extra flour for dusting

Method

  1. Turn your oven on to 180C fan / 200C conventional (this is about gas mark 3)
  2. Finely dice the shallots, garlic and celery and fry gently in a little oil in the casserole dish or sauté pan. Put the lid on and leave at a low heat for about 10 minutes
  3. Put the potatoes on a baking tray and put them in the oven. Pierce the skin once or twice on each potato. It is crucial that you do oil the potatoes – you need to dry them out. Set the timer for one hour
  4. After an hour has elapsed since you put the potatoes in the oven, it is now time to get them out: they should be nice and crispy
  5. Cut each potato in half and allow the steam to escape for a few minutes
  6. Scoop the potato flesh out from each skin into a bowl – you might find it helpful to hold them with a tea towel as they’ll still be hot
  7. Once you’ve got all the flesh, chop the potatoes up with a knife or pastry cutter. You can also use a fork. Stay away from using a potato masher as it’s easy to over use and the starch in the potatoes can get over worked and become very glutinous – this will ruin the gnocchi
  8. Add in the flour and the salt and ‘chop’ it into the dough
  9. Add in the egg now, and cut it in to the dough immediately (or you may get pieces of cooked egg)
  10. Bring it all together now with your hands – it should be firm but yielding. If it’s very sticky work in a little more dough (again ‘cut’ the flour into it, rather than kneading)
  11. Dust some flour on the counter and cut off a handful-sized piece of dough. Roll it out into a sausage about 15 mm or roughly the same thickness as your thumb. Doesn’t need to be exact
  12. Cut discs off the roll that are also around 15mm long with a sharp, small knife
  13. Roll these pieces of dough over the flour (on your board) as you cut them to coat them a little. Repeat with all of the potato dough until you have made gnocchi with all of it
  14. You can now leave them as they are (see note below about placing them apart) or, if you have a garganelli board or a butter pat, you can roll the gnocchi down it to create ridges. You can also roll them down the tunes of a fork. Ridging the gnocchi does take extra time and your gnocchi will be fine plain, the ridges are there to help hold on to the sauce
  15. To ridge a gnocco, place it on the board and place your fingers on top of it, about where your top knuckle is. Drag the gnocco towards you down the board with medium pressure until it reaches your fingertips. It will have rolled along, getting marked with the ridges

When you have made each gnocco place it down on a clean tea towel or a lightly floured board and try not to let the gnocchi touch each other as you continue to use all the dougCooking

I’m going to instruct you in both ways I cook my gnocchi – you can chose to fry/sauté them or boil them.

Frying makes them slightly crispier and you can cook them in advance and keep them warm while you cook the sauce.

Boiling is more typical, it’s quicker and results in fluffy gnocchi but your sauce needs to be ready when your gnocchi are

Frying:

  1. Heat a generous amount of olive oil in a large frying pan (skillet). Place batches of the gnocchi in the oil, gently and try to make sure they don’t stick together (separate any that are stuck with your spatula)
  2. Toss or flip the gnocchi in the oil until lightly browned and transfer to an oven proof dish. Keep warm in the oven until time to use

Boiling

  1. Bring salted water in your largest saucepan to the boil. You may need to do this in two or three batches so you can get the gnocchi out quick enough before they go mushy
  2. Let the gnocchi roll around in the boiling water for a couple of minutes: they don’t take long. The gnocchi will have sunk to the bottom when you first put them in: when they are ready they pop up to the surface and float (self timing food: what’s not to love!)

Lean pasta sauce – Salsa magro

This is my adaptation of a tomato-based sauce by Pellegrino Artusi to account for my more modern palate and cooking methods. The original appears in the 1891 “La scienza in cucina e l’arte di mangiar bene” (Kitchen science and the art of eating well).

It’s described as ‘magro’ which means lean/skinny, but I’m making the assumption that ‘lean’ applied to the low number of fairly cheap ingredients, meaning it was more for ‘lean days’ rather than lean as in ‘diet’ or low in fat. His original use of 70g of butter may make you question the number of calories, but that divided between the five servings he suggests really isn’t that bad. It could also mean that it was a thin sauce, but as it’s served with spaghetti (not as a brodo/broth for pasta ripiena/filled pasta) I doubt that’s the case as it needs to have some body to it.

I’ve adapted it to use the more heart-healthy olive oil amongst other tweaks. I have also included the original recipe (translated) as a comparison and which you may want to try as it is a good recipe.

You may think it odd that an older pasta sauce recipe uses butter and not olive oil, but it’s not because olive oil is now everywhere, it’s because of the variety of climate in Italy and many northern regions traditionally using butter. The terrain and climate of the north favours dairy farming and not the growth of olive trees. Artusi himself came from Emilia-Romagna, a region known globally for Parmigiano Reggiano made from cows’ milk – the same milk which is used for the region’s butter. So, Artusi grew up in a region that favoured dairy farming and the production of butter.

Personally, I like both butter and olive oil (and other oils like rapeseed), but I do have a preference for their use in certain situations. Where I can I will go for the heart-healthy olive oil, but sometimes butter is needed, or indeed lard or dripping (though I use these very rarely and normally just in pastry). Olive oils I have begun to choose selectively by their quality and taste: that is, I’m not using extra virgin only because ‘it’s the best so I just buy that’ but I’ll select a light oil for a dessert recipe, a deeply fruity oil when I need the taste to come through, a classic for ‘everyday’ cooking etc. I appreciate this sounds like a lot of money to have a variety, but actually it is cheaper in the long run. Because milder, later pressing oils are significantly less expensive I use those when I can and save the posher, more expensive oils for when the time’s right and a little will do (rather than using up the expensive stuff on frying for example).

Notes on my tweaked version

  • Serves 4 with pasta (a more typical serving size than 5)
  • Also useful as a sauce for fish or chicken – will serve 6-8 in this case (add in capers for fish and sage or rosemary for chicken)
  • Also great as a perfect tomato sauce for pizza
  • This is an easy sauce; easy but fairly time consuming. It requires time to bring out the flavours. I’ve changed the tomatoes to pre-packaged passata which has cut the time down dramatically though
  • It’s a nice sauce to have simmering away while you prepare something else, perhaps making for tomorrow alongside tonight’s meal (once cool keep it in the fridge)
  • Alternatively, you can freeze it – I find freezing sauces easier and more convenient in ice cube trays. Once frozen you can pop out the cubes of sauce into a freezer bag so you can re-use the ice cube tray. It also means you can select the right amount easily and cubes defrost quicker than a large block, or you can just pop one frozen cube in a plain sauce to enrich it
  • Omit the anchovies to make it vegetarian/vegan

 

Note about ribbon pasta suggested in recipe and appropriateness

To be fair, there’s little reason for anyone who is home cooking to worry much about which pasta goes with which sauce unless you’re really interested and a) want to be authentic and b) want to learn about regionality. There is some basic guidance about which shapes work better with what, such as cupped shapes are good for chunky veg or spaghetti gets nicely covered in oily sauces (for example). Aside from that, it’s better to not worry about which pasta and just make the food, rather than worry about it so much it puts you off making the meal. Chill… use what you’ve got (penne, linguine, fettucine nests – though it won’t work with tiny shapes). And, if you do want to know, this may help:

Spaghetti is suggested by Artusi. Of course this is readily available, used throughout the whole of Italy and quick to cook. If you want to choose another ribbon shape or want to make your own instead (wider ribbons are easier to make by hand) I’ve suggested tagliatelle or trofie as close regional alternatives.

As mentioned above, the butter in the recipe (and Artusi’s homeland) suggest the recipe could have come from Emilia-Romagna and at least is a northern Italian dish. Tagliatelle is common to the same region (and also Marche, another northern area), which would link in with this assumption too and make it a reasonable choice.

Other ribbon pasta can be substituted, such as fettucine which is practically the same and you’d only know the difference if they were side-by-side or you were so familiar with either (or both of them) you’d ‘just know‘. Tagliatelle is typically a smidge wider and less likely to be found dried: northern region pasta is usually made fresh and eaten as the climate isn’t as amenable to drying, so any dried tagliatelle is a factory ‘construct’ and should properly be labeled fettucine. Fettucine is the Roman/central Italian version which also may be made and eaten fresh, but is much more likely to be the ribbon pasta found in dried nests.

Trofie are the little elongated and tapered short strand pasta shapes that are made by hand and then ridged, either with a knife or scraper or with the side of the palm to create sauce-trapping ridges. Trofie originate from Liguria, another northern Italian region. So, not Emilia-Romagna itself but the two regions share a long border, therefore trofie are a reasonably appropriate substitute if you want to make a hand-made artisan shape for this sauce.

