Hola Mi Gente,
I’m not sure if you’ve gathered by now, but I am somewhat carb-obsessed. My love affair with pasta has always been rampant, but it escalated to epic proportions after I lived in Florence in 2010. In a lot of ways, living in Florence was a coming of age season for me. It was my first semester of college (yes, my parents let me leave the country at 18…looking back it was a scary decision), and it was the first time I was living somewhere I wasn’t influenced by everything I knew. Although I wouldn’t recommend this for everyone, it was a really sweet time for me.
Living in the city of the renaissance in a time of my life that was filled with teenage angst, complicated family issues, and newfound freedom left me in a space that was somewhere between depressed and hungry. And I don’t mean to talk about depression here as just a general sadness. This was a period in my life where I felt heavy. All the time. It was as if all the beauty I was experiencing made me that much more aware that I was hurting, and I was deeply lonely. There were days when I didn’t want to leave my dorm room because I felt so overwhelmed. Sometimes I look back on those days and I feel sad at the things I might have missed out on because I felt frozen. Most days though, I’m grateful that I had a beautiful space to live in my thoughts and allow myself the freedom to grieve, and linger in my feelings.
If you’ve ever experienced depression, anxiety, or other mental health related issues, I’d love to encourage you to talk about them. Either to a close friend, partner, family member, or a good counselor. There isn’t anything broken with you, you are not alone, and your life is beautiful and worthwhile. The National Alliance on Mental Illness is a great resource for information on suicide prevention, awareness and safety planning; it also offers a great resource list for advocacy, financial assistance, and national directories of counselors and support groups.
When I say that I was hungry in Italy, I mean that in every sense of the word.
I was hungry for learning, for beauty, for art, for healing. Food became the sort of intersection for all those things. I learned very quickly that food was a form of art, a way of conveying care, and way I could express myself creatively. I found joy in sharing food and in learning to make it; in savoring it and connecting over it.
I remember the first time I made homemade pasta. I remember that I was wearing a terrible outfit, and that I felt self-cousious of my hair because it was a particularly bad hair day for me. But I also remember the really satisfying moment when I made a well for my eggs in the dough. I remember kneading the dough and feeling a lot of relief. I remember laying eyes on my first pasta maker and falling in love.
At that point, a dream was born (a dream I kept silent until Ben and I got married so I wouldn’t sound like a crazy person). I dreamed of making my own home made pasta for my kids someday. Over the years, I’ve cultivated a sort of arrogance around this, and like to imagine I’ll never buy store pasta again. I know, I know, I know that isn’t a very probable outcome, but in my head I’m picturing my kids coming up to me one day and exclaiming: “pasta comes in a box???”
In case you’re wondering, this isn’t a pregnancy announcement. I’m just letting you know one of my embarrassing food dreams, because I like you all pretty good and you deserve to know some of the weird bits about me.
That having been said, two years ago for Christmas, Ben bought me a pasta maker. This pasta maker. He had even gone out of his way to order pasta flour, a drying rack, and two recipe books to get me started. I was obsessed. Since then I’ve been able to curate and perfect a few recipes.
You can buy this pasta maker directly by following this link.
Here are a few things I love about this pasta maker:
- It does all the hard work for you. Before I had a pasta maker, I went through the grueling process of hand rolling out my pasta. Here’s some good insight on my workout regimen: my arms are (if you’ll forgive the analogy) like soggy spaghetti noodles. Getting pasta to be super thin and simultaneously uniform is hard, hard, hard work y’all. This pasta machine does all that hard work for you and gives you beautifully smooth sheets of pasta.
- It comes with attachments. Some pasta makers just come with the sheet/lasagna maker and you have to purchase additional attachments. This one includes a fettuccine and tagliolini attachment. From the main lasagna attachment you can make bow tie pasta, lasagna (obviously), ravioli, and several other stuffed pastas. If you want additional attachments, you can purchase the wide array Marcato Atlas carries as well, but these three cover quite an array of pastas.
