On our first night out as newly minted residents of the green mountains, Ray and I celebrated by supping at a popular Montpelier eatery. It was Italian fare loosely defined, a hybrid cuisine where fried chicken fingers creep their way into Tuscany.
I ordered the bolognese. I always do. But I had a request, "Is it possible to replace the angel hair pasta with a linguini or a fettucini? I'll take a pappardelle if you've got it."
The waitress took a moment, sighed a weary waitress sigh, "I'll check with the kitchen."
And because I can't leave well enough alone, I felt the inexplicable need to elaborate. "It's just that I like a thicker noodle."
That got her attention, It also earned me the cocked eyebrow (no pun intended) of a neighboring diner.
It's a pleasure to make your acquaintance, Vermonters! I'll have you know that I like a thicker noodle.
I stand by my preference. I cannot abide by anemic and slippery capellini. I require substantial girth in my pasta. These days, to insure the perfect noodle to sauce ratio and to avoid any undue embarrassment, I make my own pasta.
The Thicker Noodle: Pappardelle
3 cups 00 flour (King Arthur Flour's Italian Flour is perfect)
4 tablespoons water
1/2 teaspoon salt
extra flour for dusting.
-Whisk together eggs and water in a small bowl. Set aside.
-Pulse together flour and salt in a food processor.
-With the processor ON, slowly pour in the egg/water mixture and mix until the contents just start to form a ball. No more than 30 seconds.
-Lightly dust your work surface with extra flour and turn out the loose pasta dough. Knead the dough for ten minutes, until it is shiny and holds together.
-Cover the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 40 minutes.
-Cut the dough in half. Wrap the unused half immediately in plastic wrap.
-Flatten the half you are using slightly. Feed it through a pasta machine with the opening set to "1" (the largest). Continue feeding the dough through the machine, reducing the size of the opening, until the dough is almost translucent. If you find the amount of dough unruly, simply cut the piece in half again and continue working. I find that the setting "7" gets me to the best thickness.
-Lay the dough on your lightly flour dusted work surface and trim the edges. Cut the dough into 12 inch long, 1/2 inch thick strips. Transfer the strips to a parchment lined sheet pan lightly dusted with flour.
-Cook the pasta for five minutes. No longer, otherwise the dough will become gummy.
I usually use half the dough to make pappardelle and the other for tortellini. Roll out the pasta as you would for long noodles but instead of cutting strips, use a 2" round cookie cutter to cut the pasta into rounds. Moisten the edges of the pasta round with a slightly damp pastry brush.
Plop 1/2 teaspoon of filling (recipe follows) onto the round and fold in half, sealing the edges.
Bring the pointy corners of the dough together and pinch to seal.
Don't let the dough dry, otherwise it will crack as you are folding the pasta and the filling will ooze from it's tight package.
If you're moving slowly, put a damp paper towel over the waiting pasta rounds.
Tortellini Filling: Quattro Formaggi
1/3 cup grated romano cheese
1/4 cup ricotta cheese
2 ounces chevre
2 ounces firm goat cheese cut into small cubes (about the size of a kernel of corn)
1/2 an onion, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 egg, beaten
5 large leaves of basil, chopped into small pieces
1 teaspoon sriracha (a chili sauce, optional)
salt to taste
–Sauté the onion and garlic in the olive oil until translucent. Set aside to cool.
-Mix together the chevre and ricotta in a mixing bowl until smooth.
-Add the firm cheese and romano. Stir until combined.
-Stir in the onion, garlic, basil and beaten egg. Add sriracha as well, if you're using it.
-The cheese tends to add plenty of flavor, so taste the mixture before adding salt to season.