NB although I’ve given appropriate region-based ideas for pasta shapes I have to tell you I’ve served this lovely sauce with all sorts of shapes (I really like it with orecchiette) and have included it in lasagne and on pizzas. It’s a great way to make up a tomato-glut from your garden in late summer instead of straight tomato passata or sauce. Just use enough tomatoes to equal 1 kg of passata.

Ingredients for my tweaked version of salsa magro

  • Dried spaghetti or fresh pasta (suggest a ribbon or strand shape such as tagliatelle or trofie – see above)  – 400g
  • Passata – 2 X 500g bottles
  • Chestnut or button mushrooms – 80g
  • Olive oil, extra virgin or gusto fruttato  – 140ml
  • Olive oil, mild and light – 2 tablespoons
  • Pine nuts – 60g
  • Anchovies 4 to 6, depending on how much you like anchovies
  • Two shallots, finely diced or one small red onion
  • Red wine vinegar – 1 1/2 tablespoons
  • Corn flour – 1 teaspoon
  • Salt and pepper
  • Pinch of sugar
  • Parmesan rind, chopped
  • Fresh basil and thyme

Method

  1. First toast the pine nuts in a dry pan over a low heat until they start to go a golden brown (careful they don’t burn as they change colour quickly)
  2. Crush the pine nuts with a pinch of salt and the teaspoon of cornflour in a pestle and mortar or use a blender
  3. Gently fry the chopped shallots in the mild and light olive over a medium heat until they are just about to start going translucent – this will be about 10 minutes. Agitate or stir occasionally
  4. Dice up the anchovies and add them to the shallots and keep frying until the anchovies start to melt. Again, you’ll need to stir or agitate from time to time
  5. Now add in the tomatoes, the parmesan rind, the mushrooms, the fruity olive oil and season with salt and pepper and the large pinch of sugar
  6. Let simmer until the juice starts to dry off, stirring occasionally, and then add 120 ml of just boiled water
  7. Leave to simmer for 30 minutes, checking on it regularly to ensure it’s not catching on the bottom. If it’s drying out too quickly add a little more water
  8. You should know when it’s done when all the tomatoes have fully dissolved and the sauce is as thick as (lumpy) custard
  9. Add in the chopped herbs and taste, adjusting the seasoning to your taste
  10. Can be served immediately with pasta or gnocchi or it’s also nice to use as a sauce over chicken or fish (add a few capers or cornichons with the anchovies) or even for a vegetable bake or lasagna. Store in the fridge if not using immediately or freeze (see notes above)

Pellegrino Artusi’s original recipe – serves 5 (apologies for my translation – I’m a rusty reader but enough for most recipes, I can listen a little into conversations, but I’m appalling at speaking Italian myself)

  • Spaghetti – 500g
  • Mushrooms – 100g
  • Butter 70g
  • Pine nuts – 60g
  • Anchovies – 6
  • Tomatoes – 6 or 7 (large plum tomatoes)
  • Onion, finely diced – a 1/4 of a large onion
  • Plain flour – 1 teaspoon

Place half of the butter in a saucepan and sauté the pine nuts. Remove the nuts [once lightly browned with a slotted spoon to reserve the butter], dry and crush them with a pestle and mortar with the teaspoon of flour. Finely chop the onion and place this in the saucepan, when this is frying rapidly, add the chopped tomatoes, season with pepper and a little salt. When the tomatoes are cooked through, pass them through a mouli or sieve. Put this sauce back on the heat with the mushrooms and a little water, plus the rest of the butter. Boil for 30 minutes, adding water to keep the sauce liquid. Finally, melt the anchovies in the sauce [at a simmer]. Cook the spaghetti and dress with the sauce. Add parmesan if you want it richer.

Homemade ricotta – and ways to enrich, flavour or infuse it

ricottaGreenPlateOk, don’t be alarmed: it’s not full-scale, time-consuming cheesemaking.

However, you can easily, quickly and conveniently make your own ricotta and add flavourings yourself.

More often than not I just buy ricotta, but sometimes I make it myself if I’ve run out, I’ve got some full fat milk to use up or I just want my ricotta to be as nice as possible or flavoured a certain way for a particular recipe. (I’m not sure if I’m not just biased, but I think homemade is at least a little nicer than shop bought).

I’ve been using this method of half lemon juice and half vinegar to start the curdling process off for some years. I’ve only ever seen ricotta recipes that use either all rennet (not many normal kitchens have this to hand), all vinegar or all lemon juice only – this came about when I once ran out of lemon juice and had to improvise.  I liked the result and I’ve stuck to it ever since. Perhaps I should do a comparable, side-by-side taste test to see if what you use really makes a difference.

What is also different about my recipe is that I worked it out to be highly convenient for that pint or two-pint carton of full fat milk I might have in the fridge. It’s then much, much easier just to open a bottle or carton and tip it in your saucepan rather than other recipes which have a specific end amount in mind.

I’ve found that using 1 pint (568ml) of milk makes enough for two people for either a pasta filling, such as spinach and ricotta ravioli, or a light salad etc. A two pint recipe therefore is enough to serve four within a main dish or great for pastries or cakes calling for ricotta. Recipes on my blog which include ricotta are:

mangoCheesecakeNamed_2
Mango Cheesecake recipe – uses ricotta

Flavouring and enriching

See underneath the recipe for my ideas on how to flavour the ricotta or to make a richer, creamier version.

Notes

This takes time – but it’s pretty much all left to work on its own devices. There is only about 15 minutes tops of hands-on effort involved.

Equipment
  • Medium saucepan
  • Large bowl for draining
  • Colander or large sieve (choose a sieve/bowl combination that leaves a big gap between the bottom of the bowl and the bottom of the colander, so that the ricotta doesn’t sit in its own liquid and drains properly)
  • Muslin square (this is one place where it really has to be muslin – other cloths will have weaves that are too large or too tight for it to drain correctly)
  • Spatula
  • Tea towel (a very clean one)
Ingredients – based on 568ml / 1 pint of milk
  • Full fat milk – 568ml / 1 pint
  • Lemon juice – 1 1/2 teaspoons
  • Clear distilled vinegar – 1 1/2 teaspoons
  • Salt – 1/2 teaspoon
Ingredients – based on 1.36 l / 2 pints of milk
  • Full fat milk – 1.36 litres / 2 pints
  • Lemon juice – 3 teaspoons
  • Clear distilled vinegar – 3 teaspoons
  • Salt – 1 teaspoon
Method
  1. Pour the milk into the saucepan and add the salt
  2. Have the lemon juice and vinegar measured out
  3. Bring up to just under boiling – you must watch the milk as you need to catch it when bubbles start to come to the surface and the milk begins to let off steam, but has NOT yet started boiling properly (if you want to use a thermometer this will be 82C-84C). This takes around 5 minutes and remember to stir occasionally so the milk doesn’t catch on the pan

    WarmingMilk
    This is the point when you need to take this milk off the heat and add the acid
  4. Take the saucepan off the heat and immediately add the vinegar and lemon juice
  5. Stir the milk and continue to keep stirring while the curds and the whey begin to separate – about a minute or so of constant, gentle stirring

    curdsAndWhey
    What the milk looks like, just after the acid is added and the whey and curds are separating
  6. Place the muslin cloth inside the colander, then the colander over the bowl
  7. Tip the curds and whey over the muslin-strewn colander, so that the curds get caught in the muslin and the whey drains into the bowl

    draining
    The ricotta draining, through the muslin over the colander, into a bowl. Almost fully drained and just waiting to be given a squeeze and then it will be ready
  8. Cover it all with the clean tea towel (this keeps it clean and dirt-free. If you used a lid or hard surface you’d get unwanted condensation)
  9. Leave this to drain for a couple of hours at least (depending how your colander fits in your bowl you may occasionally need to tip out the whey if the bottom of the colander is sitting in the liquid)
  10. Squeeze the last of the whey out of the curds by twisting the muslin cloth together around the curds
  11. Dispose of the whey as you don’t need it (I’m told if you have pigs they love the stuff – I don’t think my cat would be interested…)
  12. Keep the ricotta in an air tight container in the fridge for up to three days or use immediately in a recipe

Flavourings

Once you’ve attempted ricotta, you may want to start adding to it.  There are two ways to do this: either add the ingredients after the ricotta has been prepared (basically just stirring them in) or by infusing the flavours at the early stage. As ricotta is quite bland but can be used in both savoury and sweet dishes it nicely lends itself to being flavoured.