About Homemade Pasta
If you’re rolling your eyes at me right now because homemade pasta does not fit into your cooking schedule, keep rolling them because I’m about to tell you that it does. It definitely does if you make the time for it. If you are a meal prepper–you most definitely have the time to make homemade pasta. If you haven’t jumped on the meal prepping bandwagon, it might be something you want to start. While it does take time investment, it’s a process that streamlines your cooking experience down the week and prevents bingeing on unhealthy foods because all your other food takes too much time to make (sound familiar?). We are by no means an exclusively homemade pasta household. I buy box pasta all. the. time. That having been said, I definitely prefer the consistency and freshness of homemade pasta for a few reasons:
- It’s a form of portion control. Because homemade pasta takes a little work, it makes me be a little more conservative with my portion sizes, and scaling down my pasta portion size (which usually is about three full servings per meal…no, really) is never a bad thing.
- It is a huge stress reliever. When I make homemade pasta I turn on a show I love on my computer, blast the radio, or catch up on a podcast. The kneading and feeding through the pasta maker is a repetitive process and it is really stress relieving.
- It is simple, fresh, and affordable. This pasta has six ingredients, but you can have homemade pasta with as little as two or three ingredients. There’s a reason we order things when they say “from scratch” on the menu. It communicates a care for the food making process, as well as a form of artistry. Homemade pasta does that, without being something that breaks the bank or has so many steps that it’s confusing or impossible to make.
Customizing My Pasta
Over the last few years, I’ve been playing with different pasta making ingredients and recipes, trying to find ones that work best for me. I’ve actually grown to really love Bob’s Red Mill Semolina Flour because it is local (it’s produced two miles away from my house!), it is high quality, and it’s easy to work with.
The rest of these ingredients are also mostly local. The herbs, eggs and salt are all local. If you’d asked me six months ago if I had any strong feelings about salt, I would have probably rolled my eyes and told you I wasn’t that level of snob yet. Fast forward six months though, and here we are. I love Jacobsen for a couple of reasons: one because I love supporting local efforts! But also, there’s a craftsmanship and attention to detail that comes when something is hand harvested, like this is. These salts have been cultivated by both professional and home chefs, so the finished product is a salt that fits every cooking style and creates a signature taste. I am particularly a big fan of the black garlic salt used in this recipe. You can find it here. While it is a little spendy, a little of it goes a long way. This salt is also THE BEST on fried eggs, fresh avocado, and along the rim of a homemade pizza crust. Insert the heart eyes emoji here.
This particular pasta was inspired by fresh spring flavors, and local tastes. That’s the wonderful thing about pasta, too, is that it is easily customizable to whatever is in season.
One the the tricks to getting a good pasta dough, is to get it to a point where it is workable but still a little stiff. A good indicator that you have the right consistency is having a dough that doesn’t stick to your hands. This is one of the reasons I prefer working with Semolina flour, because it’s easier to get that consistency right.
Another wonderful trait of this pasta maker, is that because it has several width’s to work from (0 being the widest that you initially feed your dough through), if you’ve under-kneaded your dough (like I did here), it does the extra work for you to work the dough until it’s beautifully smooth.
I alternate sometimes between using a pasta rack to dry my pasta, and just drying it in rolls. This time I dried mine in rolls because of the large amount I was making. When you do this, you’ll want to sift some flour in between your noodles to make sure they don’t permanently stick to each other in the drying process. I use a drying rack like this one most of the time and it works wonderfully.
A few notes on cooking fresh pasta
Another wonderful gift of fresh pasta, is that it cooks SO FAST. Even a dry roll of pasta cooks in boiling water in about three minutes. To make sure you have the best consistency, always make sure to stand by your pot to make sure you don’t over cook your pasta. Also: never add your pasta to cold water. Always, always, always add pasta to your pot once the water is boiling. You also want to make sure to not add anything other than salt to your water. Some people add oil to their water, but in my experience, this just makes it harder for your sauce to adhere to your noodles, and nobody wants that.
I hope you enjoy this fresh pasta sometime this spring–I know it can seem daunting to take on a cooking project like this, but once you do it you’ll see that its actually really accessible to every home cook. It’s also just a nice skill to have on hand for some time when you want to really put heart (and a little strength training) into your meals.
Love, love, love,
***This post contains affiliate links that I receive a small commission from. These links are specifically for products that I personally use and love. I would never push products that I didn’t believe in. If you have more questions about that, feel free to send me an email at :firstname.lastname@example.org.