Fresh pasta is preferable to dried in most cases, but I do not have a pasta machine, nor am I in possession of very much upper body strength. Because of these shortcomings, most of my pasta-making efforts in the past have ended in too-thick noodles that take forever to cook, but once I abandoned my visions of angel hair, and decided to make sheets, rather than strands, life became far more rewarding.
A big bowl of hot pasta, each strand perfectly coated in a creamy sauce, is perhaps the perfect comfort food. If you're not so hot on dairy - or it's not so hot on you - this meal may seem sadly out of your reach. Fortunately, there is a very easy way to make a rich and luscious, pasta-coating sauce without using a single drop of cream or a single pat of butter.
Floppy, foldy, hand-torn pieces of pasta are nothing new. It’s called fazzoletti, or “handkerchief pasta,” due to its shape. (Please, though, keep it away from your nose.) You make the dough, rip off small pieces, and roll them into thin sheets, tearing or cutting them into whatever shapes you desire.
There are a lot of good dough recipes out there, but I’ve found this aggressively simple one from Allrecipes works quite well, as it doesn’t need a lot of kneading—though I do use half semolina flour and half all-purpose, rather than all all-purpose. To make these silky sheets, you will need:
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup semolina flour
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 egg, beaten
2 tablespoons of water
Combine the flours and salt in a large mixing bowl with a whisk. Make a small well in the centre of the dry ingredients, and pour the beaten egg into the well. Use a fork to combine, and when the dough starts to stick together, start to knead, adding water as needed to help it form a cohesive mound. Move to a lightly floured surface, and continue to knead for three or four minutes, until it looks like this:
Let it rest for at least 15 minutes then, using a pastry cutter (or a big ol’ knife), cut the dough into eight equal pieces. Flatten each piece into a rectangular shape, then roll it out as thin as you can, rip that piece in half, and roll those two pieces out as thin as you can.
The goal is to have light shine through the pasta, with no dark spots. The pasta in the above photo is almost there—it just needs a little more rolling out in the along the edge closest to my hand.
Once you have a pile of handkerchiefs, you’re ready to cook them. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil, then add the pasta, giving the sheets a swirl and poke if needed to keep them from sticking together. Cook for three to five minutes, until they are al dente (meaning “toothsome”), then remove them with tongs, dripping wet, and toss them in warmed marinara, pesto, or a creamy (yet creamless) pancetta-studded affair.
Grate on the parm, rip up some basil, and open a bottle of wine, and revel in the rustic nature of it all.