Flavourings – adding to the finished ricotta

After it’s drained, you can add some additional flavourings. These are some of my suggestions or create your own:

  • Peppercorn
  • Chilli
  • Ham and pineapple (in place of ham and pineapple cottage cheese)
  • Nutmeg or ground cinnamon
  • Lemon and basil
  • Any fresh leafy herbs – thyme, hyssop, sorrel, tarragon, marjoram, lemon balm or verbena, fennel fronds 🌱
  • For sweet recipes:
  • Hazelnuts chopped in,
  • Crushed soft fruits like strawberries or raspberries,
  • A swirl of your favourite soft set jam
  • Honey and crushed figs
Flavourings – infusing the milk

Alternatively, you can add some ingredients (including some off the list above) into the milk as it warms as an infusion. In this instance you MUST sieve the milk into a separate bowl to fully remove the flavouring ingredient before you add the lemon juice and vinegar. Some suggestions are:

  • Peppercorn (less intense with no crunchy bits if you infuse!)
  • Garlic
  • Rosemary
  • Cinnamon or cassia bark
  • Any of the leafy herbs mentioned above
  • Star anise, cardamom pods or fennel seeds
Enriching the ricotta

To make an even creamier ricotta I substitute up to 50% of the milk for double or clotted cream.

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My Limoncello Baked Cheesecake – the recipe uses ricotta and is on my blog

What pasta tools do you need [part 2]

[Updated May 2019 with additional images]

This is the follow-up post to ‘What pasta equipment do you really need? part one‘. That looked at the basics to get you started (and they are very ‘basic’ basics!).

Everything you see I owe to spaghetti – Sofia Loren

This focuses on what I think you may want to start considering or using if you’ve had a few goes at making something plain, like lasagna sheets, wide papperdelle or a simple shape like orecchiette.

There are two sections in this part of the post – the first is what will make your pasta making much easier (moving on from hands, knives, rolling pin etc). Many of these gadgets are inexpensive, though I have included a more expensive pasta machine here as it made such a difference to me I felt it needed to be in this section.

Then, I look at everything else – the stuff you don’t really need but is either fun, a nice addition to a burgeoning hobby or a really aspirational purchase for a serious pasta making addiction.

I’ve added a 🍝 pasta emoji next to all those I’ve used or own. Also I’ve given a rough idea on expense, from £ meaning very cheap (at just a few quid) to ££££ prohibitively (ie getting to professional equipment) expensive.

A very small selection of my pasta equipment, some hand made, some bought new, some bought second hand
A very small selection of my pasta equipment, some hand made, some bought new, some bought second hand
Ink Sugar Spice blog https://inksugarspice.wordpress.com/

Next steps – what really will help if you continue to make pasta

A large bowl (possibly) 🍝 £-££

Hmm – this is a next step dependent on how you intend to mix pasta and how you are to measure your ingredients… Some wouldn’t want to be without a bowl, while others would never miss one.

You can just mound up the flour and eggs on your work surface and do away with even a bowl and many people prefer to do it this way. I’m 50:50 and don’t mind either. However, if I can spread out onto my dining room them I’ll just mix it all on the table, but if the table is full and I have to work in my cramped kitchen I’ll do it in a bowl (I am a messy cow and would coat the kitchen with semola and egg otherwise).

Whether you like working straight on the table or not, it’s possible that you will need a bowl to measure out the weight of the ingredients – so this could be classed as a basic for you, unless you have scales with an integral bowl. It’s such a fundamental all-round kitchen requirement I suspect you’ll have more than one in your cupboards already if you use it for pasta or not.

A pastry brush 🍝 £

For wetting the edges of pasta to seal ravioli etc. It may be a simple item, but I’ve added it here rather than in basics as you can just use your finger tips! I actually use children’s paintbrushes (the flat ones, not the round ones) as I find they moult their bristles less and they’re considerably cheaper. And, on a totally flippant note they’re usually brightly coloured!

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Cheap but invaluable: a pastry brush

A dough scraper/cutter (also sometimes called a bench scraper) 🍝 £

Not an essential, but a very useful piece of kit. You can use a knife but you may end up ruining your blade or making large cuts in your work surface. I use my dough scrapers for lots of things and not just pasta. Yes, I did say ‘scrapers’: I have an antique one, a strong steel one and about three plastic ones (some are curved down one side for bowl emptying). The plastic ones are very cheap indeed. Bring the dough together, scrape it out of the bowl or processor and cut the pasta instead of a knife with your scraper. They’re invaluable for bread doughs too, scraping your tabletops clean after baking a mess and the plastic ones make great car windscreen ice scrapers!

Fine semolina (semola) – or even fine polenta 🍝 £

Ok, so it’s an ingredient and not a piece of equipment, but I’m listing it here for dusting the pasta instead of flour. Pasta dough just sticks less when tossed in semolina (make sure it’s the fine stuff) and if you do have a machine it won’t stick to the metal if you dust effectively with it. It is now not difficult to find either in supermarkets, health food stores and asian supermarkets. I mean, blimey, our local ASDA now stocks it. Look for the fine stuff, not coarse. You can, at a pinch, also use fine polenta for dusting, but don’t make your pasta with it.

A pasta rolling/cutting pin 🍝 ££

You can get these fairly cheaply and range from linguini to quite wide cutting strips. Choose a mid-sized one if you’re only going to buy one. Once you’ve rolled out your pasta to the correct thickness you just roll it over and it produces uniform strips. There is a knack to it, but you’ll get it and often you’ll need to peel the strips off the roller or give them a helping hand to separate them fully (which can get a bit annoying).

You can also get ones for ravioli making. I’ve never used one of these so I can’t vouch for how effective they are.

This is a cheap step up before you commit to a machine. But they do become defunct for you once you have a machine or an alternative way of cutting (actually you may prefer to go back to simple folding and cutting…). Once this happens, you could pass it on to someone you know who is just starting to try pasta making themselves 🙂

Skewers and small dowel rods🍝 £

Yes, really! A fist full of skewers is useful for a lot of things, not just spiedini, kebabs or making mini teepee huts for your kids’ action figures. Wood or metal, it doesn’t matter.

In pasta making, using a skewer will help you make busiate/fusilli and dowel rods (which you can buy in a DIY store – you don’t have to pay the extra for “pasta” dowels, or you can use a cleaned pencil!) will help with items like sagne torte, in fact you can’t make any of these without a skewer, dowel or alternative.

A drying/airing rack 🍝 ££

So much easier than all the balancing tricks I mentioned in part one. Although the makeshift stuff works, when I actually splurged on an airing rack I did think to myself why didn’t I do this sooner. Not least because it keeps all the pasta hanging in one area rather than spread all over my kitchen/dining room.

You can buy a wood frame one fairly easily (or make one yourself I suspect). I saved for a posh, design-led thing that I’d been coveting. OK, it’s a bit OTT but it’s a thing of beauty and so well designed – a true product of “form follows function” (if you’ve trained as a designer, architect or engineer you’ll be well versed with this Louis Sullivan quote).

It makes me happy when I use it – the opening twist action is a joy (yes, I am that nerdy). Also, if you shop around you can get something for a low price now – mine was very reasonable indeed, as I got it from an online retailer in a sale rather than the manufacturer’s site.

Screenshot-2018-5-8 Lynn Clark ( inksugarspice) • Instagram photos and videos.png

A pasta machine 🍝 £££ (for a ‘decent’ one though some are cheaper)

Oh boy, this was a revelation and now I have one I love using my machine (although I do still stretch and roll out pasta by hand some of the time).

It is much easier and less exhausting to make pasta with a machine (I’m talking about the manual ones here that clamp to your table and you turn a handle, not electric models).

However, what I did find out before I bought one was that any lightweight or cheap ones out there are probably not worth the money if you make fresh pasta often. There are plenty of reviews to suggest this. I’m glad I took that advice and didn’t succumb to buying cheap just to get one sooner. Get a robust, decent make and I’m sure it will last a lifetime of kitchen abuse – mine still looks a ‘minter’ still. The research I did before I bought one churned up two marques as the most reliable and seemingly well loved: Marcato and Imperia. Neither brands’ main models are cheap (though both have cheap entry level models) but they do appear to represent value for money and quality.

I have seen other makes but there are few reviews, poor reviews or nothing online about those. I eventually bought a Marcato Atlas 150 Wellness which came with cutters for tagliolini and fettucini (you can make these out – just – in the photo below). It’s just personal preference, and I suspect I’d have been equally happy with an Imperia (though I have used one and I think the roller setting action is preferable on a Marcato). Each machine comes in different widths for larger sheets of dough if you prefer (or are making an industrial-sized amount) so make sure you buy the size you need – 150mm wide appeared to be a useful home size.

Lynn Clark Ink Sugar Spice - using a Marcato pasta machine
Me with my Marcato Atlas 150 Wellness

You can buy these machines with an electric motor (which is detachable and they do come with a spare manual crank handle anyway) or actually later purchase the motor unit separately and retro fit it.

