Pasta is one of my great, giant food loves. I can’t even put a finger on why. Maybe it’s the way it can hold and showcase any number of flavours and produce – from gently roasted autumnal tomatoes to rich, tender winter ragu or light spring herbs and greens. Maybe it’s the comfort factor – something about a warm, steaming bowl of pasta screams home. A reminder of family weekend dinners and Mum’s classic ‘roast chicken & vegetable pasta’ – a heaving pot of fresh tortellini, oven roasted vegetables and barbecued chicken thighs, drenched with her go-to tomato sauce of slowly sweated onions and garlic. Maybe it’s the convenience, of coming home tired and throwing together a box of dried pasta with whatever ingredients are on hand and always ending up with a satisfying meal.
Despite all this, I’ve barely entered the realm of homemade pasta. We do have a pasta machine, courtesy of my youngest brother’s kindergarten pasta making day. It left him with the sort of obsession only four year olds have – fleeting but intense – and resulted in a pasta machine birthday present. It was used once, an attempt that left a flour coated kitchen and whole afternoon effort from Mum while he got distracted part way through. Let’s just say it was subsequently relegated to the top shelf of the cupboard with other obsolete appliances. A few years later, the same cycle happened with an ice cream churner, culminating in a couple of batches of mint-choc chip (their favourite flavour, for reasons I still do not understand) and even less cupboard space. Fast forward ten years, and I’m now the main user of both machines – I call that a win, thanks brothers!
Thanks to Erin’s quick and mess-free food processor pasta dough recipe, I’m now a pasta making convert. This excludes week nights when the point of making pasta is an extra quick meal, or when I’m feeding my three brothers and don’t want to spend years rolling pasta sheets – simply because they eat a stupid amount of food, and then ask for seconds. Last time I tried it I needed 10 eggs worth of dough to serve us all! The rest of the time, it’s strangely meditative – the process of rolling and folding, rolling and folding, rolling progressively thinner widths and finally cutting noodles to dry. I personally favour thick widths of parpadelle over thin spaghetti strings – all the better for catching your sauce – and there’s nothing as human and homely as slightly uneven handcut noodles.
This pappardelle with pesto, zucchini & goats cheese is made for the long, warm evenings of February. It’s an ode to summer vegetables – vibrant green zucchini and multi-coloured cherry tomatoes with handfuls of garden basil and parsley, brightened up with lemon and briny capers. The tomatoes are quickly blistered whole over a high heat, skin loosened and scorched, while the zucchini takes a few minutes in a hot pan with generous salt and pepper. The herbs are blitzed to make a pesto-like herb oil, and it’s all combined in the cooking pot just before serving. Hints of creamy, tangy goats cheese finish it off.
Unfortunately I don’t have my own vegetable garden here in Melbourne, though back in Auckland my youngest brother’s newest interest is his little vegetable plot. It’s absolutely flourished this summer and produced bags of the biggest tomatoes I’ve ever seen!
- 1 batch pappardelle pasta (recipe below).
- 1½ cups basil leaves
- ¾ cup parsley leaves
- 1 large clove garlic
- ¼ cup olive oil
- zest of 1 lemon
- juice of ½ lemon
- 1 punnet assorted cherry tomatoes
- ½ teaspoon chili flakes
- 2 large zucchini, cut into rounds
- 2-3 tablespoons capers
- 100g goats cheese, crumbled
- In a blender or food processor, combine the basil, parsley, garlic, olive oil and lemon zest and juice. Blitz until it is a pesto-like consistency. Set aside.
- Meanwhile, heat a large pan over medium-high heat with a quick drizzle of olive oil. Add the whole cherry tomatoes and chilli flakes. Cover the pan and cook for 3-5 minutes, gently shaking the pan occasionally to prevent burning, until the tomatoes are just starting to blister and burst. Remove from the heat and set aside.
- In the same pan (no need to wash it) with another drizzle of olive oil, cook the zucchini rounds until golden on each side. You may need to do this in 2 batches, depending on the size of your pan.
- To cook the pasta, bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil. Salt generously. If using store bought pasta, cook according to packet instructions. If using homemade parpadelle, carefully cook for about 4 minutes or until al dente, using tongs to detangle any strands that might stick together.
- Drain the pasta and add back to the pot. Add the basil-parsley herb oil, cherry tomatoes, zucchini, capers and goats cheese. Toss to combine. Serve immediately.
- 4 large eggs
- 385g all purpose flour
- extra flour for dusting surfaces
- Place the eggs and flour in a food processor. Pulse until it resembles a crumble (chunky couscous, as Erin said) and should hold together when you pinch some between your fingers.
- If it is a little dry (I’ve never had to do this, but maybe if your eggs were small), add water a teaspoon at a time and pulse to combine.
- Turn the dough out onto plastic wrap and press together into a disc. Wrap tightly and rest at room temperature for 30 minutes to an hour.
- Divide the dough into 6 pieces. Work with one at a time and keeping the others covered.
- Flatten the dough with your hands into a small rectangle and run through the rollers of a pasta machine on the widest setting. Fold in half and run through again, still on the widest setting. Repeat 4 or 5 times to develop the gluten.
- Continue to run pasta through the machine, this time adjusting to a narrower setting each time (without folding it in half), until you get to the second or third narrowest width. Mine is a kenwood attachment and I finished on 8 out of 9.
- Lay the sheet of pasta out on a lightly floured bench, and lightly dust the top side with flour.
- Repeat process with remaining 5 pieces of dough.
- To cut the sheets into strips, cut each sheet in half (so the half-length will be the length of your strips). Gently fold into thirds and cut into 2cm strips with a sharp knife. Unfold the parpadelle. Hang the pasta out on a pasta drying rack or a clothes horse until you are ready to cook it.
- To cook the pasta, bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil. Salt generously. Carefully add the pasta and cook for about 4 minutes or until al dente, using tongs to detangle any strands that might stick together. Drain and use immediately.