Pasta in some shape of form has fed millions for millennia. The history of pasta is not entirely clear. Some say the Chinese invented noodles, others the ancient Etruscans and even the Greeks claim to have discovered pasta when they founded Naples. There are references to "lasagnas" as far back as 300 BC in Roman texts. So, in this case I am going to make a very bold statement and say pasta is a world food which have evolved as communities and cultures have evolved. Let's be honest, just about every family in the world has a favourite "pasta" dish, whether Italian, Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Thai, German or Polish. I use the term pasta loosely here as I am encompassing noodles and filled pasta as a genre. Please don't hate me.
I know that pasta has a really bad rep these days. It is not gluten free. Definitely not carbohydrate free and when you look at some of the sauces people put with their pasta, certainly not fat free. The joy of pasta is in its simplicity and versatility. It is a comfort food. A food of childhood memories. A bowl food. A hug-able food. When I say hug-able; there is nothing better than on a miserable day wrapping your hands around a steaming hot bowl of pasta smothered in a tomato based sauce with lashings of Parmesan grated on top. One of my all time favourites is just simple spaghetti with olive oil, garlic, parsley and chilli. Fresh, light and delicious.
So in the spirit of my love for pasta I pulled out my pasta machine this last weekend and got to work. Making pasta is extremely therapeutic. Watching the eggs combine with the flour, then kneading the dough. Sprinkling flour everywhere, making a glorious mess and then finally the satisfaction of watching a ball of dough glide through the rollers of the machine and coming out silky and soft on the other end. It is a process, but a fun one, if you have some free time. Its a great family friendly task and you don't actually have to have a pasta machine, a rolling pin and little helpers do the job just as well. Although maybe with a bit more mess and effort.
I have combined 2 recipes below. One for the pasta itself and then the second is for linguine with prawns. The linguine is definitely the star of the dish here as it very well should be.
Ingredients - makes enough for 6 people
200 gr Tipo 00 pasta flour and extra for dusting
2 whole, large free range eggs. Organic if you can
2 Tbsp Extra Virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp cold water
Pinch of fine sea salt
In a food processor, using the dough hook, add all your ingredients. Turn on the food processor to the lower of the 2 speeds and watch as your dough comes together. Once combined and a ball has formed, remove the dough from the food processor and place on a clean floured surface. Knead your dough for about 4 minutes until soft and elastic. There should not be any lumps, it should be smooth and silky. If too dry add more water, if too tacky add more flour. Use your common sense, don't go too far in either direction. Wrap it in clingfilm and leave to rest for about 30 - 40 minutes.
If you have a pasta machine get it out and set it up. Make sure it is firmly clamped to the surface you are working on. If you haven't used your machine in a while break off a small piece of you pasta dough and run it through the machine a number of times to get rid of any residue. Then using a clean, dry pastry brush give the rollers and the attachments a good brush to get rid of any dirt and dust.
Divide your pasta dough into 4 balls and set aside under the cover of a damp tea towel to stop your dough from drying out. 1 at a time, flatten each ball with the palm of your hand and run it through the thickest setting on your machine, on mine it in 7. Then go down 2 settings and roll your dough through to get it thinner. Fold the dough in half and repeat the process 5 times. This helps make your pasta even silkier and smooths out any kinks. Surprisingly your pasta will start to take shape and even out through this process. Repeat with all 4 balls of dough.
Start rolling the sheet down through each setting, dusting with the extra flour as you go. Turn the handle with one hand while the other holds your pasta sheet to avoid any tears, kinks or wobbles. Take it right down to about 2 mm for your linguine. Once at the desired thickness, again holding your sheet of dough with one hand and turning the handle with the other, run your pasta through the cutting attachment at whichever width you prefer. I prefer a thinner noodle to the wider for the recipe to follow.
Once your noodles have been cut, dust with extra flour and run your fingers through the noodles, lifting and shaking as you go to make sure they have separated. At this stage you can either hang your noodles to dry so that you can store them in an air tight container and use later or separate the fresh noodles into 6 little nests and cover with the damp tea towel ready to use as per below.
Linguine with Prawns in White Wine - serves 6 or 4 hungry adults
3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
10 large cherry tomatoes, quartered - I used Rosa tomatoes
1 dried chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
1 bunch Italian flat leaf parsley, stalks and leaves chopped and separated
2 Tbsp sun-dried tomato and olive tapenade, you can use any sun-dried tomato paste or pesto you prefer
600 gr deveined, raw king prawns, preferably with the shells still on
1 large glass crisp dry white wine, I used Bellingham, Bernard Series Old Vine Chenin Blanc 2015
Extra Virgin olive oil
Put a large pot filled with water and a good pinch of salt on to boil. Place a large frying pan on a high heat for 2 minutes or until screeching hot. Add a good glug, approximately 2 Tbsp, of olive oil to your pan followed by your tomatoes, garlic, parsley stalks, chilli and tapenade. Give your pan a good shake and then add your prawns, mix everything together for 30 seconds and then add the glass of wine. Put the lid on and watch the prawns turn that beautiful orange pink that prawns do as they absorb all the flavours. The prawns are cooked once they have gone a good orange colour and are firm. They do not need more than 3 minutes. You do not want rubbery prawns.
As soon as you put the lid on the pan of prawns put your fresh pasta in the boiling water. It should only take 1 - 2 minutes to cook. Once the pasta has cooked drain it, keeping some of the starchy water aside and tip the pasta and a little bit of residual cooking water straight into the pan with the prawns. Drizzle about 2 Tbsp of olive oil over the top, throw in your parsley leaves and toss everything together. Have a taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary. There should be enough salt from the tapenade but it is always good to check.
Divide the pasta between 6 bowls and top with the prawns and serve straight away or take all of it in a large, slightly warmed serving dish to the table and let everyone help themselves family style. Serve with a simple, dressed green salad and a bottle of the same wine you used in the dish.
Enjoy your homemade pasta and watch everyone lick the delicious juices from their fingers as they peel the prawns.
Let me know how you get on.
Good food is very often, even most often, simple food. - Anthony Bourdain