Cookie cutters 🍝 £

cutRavioli

A couple of round cookie cutters (one slightly smaller than the other) will allow you to make very good ravioli. Cut out the pasta with the larger one, wet one side to help it stick and then tamp down round the filled ravioli with the top (rimmed edge, not the sharp edge) of the smaller one to seal it. Fluted or plain is up to you.

Flour shaker 🍝 £

I find a flour shaker filled with fine semola invaluable – seems ridiculous that it’s easier than just flinging some flour with your hands, but it delivers just the right amount to dust pasta with.

Long handled scoop colander or wire sieve 🍝 £

If you make ravioli or other filled pasta you can’t just tip them out into a sieve or colander (called a scolapasta in Italian) over the sink – unless you’re exceptionally careful. Better to have a gentler alternative or your hard work may rip and ruin.

I think these are so helpful to scoop out the ravioli gently, drain off the water over the pan and then transfer. You need a long handled scoop/sieve so you don’t hurt yourself over the heat and you can ‘dig down’ into the water to gently raise the pasta out. The alternative to this is to have a proper pasta colander that fits inside your saucepan before you start to cook the pasta – I’ve listed on of these in ‘added extras’ below.

However, a scoop colander is pretty cheap. I recently got myself a triangular-shape heat resistant plastic scoop which is just perfect for the job. Prior to that I used a traditional Chinese wire skimmer. These are easily and inexpensively found in Asian supermarkets and do the job – although the wire can make an indent or even cause a tear if the weight of the pasta is quite high or you’re rushing! (That’ll be me then.) The solution to this is only scoop out a small number at a time and be more careful/gentle than I am.

Pasta server 🍝 £

A slotted spoon with ‘fingers’ radiating from the centre – or little dowels in the case of wooden ones. This goes hand in hand with buying a long handled scoop/sieve, as what one won’t pick up out of your saucepan the other will. I’d suggest having one of each. Best for ribbon pasta, like spaghetti or linguini. The fingers/dowels grip the pasta ribbons to stop them slipping off the spoon.

The added extras – what you can buy but don’t *really* need (but might be fun)

Ravioli cutters 🍝 ££

These come in the typical round and square shapes but also I’ve seen stars and hearts. You don’t need these – you can use the cookie cutters mentioned above. However these cut, give a fluted edge and seal all in one press.

IMG_0170
Making ravioli with a ravioli cutter

Garganelli/gnocchi board, garganelli comb (pettine), rosilli board 🍝or a household alternative 🍝 0-£-££

A garganelli board is a grooved paddle which sometimes comes with a little mini rolling pin or stick. Anything you make on this gets a nice set of grooves down it. It’s an identical ridge pattern to butter pats, if you’ve ever made your own butter, and you can actually use these if you already have some.

A no-cost alternative to get your groove on for gnocchi or semolina-and-water pasta is to use the tynes of a fork or a roll over a wooden honey dripper (one that’s cylindrical in profile rather than oval). – or experiment with other textures from your kitchen (that can be washed) such as the back of a grater or a sushi mat.

A garganelli board is used for a few things:

  • it joins squares (or other cut flat shapes) of pasta together into tubes by rolling the pasta down the board with the stick, sealing the ends together
  • you can press bits of pasta down it with your thumb or knife edge to create shapes like gnochetti
  • make gnocchi with the board – it works for this as well as for pasta
Garganelli board, plus a traditional wicker basket used to make cavatelli etc - Ink Sugar Spice
Garganelli board (and a traditional wicker basket) used to make ridges on pasta

A garganelli comb or pettine (Italian for comb) is used the same way but is a much different construction. Rather than cut or chiselled grooves, the grooves are made by thin slats of wood bound together.

It’s supposed to have been born out of some quick thinking by a cook in a prestigious Cardinal’s household in 1725, after extra guests arrived to dinner (in some versions of the story the kitchen cat ate the intended filling!). She had lots of pasta squares cut for cappelletti and needed them to go further, feeding more people than that amount would normally. She borrowed a comb from the estate’s weaving room and a twig, and garganelli were born. I love this story – I hope it’s true, though I’m a bit sceptical that it really made the pasta feed more people! There are many resources explaining this story, here’s one on the L’Italo-Americano blog.

A rosilli board is another alternative – where skewers or dowels are nailed, glued or slotted into to a piece of wood, tightly pack together. The creates concave ridges – personally I like this form of fluted board the least of all, but it is easy to reporduce as it’s so simple.

I have made my own pettini (this is just one of them) to traditional methods (ie full slats):

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Cavarola board 🍝 or malloreddus basket 🍝 which are £££ to purchase and difficult to source outside of Italy

Another similar item is a cavarola board, which is traditionally essential for cavatelli pasta shapes. This is a hand-carved board with patterns (typically a herringbone pattern) on, that emboss the pasta shapes as you press them along it – in the same manner as you’d use the garganelli board. These hail from the southern regions of Italy and are very expensive and hard to get hold of. The traditional ones are passed down through families and usually around the size of a cutting board, often with a handle and additional decoration.

Again, I had to have a go and have made some for myself, this one below was my first attempt (where I stuck with the traditional pattern) but I have made several more since of different sizes, in different woods and with some more modern patterns on to vary my pasta (another of my boards is shown the the second image further below):

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The first cavarola board I carved myself. Plus the cavatelli with the embossed pattern it produces

A woven basket is used to produce pasta shapes called Malloreddus on Sardegna. In other parts of Italy these shapes (which are very similar to cavatelli) are sometimes called ‘gnochetti sardi’ as are shaped like little potato gnocchi (so: gnochetti) and come from Sardegna (so: ‘Sardi’). The traditional shallow baskets are woven from reeds or wicker, and this basket making is dying out as a skill. It’s also now common for these to be made on a specially grooved piece of glass called a ciuliri or you can improvise with a wicker place mat. Alternatively use a garganelli board or pettine. Malloreddus in the local dialect means ‘fat little bulls’ or ‘fat calves’.

Fluted wheel 🍝 £

Great for making wavy-edged pasta, remember to use a rule or something straight as a guide to get a good straight line. Or alternatively, let loose with wild abandon go wavy edged freeform!

Additional add-ons for pasta machines ££-£££

Your Marcato or Imperia can use interchangeable pasta cutting heads (I do not know if other makes have these). Your machine will probably come with cutters that produce two widths of straight pasta (my Marcato is fettucini at 6.5mm and tagliolini at 1.5mm) but you can buy a number of different attachments to swap out these for such as spaghetti, bigoli, ravioli cutters and mafaldine (the wavy-edge sheets).

Ravioli moulds 🍝 ££

Little trays with multi indentations that help you produced uniform ravioli quickly. You lay a pasta sheet on, press in fill with meat or veg filling and then lay another sheet of pasta on top, then roll over with a rolling pin. This simultaneously seals and separates the ravioli. These come in various sizes to make big or little ravioli and in circles or squares.

There are other types (though the ones mentioned above seem more prevalent and more traditional) which are more ‘snap shut’ contraptions. You lay over the pasta sheet, fill, lay over a top pasta sheet and close. This closing action seals and cuts.

*Food processor 🍝 £££-££££ (I’ve asterixed this as I think it’s debatable that it should be on the list of pasta equipment)

It would be a bit OTT to suggest buying a food processor just for pasta dough, but if you own one for all your cooking then you can bring your dough together with it, but it is unlikely* that you will be able to “knead” with it (see the note below).

I have a food processor and the only time I use it to bring together the raw ingredients in it is if I’m making a coloured dough with something that will stain my hands – or I have used to processor to whizz up veggies for colouring (such as beetroot), after which I just add in the eggs and flour on top for a quick whizz-up.

(A caveat to this, I now have carpal tunnel syndrome. I have had one hand operation so far and did start using my machine while this hand was healing post-op until it recovered enough. So if your machine can cope (see note below), it can be used to make fresh pasta if you have this or any other issues with your hand such as rheumatoid arthritis or ankylosing spondylitis for example).

Unless you have a machine that specifies in the manual that it will knead pasta dough, you MUST take out the dough as soon as it is brought together. Few machines are capable of this, so please refer to the documentation or contact the manufacturer to check. (I have a Kenwood and this can handle the dough, but I did email the support line to check before trying and even then although they were adamant it would work they still suggested I start with a small amount to test).

If your machine can’t be used to knead, you can at least bring the dough ‘together’: that is, add in your water, eggs (if using) and flour and anything else and whizz them up until they just come together in a ball. Stop there and take out the dough.

If your machine does not specify it can knead dough, you could break your expensive equipment if you try to do it, so please check!

The process of kneading brings the ingredients together so it almost ‘self cleans’ the worktop, picking up every scrap of egg, water and flour as you work. If you are worried about making a mess (or colouring your hands, say when using beetroot or turmeric), mix your ingredients in a normal bowl first by hand – much easier to clean one simple bowl than a raft of food processor accessories.

