Fresh pasta is so much easier to make than people imagine. If you haven’t got a pasta machine, it’s not the end of the world. All you’ll need is a rolling pin and plenty of elbow grease, as the only great difficulty you’ll have is getting the pasta thin enough to work with – you should be able to see the print of a sheet of newspaper underneath it (even if you can’t read the article!).
Although I’ve given you a recipe for a quick sauce, homemade pasta is delicious enough to eat with only a splash of olive oil or melted butter and a little freshly grated Parmesan.
– 550g (1¼lb) strong ‘00’ flour, plus extra for dusting
– 6 egg yolks
– 4 eggs
– 2 tsp olive oil
– pinch of fine salt
1. Place the flour, egg yolks, eggs, oil and salt in a food processor and pulse for about 10 seconds, until the mixture binds together. Be careful not to overwork.
2. Remove from the food processor and bring together with your hands to form a semi-soft dough. Alternatively, you can also do this by hand on a clean work surface: make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients, then mix the wet ingredients into the dry using your fingers to add the dry ingredients little by little.
3. Work the dough hard for about 2 minutes, until it’s smooth, silky and elastic. Wrap in cling film and allow it to rest in the fridge for at least 1 hour, if time allows.
4. Remove the dough from the fridge and divide into 4 balls. Re-cover 3 balls and work with one at a time. Flatten the ball slightly with the base of the palm of your hand and run it through the thickest setting on your pasta machine, which will roll it into a thick sheet.
5. Fold the two ends into the middle and run the pasta through the machine, still on the thickest setting, 3–4 more times, until the dough feels silky and pops as you feed it through the rollers. This will make the sides of the pasta fill out to the full width of the pasta machine.
6. Lightly dust both sides with flour and run it through the machine on a thinner setting. Repeat this process through the settings until the sheets are 1–1.5mm thick. If the dough starts to stick to the rollers, smooth over a little flour and cut it in half at any stage if it gets too long to handle.
7. Lay the sheet of pasta out flat on a clean tea towel while you roll the other pieces, starting back at levelone. Leave for a couple of minutes to dry out before cutting into shapes.
If you are using a pasta machine, pass a strip of pasta through the wider ribbon cutter of the machine. If you’ve rolled it by hand, then fold it over into loose, flat rolls and cut it straight across into strips 5mm (¼in) wide. Unravel the strips or spread them out on the tea towel.
Cut the pasta into rectangles about 10cm (4in) long. Blanch a couple of them in a large pan of boiling water for 1 minute. Remove with a slotted spoon and drop them into a bowl of cold water to stop them cooking. Lay on a tea towel while you cook the remainder.
Cut the pasta into little rectangles roughly 4cm x 2.5cm (1½in x 1in). Place the tip of your first finger in the middle of the rectangle and draw up the pasta top and bottom with your thumb and second finger, pinching the dough together so that it forms a butterfly shape. Leave to rest on the tea towel while you make the remainder.
Drying the pasta
If you want to keep your pasta for up to 4 days, you will need to dry it out or it will stick together. With tagliatelle or lasagne, this is most easily done on a specially designed pasta tree, but a broom handle suspended between two chairs, over the back of a wooden chair or on a coat hanger works very well. Farfalle will dry if you just spread it out on a clean tea towel. Once it has been properly dried, store in airtight boxes in the fridge dusted with semolina, which helps to keep it dry.
Cooking your homemade pasta
Fresh pasta cooks much faster than dried. If you’ve just finished making it, it will only take a minute or two – test a piece after 1 minute to see if it’s done. If you’ve let it dry out for a few hours or overnight, it will take 3–4 minutes. As with dried pasta, cook it in a large pan of fast-boiling water that you’ve added a good pinch of salt to. When it’s done, drain it carefully through a large colander set in the sink and use immediately.
Cherry tomato sauce
This is enough to serve 4–6 people depending on how hungry they are!
1. Allow 50g (2oz) of fresh pasta per person and only begin to cook it once you’ve started to make the sauce.
2. Cut 400g (14oz) of cherry tomatoes into halves or quarters, depending on their size.
3. Heat a large frying pan over a medium heat and add a couple glugs of olive oil.
4. Stir in 2 finely chopped garlic cloves and then add a knob of butter. Once the butter has melted, tip in the prepared cherry tomatoes and tear up a good handful of basil leaves, adding them in.
5. Season with salt and pepper and sprinkle over a couple tablespoons of balsamic vinegar.
6. Sauté for another minute or so, until the cherry tomatoes are heated through but still holding their shape.
7. Drain the pasta, reserving some of the cooking liquid. Return to the pan with a splash of the cooking liquid and fold in the cherry tomato sauce with a good handful of freshly grated Parmesan.
8. Give it a good stir and divide among warmed wide-rimmed bowls and add a little more Parmesan to serve.
Our families are the most important people in our lives, so when it comes to mealtimes we want to give them the best we can. This new definitive collection from Neven Maguire gives you all the inspiration and help you’ll need to get more of the good stuff into your family’s diet and make homemade food the heart of your home.
The book also includes lots of tips on how to wean the family off processed food for meal and snack times, how to plan for large family gatherings, how to cut down on food waste and how to bake the perfect celebration cake.
Neven Maguire’s Complete Family Cookbook is published by Gill Books and available to buy in all good book stores and online at www.gillbooks.ie/cookery.