“This refers to the size of the noodle that was pulled through the strings of a guitar (chitarra is “guitar” in italian)”
It was time. I wanted to make homemade pasta, but it scared me. It seemed so complicated — this delicate balance that I would overthink until I went full throttle Tracy Flick (à la Election) and took all of the joy out of the simplicity of it. So I just decided to get over myself, and dive right in. My goal: knead the dough, hand crank the noodles, and make a feast that would impress the likes of Mario Batali.
Now, I don’t know Mario Batali. Never met him. But I still wanted to make a pasta that would make him proud. (Something we can revisit on another day.)
So there I was with a bag of caputo flour and a prayer, hoping that I didn’t absolutely ruin these grand plans of mine. Deciding on two preparations, and banking on a few tips from a chef, I ventured to make homemade pasta in two variations: Spaghetti alla Chitarra & Cappatelli stuffed with duck confit, braised kale & squash (with a lemon, sage & brown butter sauce & toasted hazelnuts). Let’s pause for a second and remember that this was my first attempt at making pasta ever, so I was more than aware that my choices were ambitious. Delusions of grandeur? Perhaps. But my thought was to either go big or go home. And the best part of that equation is that if it really just turned out like a bowl of wet flour with some sad duck, I could just finish my wine and order a pizza.
But it didn’t. It was that pasta that transports you to a sunny terrace in Positano, ivy dancing through the wire legs of the table, the lilt of laughter carrying over the slushing sounds of the sea. Where the air smells of bergamot & sunshine, and the world swells around you in a wave of long and lyrical “zaaa”s and the ring of glasses clinking. Where your pasta spins perfectly around your fork, just as the Italian “r” twirls off your tongue. It was that magical unctuous pasta that made this meal not just a dinner, but a stamp in my passport.
For the Dough:
- 2 cups of caputo flour (it’s also called “00″ flour)
- 3 eggs
- pinch of salt
- drizzle of extra virgin olive oil
- + a little water to adjust consistency if it’s too dry and crumbly
- Clear your counter and make a mound out of the flour.
- Hollow the middle of the flour to make a little well.
- Break in the eggs, salt, olive oil, and gradually start pulling the flour in from the sides.
- Knead and pull the dough until it becomes smooth and elastic. This will take a good ten minutes.
- Make a little ball, cover with plastic and let it rest for about a half hour.
- With a rolling pin, begin to flatten the ball of dough out from the center to the outer edge so that it’s in an even circle.
- Flip the dough over a couple of times, dusting it with flour to prevent sticking.
- Keep on rolling until the dough is about 1/16 inch thick (desired thickness depends on the type of pasta you are making.)
- Run the dough through the rollers of a pasta machine on desired setting, lighting dusting with flour as needed.
- Place the finished dough on a lightly floured surface or pasta drying rack while making the delicious sauce below.
Remember: Cooked pasta can’t wait for sauce, but sauce can wait for pasta! Pour yourself a glass of wine, and let’s start the sauce.
- 1/2 onion chopped
- A few cloves of chopped garlic
- Chopped basil & rosemary
- Olive oil
- Salt & Pepper
- Can of San Marzano tomatoes with their juices
- Some diced carrot (for the sweetness)
- + Pancetta (if you have it, otherwise make it vegetarian)
- Add olive oil to a pan on medium heat and add all the ingredients, simmering until soft
- Cook down with a splash of good red wine for about 25 minutes
- Finish with extra basil, a splash of the pasta cooking water to help bind the sauce
The pasta water is what gives sauces that silken quality
- Add grated parmesan cheese to your liking
- Place your fresh pasta in boiling water for 5 minutes. Watch it closely. You’ll know it’s al dente when it expands a wee bit in size.
Never let fresh pasta cook for longer than 7 minutes
- Pull the pasta from the water and stir into the sauce, twisting the noodles gently in the sauce, and twirling it onto a plate.