An additional note: it’s also more difficult to tell the perfect dough consistency when adding egg, liquid or other ingredients to your flours in a machine than when mixing by hand. As you become accustomed to working with pasta dough you start to assess the consistency as you work it with your fingertips and the resistance of the dough in your hands: you’ll get used to judging the correct consistency by feel. Something you’ll miss if mixing in a machine.

A pasta attachment for your stand mixer £££

Most good makes of stand mixers sell pasta attachments to do the job of the hand cranked pasta machine. These attachments fix to the front of your mixer and basically turns the rollers continuously. Unlike a normal, manual pasta machine, you don’t need to turn the handle so you have both your hands free. I can’t advise you what’s it’s like to use one of these, as I continue to use my manual Marcato machine (I’ve got so used to it I’m pretty quick now).

Some makes of stand mixer actually include pasta extruders. They appear to be expensive. Some look flimsy as they’re made of plastic but there are ones with proper copper dies too, but again this would be even more expense. However, I could see that they would certainly be fun to use – I suspect if I could afford it I’d buy one for the fun, even though I don’t think I actually need one.

Pasta saucepan with internal colander (🍝 sort of) £££

Now, I covet one of these sets. [I have recently bought a pasta colander/boiler but it’s a standard one that goes in any saucepan you already own. While it works, it doesn’t fit perfectly and the base is quite a bit higher than the base of the saucepan, so it needs extra water to cook the pasta. As such, I only use it when I am cooking filled pasta as it needs that more careful handling. I still aim to buy a proper set or fin a saucepan that this insert actually inserts into properly.]

Not that I *need* one of these sets at all you understand, it’s just that they are just so made for each other. The set comprises a normal large, but deep, saucepan with a snug fitting internal colander – what you do is fit them together and cook your pasta inside the colander, lifting the colander out with the cooked pasta and leaving the water in the pot.

Of course, it’s ultimately the same job as tipping the pasta out over a colander in the sink, but way more elegant and also useful for refreshing pasta when not everyone eats at the same time. Plus, the idea I believe is that it is more gentle on the pasta shapes than tipping the lot out – so less breakage of the pasta which is useful for filled pasta especially.

The saucepan can clearly be used as a normal saucepan as well. I wish you could just buy one of these colanders to fit a standard saucepan (already in your cupboard). You can get little wire frying/boiling baskets for saucepans (not specifically for pasta), but they’re just not the same sung fit, purpose built thing at all.

Adjustable or multi blade pasta cutter 🍝 ££

This is a little gadget like several mini pizza cutters all in a row. It cuts multiple parallel lines in pasta sheets and usually you can alter the width of the cut. They come with straight or wavy blades and some even have interchangeable heads. I don’t own one but there are some that area fixed width, some you adjust but lock off the width of the gap between blades and some which don’t lock – I can imagine these are tricky to use and not accidentally move the blades.

Rather than use the one I have, I stick to rolling/folding my pasta sheet and cutting ribbons by hand (for widths wider than the fettucini cutter on my Marcato). I find it less easy and a bit of a faff. They can also be used for fondant icing or pastry to create perfect ribbons for lattice pie tops, for example.

Ravioli roller🍝 ££

This little contraption is rolled along a sheet of pasta and the curved blades press out circles or squares as you roll along. It’s supposed to be very fast to use, cutting down time from pressing out circles/squares with a normal circular cutter but frankly I find it’s not that fast as you often have to stop and peel out a piece of pasta before you can carry on. This slows things down somewhat. Although they come out neatly I’m not convinced that it’s better to cut out my ravioli after I’ve filled it and popped the top sheet of pasta on…

I find that with pre-cutting I end up with uneven edges and squashed shapes. That all said, it’s pretty fun rolling them down a sheet of pasta. A word of warning though, they are fairly sharp and will mark whatever you’re cutting the pasta on, so place a cover or board down or risk having lots of squares and circles indented into your worktop.

Cavatelli maker ££

This is a hand cranked (or less commonly an electric) machine that clamps to your table. It looks a bit like an old fashioned mincer, but in the top you press the pasta dough and out comes cavatelli shapes. It has two rollers into which you feed a long rope of pasta dough, these are ridged to create the characteristic cavatelli (or malloreddus/gnochetti sardi) pattern. As the rope of dough goes through the rollers, a wheel with paddles on cuts the right amount off for each shape and curls it over at the same time. I’ve seen people use these and it’s like lightning – you can make the shapes consistently perfect in very little time. I’m not sure I would need one – it sort of may spoil the enjoyment of making them by hand for me, plus I don’t serve up enough of this single shape to warrant one, preferring to alternate the artisan shapes I make. I can imagine it would be very useful for a pop-up cafe or restaurant who can’t stretch to the expensive of an extruder but which needs that level of automation and time-saving.

Corzetti / Croxetti / Curzetti stamp ££- £££ 🍝

These are beautiful, artisanal tools made by hand and a speciality of Liguria (and a few other northern areas) in particular in order to stamp out traditional patterns onto coin-shaped corzetti pasta. They come in two parts – a top stamp (usually with a handle) and a bottom stamp, which on the reverse has an edge to cut out discs of sheet pasta. These discs are then stamped between the two imprinted faces, so the pasta has images on both sides for decoration and to trap sauces. Apparently their origin was to display coats of arms and represent ducal coins.

I’ve coveted one of these for a while – they are expensive and hard to get hold of outside of the traditional regions they’re used in. Typically for me, that’s not stopped me: I’ve hand carved a few of my own now using proper hand carving tools and techniques (following some research) in a traditional beech. Beech is used as it’s quite a taste- and odour-free wood, though I think walnut is also used. The only difference with mine is they’ve obviously been carved in Derbyshire, UK, not Liguria, Italy, plus I’ve drawn up the designs myself. Some I’ve made with a nod to traditional Ligurian designs and others I’ve gone totally modern (for instance I’ve carved my own blog name into one!).

I have noticed that there are a few more now available that are clearly made by programming a design into an automated machine, and you could cheat by imprinting on a cavarola board or something similar and cut out the circles afterwards. This is not entirely in the spirit of traditional, but hey, if it’s cheaper, more readily available and you don’t care about tradition I say go find one of these machine made ones or improvise with other stamps. Better to make fresh corzetti yourself by using something modern than not be able to find an authentic one and give up bothering to make your own pasta.

Airing rack (£ if you make it yourself) 🍝 ££

A tray-like airer, usually with a wooden frame and a soft mesh so that the pasta shapes are not damaged as they dry. These sometimes come stackable, so you can have a much larger drying surface area in a smaller footprint. Pasta shapes will dry just tossed in fine polenta on a tray, but these allow for air to circulate all around the shapes so they’d dry more quickly and more evenly and you’d probably use less polenta overall. I’ve not used one, so I’ve no idea if pasta would stick to the mesh or come off cleanly.

You can make one of these fairly easily yourself. I’ve made some myself: smaller ones and a large one. The smaller ones I’ve drilled holes in and inserted dowels for legs (I first did one as a test project). It worked and have now made three more to stack together on my table. The larger one I based on the ones that Italian pasta makers actually use – it’s pretty large and has no legs. I think is useful when I make a lot of pasta and I stack it on blocks or between two chairs, and sometimes in summer I sit and make pasta in my garden and I rest it on my bench while I work.

My hand made drying rack and handmade trofie pasta shapes - Ink Sugar Spice
My hand made drying rack, and some trofie

Chitarra pasta cutter £££

A guitar-like (hence the name) cutter frame. If you have a pasta machine with a fettuccine or tagliolini head you wouldn’t need one. The idea is to lay a sheet of pasta over the strings and roll a rolling pin over the pasta, forcing it through the wires. The strips of pasta get collected in the base of the frame. It does look very medieval, and therefore quite cool!

I’ve found a website which details having a go at making your own chitarra: https://www.math.columbia.edu/~bayer/Chitarra/ This has inspired me and I’ve drawn up my own design to make a fairly simple one, and have recently bought all the materials. I now have to find some spare hours to have a go… easier said than done at the moment. I suspect it’ll be a disaster but I’ll report back. [April 2019: I’ve made the frame successfully and will string it as soon as I have time and post the pictures here].

Pasta extruder ££££+

This is getting serious and is feeding a serious pasta making addiction – or a small business. You can get extruders aimed at the home pasta maker that are either hand cranked (almost looking like old-skool meat grinders), hand-press ones that look gun-shaped and ones that add on as an attachment to your stand mixer or dedicated large electric machines.

The full-on electric machines for home use are pretty plasticky-looking. I’m sure they’re robust enough: they must’ve been tested, right?! However, one of the key enjoyments for me of pasta making is that everything is just so, well, darned cool to look at and to use. I know, I know: I’m a shallow, design-led, arsey aesthete but I don’t want a white plastic giant machine on my countertop. Plus, I have so little space something more crucial would have to give way – like the kettle.

There are nice shiny metal electric extruders out there, but you’re talking over a thousand pounds-worth of industrial kitchen machine. Most are technically small enough to fit into a home kitchen, but you’d have to have some serious money and pasta addiction to warrant one of these – I can’t see a home cook going this far. Something like a pop-up kitchen or small cafe I assume would be the bare minimum of establishments to make sense of purchasing one.

Pasta extruders make those shapes you can’t make by hand, including tube and spiralled shapes. However, not only could I not justify how often I cook with such shapes to obtain a machine (or even stand mixer attachment), I’m not sure I want the shapes that these make. I think dried is better for the type of sauces that are best with these complex shapes, so why would I make trompetti fresh (for example) when a dried pack is convenient and probably better for the ragu?

I can image these machines are an incredible amount of fun to use though. Have you ever watched a you tube video of an industrial pasta extruder? Mesmerising…

Finally…

Thanks for getting to the end of this mammoth article and its partner piece (part one). It did start out pretty small then I just kept thinking of equipment that could be used. Please do feel free to leave any comments on which equipment you think is essential or which is simply your favourite to use on either post.

[Last update: April 2019]

Ink Sugar Spice blog https://inksugarspice.wordpress.com/

What pasta tools do you need [part 1]

Trofie pasta shapes | Ink Sugar Spice
[Updated May 2019 with new images]

I’ve been making pasta by hand for a long time. For the first few years this was only infrequently in order to learn, ‘have a play’ or to impress. However, it eventually became such a routine thing for me that I didn’t even realise how unusual it was to make so much fresh pasta, especially the artisan shapes, outside of Italy. It took other people’s comments on my skill at pasta making and saying that I should do more with it to realise where I had got to.

I have an issue with how making pasta by hand can be promoted as complex, requires many expensive gadgets or even is simply billed as an elitist or chef-only thing to do. Some fresh pasta making can be tricky, sure, but most is very simple indeed and that’s what I hope to impress on you with these articles. I have stayed away from recipes here, these are about the tools and equipment to get you started and then get you obsessed! (If you want a recipe to try why not look at my roasted orange butternut squash ravioli).

Pasta was made by people centuries ago who had little kitchen paraphernalia (even in the kitchens of wealthy households kitchen equipment was incredibly basic by our standards). If they could do it with almost nothing then we can too in our modern houses. You need only the bare minimum of things to start, plus the ingredients and something to cook and drain it. It’s likely you’ll have this most basic equipment already.

So, what is really needed for fresh pasta making, what you might buy next as you progress and, finally, what isn’t necessary but might be fun if you can afford it? I ended up writing so much that I have split my ramblings into two posts. This is ‘the basics’. My second post focuses on going further and what gadgets might be used.

A note on dried pasta and when to use dried or make fresh

I want to add that this love of making fresh pasta by hand doesn’t mean I am a snob about using dried. Absolutely not! Dried is so versatile and often more appropriate or the best texture for the majority of pasta dishes. There’s more chance that you’ll make a pasta meal using dried, saving the fresh pasta making for specific dishes that need it or for special occasions. Dried pasta is such a utilitarian kitchen cupboard staple that you’d be rather missing out if you didn’t have a packet or two of dried pasta lying about – and it has an incredibly long shelf life, so it’s very useful indeed.

I make fresh pasta when I am making pasta ripiena (filled pasta) like ravioli, faggotini, tortellini, agnolotti and the like. I also make it fresh when I am handmaking artisan shapes, such as trofie or orecchietti. You can buy fresh pasta sheets in from the refrigerated section of most supermarkets, but I’ve tried these pre-made ‘fresh’ packets and I think they’re inferior to both fresh and high quality pre-dried: a strange, inferior middle ground. (I believe some delis make and sell fresh pasta, but I’ve never come across one in order to try, so I can’t comment on these). Some specialist delis and larger supermarkets do sell the artisan shapes pre-dried (dried orecchietti seems to be more easily available in past years), but I make my own because I enjoy it, again I’ve never tried the dried versions to comment.

multi striped sombreroni - Ink Sugar Spice

I also make fresh pasta when I want to do something different, like colouring or flavouring pasta or I just have a special meal to make. I use dried most frequently in mid-week family meals, baked pasta and when making pasta salads or soups.

I would say buy the best you can: if a pack says that it is bronze die cut this is said to be best because it creates a very slightly jagged finish to the pasta which helps trap sauce. Also cheap made pasta (probably not made in Italy as they have stringent rules for pasta quality and wheat used) is more likely to have a mushy texture (though overcooking any pasta will do this anyway).

In characteristic kitchen overkill for me, I’d actually suggest a minimum of five types of dried pasta in your ideal kitchen cupboard arsenal:

  • a thing strand type of pasta, such as spaghetti, linguine or similar for oil-rich meaty or tomato sauces or for seafood
  • sheets or large tubes like lasagne and cannelloni for robust bakes (unless you’re determined to always make your own – even I’ve got an ’emergency’ box of lasagne)
  •  pack of tiny shapes such as stellini, ditalini or even alfabetini for soups, broths and fleshing out casseroles
  • a ridged, twisted shape or smaller cup shape which is both easy to stab with a fork and which traps smaller dice veg and meat, such as farfalle, conchiglioni or fusilli – great for rich and chunky or creamy sauces, but can also be good in bakes or salads
  • a medium tubular or cupped shape for cheesy or smooth sauces, and for baking: maccheroni, cellentani or penne (all tubes) or conchiglie or lumache (cupped/shells)

Basics – and making pasta cheaply

Some recipes just cry out for freshly made pasta and, well, I just enjoy making it anyway. I hope you will too.

It has only been in the past 18 months or so that I have started to buy and use gadgets. For the best part of 30 years I made pasta by hand with a rolling pin and a sharp knife – mostly due to the fact that a) it worked and b) I couldn’t afford/justify the expense on fancy extras. Hands, rolling pin and knife is all you really need and, of course, a saucepan and colander/sieve to cook and drain it afterwards.

linguini_sketch
My sketch of a nest of linguini

Although many gadgets do make life easier and faster you can get away using so little, and there’s no necessity to spend money. Of course, I’m not trying to stop you going out and splashing the cash if you have it – I’m just here to reinforce the notion that homemade pasta can be as cheap as just buying the ingredients.

I have bought myself some gadgets now. Equipment has become cheaper and more widely available and of course my salary has improved over the years (albeit in small amounts!). I decided that it was time I treated myself to a few things. Some things have made such a difference I wish I’d felt able to afford them a lot longer ago, like the pasta machine and a tall airer. I’ve actually taken the same approach with bread making too. I’ve made my own bread for about the same length of time with the bare minimum of equipment, but in the last few years I’ve bought a few nice things to help. I guess pasta and bread can be classified as my hobbies, and people like buying nice “stuff” for their hobbies, don’t they?

The premise for these two grouped articles is that you can make pasta by only spending on ingredients and a few basics (most of which you will probably already have) to start with. So the first post (this one) covers the basics, and part two takes a look at pretty much everything leading up to all the bells and whistles should you want to buy ‘toys’ to expand your pasta making.

I’ve added a 🍝 pasta emoji next to all those I’ve used or own. Also I’ve given a rough idea on expense, from £ meaning very cheap (at just a few quid) to ££££ prohibitively (ie getting to professional equipment) expensive.

Ink Sugar Spice blog https://inksugarspice.wordpress.com/

The basics – what do I need as a minimum?

Your hands 🍝 £ free!

Your greatest tools in the kitchen. Don’t underestimate your own capabilities. You are a pasta making genius (already, or in the making!).

In an extreme example of how useful your hands are in this process, you could make something like orecchietti, pici or plain trofie (there is a twisted version of trofie too) without using anything else bar the ingredients and your hands until you came to cook it. You can knead the dough on the table and rip off the right-sized pieces of dough before shaping all by hand.

A sharp knife 🍝 £-£££

A long cooks knife is best as the larger blade will help you cut straighter pasta, like linguini.

Rolling pin 🍝 £

Any rolling pin will do. Totally essential!

If you want to make big sheets, then you need a bigger pin.  I’ve actually got an old broom handle I cleaned, sanded and now use for the biggest sheets, a large dowel rod I bought from a DIY shop and a cheap long-but-thin pin bought from a Turkish mini-market – all ranging from free to just plain cheap.

Something to hang the pasta on, or space for shapes 🍝 £ (even free if you’re creative with what you own) – and a note about storing/’drying’

It helps to drape long pasta like tagliatelli or linguini over something so it hangs like washing on a line, while you continue to work. This keeps your carefully made ribbons from sticking together and airs the pasta. (See further down for notes on small shapes)

Bloody dock flavoured tagliolini airing - Ink Sugar Spice
Bloody dock tagliolini

Please note that this is all ‘airing’ and not ‘drying’. Unless you live in a country with a comparable climate to Napoli (copious sun, hot winds) or you’ve bought a proper drying machine you’re best off forgetting about drying pasta yourself.

Here in the UK it’s pretty rubbish pasta drying weather, with the exception of high summer. If you tried to store inadequately dried pasta it would go rancid very quickly. I think it’s best to go buy a packet of pre-dried pasta in this case.

Yes, you can air the pasta and leave it for cooking the next day (or from morning till evening), but I don’t think it’d be advisable to go much further than that (I may be wrong – if you have experience of this please comment!). I normally cook and serve my pasta within a few hours, but sometimes if I have a big meal to prepare for a lot of people I will make it the day before to afford me time.

The glory that is freshly made and cooked pasta is it’s freshness – it’s undoubtedly best when eaten just a few hours after being made. That said, a little delay won’t be that noticeable!

If you really want to make far in advance, it’s better to freeze. On the few times I’ve needed to prepare a lot for a party in advance I sometimes freeze the dough rather than the shapes – but a caveat here: I chop it into cubes rather than freeze one lump. Let it thaw, work it little back together and it’ll be fine (though I confess not quite as good as fresh, but good enough).

Otherwise, shapes and pasta ripiena like ravioli and tortellini (depending on the filling) can also be frozen. Arrange them so they’re not touching on a tray (so they don’t stick) and then sweep them into a food bag when fully frozen and keep them in the freezer until needed (obviously letting them thaw first). I’m not 100% of the maximum length of time to store pasta in the freezer, but I’ve frozen it for around a week in advance myself.

Anyway, ignoring the argument for NOT drying/storing fresh pasta, it is essential to ‘air’ fresh pasta while you are working it, to prevent a congealed mass and negating all your hard work.

My freebie make-do solutions for airing ribbon pasta while I work in the past have included:

  • a wide-gapped wire cooling rack suspended by string from the ceiling or balanced between two towers of books
  • the backs of chairs (washed thoroughly first) – see the above pic from my Instagram feed: I still sometimes use this rather than getting the airer out
  • a couple of cheap dowel rods bought from a DIY store that I balanced between chair backs and later nailed into a block of wood
  • a length of new washing line tied between cupboard door handles (warn anyone coming in!!)

Smaller pasta shapes, like farfalle, can be tossed in semola (semolina) flour or fine polenta and just left on your table, on a clean tea towel, a baking tray or shallow wicker basket. Actually, strip pasta can also be handled in this way, curled into nests (in nidi – see the image below) or skeins (in matasse) to air. Just be careful to keep the strips fairly separate and not squeezed together accidentally betwixt thumb and fingers.

pasta
blackcurrent and port tagliolini – airing ‘in nidi’ in nests while I continue to work the rest of the dough

A space for working 🍝 £ free (presumably you’ve already got some space…)

This is crucial. You need space to roll out the dough and cut it. You need the space for drying shapes. You need the space to not get in a faff when you’re colvered in flour and juggling dough.

It doesn’t have to be huge, but it needs to be flat, very clean and clear of clutter. Make your life easier and clear yourself a working space before you start.

Tagliatelle making | Ink Sugar Spice
Best if you have a bit of ‘elbow room’ when making pasta – I use my heavy duty dining table (rather than my cramped small kitchen) for pasta making

Saucepan and colander or sieve 🍝 £ – ££

OK, so it’s not anything to do with making pasta but if you’ve made it you’re going to cook it so I’m classing it as a basic need. I suspect that anyone considering making pasta or getting more in to it will be already well equipped with good saucepans, sieves and colanders, but here’s my take on these essentials:

A large saucepan is the right choice for pasta, but really you can cook pasta in anything heat proof. So, even a cheap small saucepan will do – well, for one or two portions any way and there’s no need to bother with non-stick. The reason I’ve nominated a large saucepan is that undoubtedly at some point in pasta making you’ll cook for a number of people. It’s all about the sharing. More people = more pasta = bigger pot.

You’ll often see people list a ‘heavy bottomed saucepan’ in equipment for recipes: while these generally are a better buy all round as they distribute heat evenly and are more robust they are not needed for pasta. Pasta floats and dances around in the simmering water so heat spots are not an issue. If you’re only buying one large saucepan to cover all your cooking needs (like me: I haven’t the space to store more) then do go for a well made one with a thick bottom core to it, as other foods and cooking methods will benefit.

Buy one with a lid if you can too, as it will a) stop your kitchen steaming up too much (even with an extractor fan) and b) save your gas or electric as it keeps in heat better and you can turn your temperature down.

A colander or sieve is essential as a match for the saucepan. You can’t keep draining pasta from your saucepan with the lid. Yes, it’s possible to do this, but eventually you’ll scald yourself with the water or at some point slip and drop all the pasta in the sink. It’s maddening when that happens! You can get sieves and colanders from cheap shops and markets for very, very little indeed.

Scales 🍝 £-£££

Although no doubt there are some Nonnas that can probably work out the ratio of semola or flour to water by feel, it’s best to have a set of scales. Mechanical or digital doesn’t matter, but you’ll need these.

You may need a bowl to go with your scales but I’ve not listed bowls in basics as you possibly might weigh with the integrated bowl or anything else to hand. Therefore I can’t justify this as an essential piece of kit for pasta making, despite it being a fundamental piece of kitchen equipment for just about everything else.

[Last update: July 2018]

Part two…

My next post will go on to look at what gadgets you can begin to invest in once you’ve tried to make pasta and decide that you want to continue. Or, if you’re wading straight in and intending to spend money on pasta equipment from the get-go.

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Roasted orange butternut squash ravioli

finishedRavioliA delicious, veggie main meal that won’t have you missing meat! I’ve been roasting butternut squash to this recipe for a long time. I first developed it as a vegetable recipe to feed to my twins when they were weaning, but I loved it so much myself it started creeping into our adult meals!

I use the roasted squash as it is as an accompaniment, it can be made into a spiced soup with the addition of a little milk and some paprika and rewarmed in a saucepan or – as here – a great filling for ravioli.

As part of the recipe, there are step-by-step instructions for preparing the pasta dough into filled ravioli.

You can prepare the squash a day before if you prefer.

Notes

A note on making your own pasta: it’s fun (although hard work) and for a lot of recipes fresh-made pasta is the bee’s knees. However, don’t be sniffy about dried pasta once you’ve made your own fresh. It’s quick, cheap and frankly the majority of recipes are actually better with dried pasta. Fresh pasta is not ‘better’ overall, just better in certain recipes and essential to make your own filled shapes.

I tend to make fresh pasta for filled shapes (pretty obvious this one), for when I want to do something really unusual like coloured pasta (spinach, tomato, beetroot, squash or squid ink etc) and for a rich version of things like carbonara when I want tagliatelli. I’m also driven by the shapes produced by my Mercato pasta machine – big sheets, tagiolini and fettucini (there are other attachments you can buy but this is enough for me, at least for now).

Dried pasta is great for everything else – which is the majority of pasta dishes! All oily or tomato type sauces and of course the tiny shapes like stellini for broths and soups.

Equipment – roasted butternut squash

  • Vegetable peeler
  • Very sharp heavy knife
  • Large casserole with lid or other oven-proof container and a sheet of foil
  • Potato masher
  • Frying pan
  • Kitchen towel

Equipment – ravioli

  • Large bowl
  • Rolling pin or pasta rolling machine
  • Dough cutter
  • Sharp knife
  • Pastry brush
  • Circular cookie cutter – quite a large one (I used a 9cm one) – or you can just cut it into squares
  • Large saucepan
  • Slotted spoon

Ingredients – squash

  • I medium-large butternut squash
  • Orange juice – 100ml
  • Sea salt – large pinch
  • Black pepper – freshly ground to taste
  • Shallots – about two small round shallots or one banana shallot

Ingredients – pasta

For four people:

  • ’00’ type flour (you can get this in any mid-sized supermarket in the baking aisle) – 200g*
  • Semolina/durum wheat flour (again, this is usually available in a normal supermarket – go look for it in the world food aisle) – 100g*
  • Medium eggs – 3
    • * If you can’t get these, you can use regular plain flour – it makes acceptable pasta, although if you use 00 and semolina it will make a big difference. If you don’t find either in your supermarket (I’ve bought these in TESCO, ASDA and Sainsbury’s – apologies for those not in the UK, but of course I can only speak for where I live) you can get them online

Method – butternut squash

  1. Put the oven on to 200C fan / 220C conventional
  2. Halve and peel the butternut squashsquash.jpg
  3. Scoop out the flesh and seeds from the hollows in both halves
  4. Chop the flesh into thick (1 cm) slices
  5. Arrange the sliced squash in the bottom of the oven-proof dish so that they are spread evenly
  6. Pour in the orange juice and sprinkle over the sea salt and fresh cracked pepper
  7. Cover with the lid or a sheet of foil and place in the centre of the oven for at least one hour, until the squash flesh is soft enough to be pressed with a fork
  8. While the squash is cooking, finely chop the shallots and fry gently with a little oil
  9. Remove when the shallots have become softened and glass-like and lay on a piece of kitchen towel to absorb excess oil
  10. Remove the squash from the oven and add the cooked shallots to the squashRoastedSquash
  11. Mash with the potato masher – do not pour out any remaining orange juice as it should all be incorporated
  12. Leave to cool until you are ready to stuff the ravioli

Method – pasta

  1. In a large bowl swirl together the flours and make a well in the middle
  2. Crack in the eggseggAndFlour
  3. Mix it all together with the fork and bring it all together – when you can’t mix it any further with the fork, start to use your hand (my tip here is use only one had – leave the other ‘clean’)
  4. Bring the pasta dough together with your hand – I find that the dough naturally absorbs all the flour it needs – so if there is a little bit of flour left don’t worry
  5. Transfer the dough to a large flat surface – a dining table or a large kitchen counter top (my kitchen is tiny – I also go into my dining room!)
  6. You are aiming for a ‘strong but forgiving’ consistency of dough. I once read in a book years ago (sorry I can’t remember which one) that the dough should be the same to feel as the relaxed muscle in your forearm! It sounds weird, but actually it’s true – just try it! Relax your non-writing arm and poke your forearm just below your elbow. See what they mean?
    I do believe the dough picks up the right amount of flour itself as you are gathering it together, but:

    1. if the dough feels too soft add a little more flour
    2. if the dough is too tough and dry add a few drops of water
  7. Knead the dough for anything up to 10 minutes – it should get to the point where it feels like tough elastic and gets very hard to knead. If you’re using a pasta machine you can stop before it gets really tough going, as by pass the dough through the machine at its lowest setting and then folding and passing through again (see instructions below) you continue the kneading process. Unfortunately if you’re rolling by hand you need to keep kneading!
  8. Now’s the time to set up your pasta machine (bolting it to the table/counter top) if you’re using it – or reach for the rolling pin
  9. Don’t add any more flour to the pasta – you’ll clog your machine (if using). Pasta correctly mixed is ‘clean’ and should only stick to itself (or a wet surface). However – there is a caveat to this if you are rolling using a rolling pin. See the instructions on rolling by hand
  10. Leave the pasta to settle and rest for a while somewhere cool – about 15 – 60 minutes. Wrap in cling film or cover with a tea towel to stop it getting a crust
  11. Using a machine:
    1. Cut the pasta into tennis-ball sized pieces – I find this is the easiest amount to roll into pieces for ravioli. If you’re a seasoned pasta making you may be comfortable with rolling more, but as I am writing this as a basic recipe I’ll stick with the easy amounts
    2. Set the machine to 0 (the largest setting) and pass the dough ball through.
    3. Fold the rolled dough in half and turn 90 degrees and pass it through again – don’t change the setting
    4. Fold and pass through three or four times – this relaxes the gluten forming in the dough and smooths its texture
    5. Now, turn the machine to the next setting  (one increment smaller) and pass through. Turn the crank handle with one hand and capture the rolled dough with your other hand, drawing it out along the table. Make sure it lies flat
    6. Turn the machine up another notch and repeat – the pasta sheet will naturally get longer and longer (and a little wider) each time as it gets squeezed thinner. This makes it a bit more tricky to handle as you go along – to make it easier to crank with one hand and feed/capture the pasta with the other each time as you feed one end of the pasta in the roller, gently lay the rest of the pasta over the top of the machine draping it gently – it should get pulled through the machine as you turn the handle cleanly and smoothly (see below). This allows you to use your other hand to capture the pasta as it comes out and feed it down the tablepastaAndMachine
    7. Keep repeating this until your pasta is very fine – on my Mercato machine I do ravioli to No. 6 (out of 10 settings), so whatever your setting is on your machine that is about three quarters of the very finest setting. You need it thin (as the edges of the ravioli of course will be double thickness as they are stuck together but it can’t be too thin or there is a risk of tearing and the filling could spill out during cooking later)
    8. Repeat for the rest of the dough and then lay all the sheets of pasta out together
  12. Using a rolling pin:
    1. I’ve only recently bought a pasta machine – I’ve been making pasta using a rolling pin for years. OK, I never made it not often as it IS a chore this way, but I’m living proof you can do it without a machine. However, the finished result is rougher, thicker and not so uniform. The toughest part is to roll the pasta finely – it really doesn’t want to thin out (the gluten wants to draw together) – you will have to keep going and apply force. Frankly I wish I’d bought a machine years ago – it’s been a revelation!
    2. Unlike using the machine, you will need to lightly flour your table – as you apply force with the rolling pin to squeeze the pasta flatter and wider you are effectively mashing it into the table and it will stick
    3. Chop the pasta dough up into manageable pieces – probably in half will be sufficient for a three-egg/300g dough
    4. Roll out as finely as you can – keep shifting the dough round by a quarter turn to stop it sticking and keep rolling until you are satisfied it’s as thin as you can get it. Don’t worry about a few tears if you have then – you can just avoid them when you cut the ravioli
    5. Repeat with the remaining dough
  13. Now go get your butternut squash
  14. Place teaspoons of the squash on the pasta sheets – leave a 10-12cm gap between the dollops of squash. Don’t overfill!placingFilling
  15. Using the pastry brush, dip it in water and shake off the excess (you don’t want much water at all). Draw a circle with the damp brush all round the mini pile of squash
  16. Now, drape another sheet over the top of the squash and first pasta sheet.
  17. Gently with your finger tips, try to tamp down the top sheet onto the bottom and around the squash filling – try your best not to leave air gaps (the air will expand when cooking later and may burst the ravioli) and make a little tightly packed dome
  18. Once you’re satisfied each raviolo is sealed all the way round you can cut it out with the cutter, or use a sharp knife (or pastry wheel if you have one) to make a squarecutRaviolo
  19. Keep going until you’ve made enough ravioli – I think 4 – 5 is enough for each person as a main meal or three for a starter (you can freeze the remaining squash and pasta dough – or you can keep going and use it all and then freeze the uncooked ravioli – see my note at the end)cutRavioli.jpg
  20. Keep the ravioli to hand – next it’s the cooking stage!

Cooking

finishedRavioli

One of the best, most simple way of serving this is to warm a few tablespoons of red pesto in a large frying pan or sauté pan with a little water (from the pasta water) and just sloosh the cooked ravioli around gently and briefly in this and then slide it all onto plates – and serve with a fresh green salad.

I haven’t given a recipe for a ragu here – just the pasta itself. In the photo above for this particular meal of this ravioli I made a soffritto base (finely diced onion, carrot, celery, garlic), fried this off, added a tin of chopped tomatoes, seasonings and then some chopped up Italian sausages. I sprinkled over

This sausage ragu does stop this recipe being vegetarian – however you can substitute the sausages for either courgette or mushrooms to keep it meat-free.

To cook the ravioli

  1. Bring a very large pan of water – which has been generously salted (don’t panic – there’s no salt in the pasta dough and also the pasta is bathed in the salt water only: it doesn’t absorb much of it) – to a simmering, gentle boil
  2. Using a slotted spoon, put the ravioli in the water – they will sink
  3. They will only take about three minutes to cook (you may want to do them in batches if you’ve made lots)
  4. When they’re done they will start to rise to the top of the water
  5. Take out with the slotted spoon – I actually find it’s handy to hold a sieve over the pan with one hand and feed each raviolo that I fish out with the slotted spoon into the sieve – that way they drip back into the pan
  6. Serve the pasta with whatever sauce you want – whether that’s a ragu or the simple red pesto sauce mentioned above
  7. Best eaten immediately – grate over some grana padano or parmesan, a grind of pepper and a sprinkle of salt (I used black sea salt, just because it looked fantastic against the pasta)

Note on freezing filled pasta

  1. Freeze the ravioli by lying it down on something flat that will fit in your freezer draw and make sure they do not touch each other
  2. You may then put them in a bag together later, once they are fully frozen (they won’t stick after they’ve frozen solid) so that they won’t then take up too much space
  3. No need to thaw – just pop them in a pan of simmering (not rapidly boiling water) and bring it slowly up to a full boil and cook for 1 – 2 minutes more than from fresh

I hope this has helped! If you try this ravioli please leave me a comment – I’d love to know what you think of it