Noodled


Noodled

Words by Brett Levine

Photography by Beth Dreiling Hontzas

Recipes and food styling by Lily Plauché

Styling by Annie Hall

Pasta is one of the ultimate comfort foods. Whether it is linguine with a simple tomato basil sauce, gnocci with mushrooms and cream sauce, or a ricotta ravioli, pastas have the flavors and textures to satisfy any appetite.

Pasta shapes, which are a source of amusement and amazement, were originally a way Italian women could express their creativity. Somehow, a paste made from some combination of flour and a liquid, whether eggs or water, can miraculously transform into hundreds of shapes, each with their own qualities. And rather than simply being a vessel for moving the sauce, in fact most sauces are intended to compliment the flavor and texture of the noodle itself.

Making fresh pasta is an intuitive process. Once the ingredients are together, it is as much a matter of texture as it is one of measures. When you handle the dough, you understand how firm and smooth it should be. Somehow a batch of flour and eggs, handled properly, transforms into a delectable, comforting, everyday treat.

Ricotta Ravioli with Pesto

Servings: 4-6

3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

5 large eggs

¼  teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon butter

1 small leek, chopped

½ cup walnut halves, finely chopped, toasted

½ ½ cup fresh ricotta cheese

3 tablespoons freshly grated parmesan cheese

1 large egg yolk

¼  teaspoon salt

¼ ¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper

1 cup pesto

Chopped toasted walnuts

Freshly grated parmesan cheese

1. Mound the flour on a large work surface; form a well in the center. Place eggs and salt in center of flour; beat with a fork. Gradually stir in flour, being careful to reinforce the sides of the flour wall so that the egg does not leak through. Continue until a shaggy dough forms. Knead dough 6-10 minutes, adding additional flour as necessary, until smooth and elastic. Wrap in plastic wrap and let rest for 30 minutes.

2. In a medium skillet, sauté leek in butter 5 minutes or until softened. Let cool. Stir in walnuts, ricotta, parmesan, egg yolk, salt, and pepper.

3. Divide dough in half. Roll each dough half into a thin sheet using a pasta roller. Spoon 1 ½ teaspoons of filling onto one sheet of dough in 2 ½ inch intervals. You should have 24 dots of filling. Cover with remaining dough sheet. Cut out ravioli around each filling mound.

4. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook ravioli, in 2 batches, 2 minutes or until al dente. Drain well; toss with pesto. Sprinkle with additional walnuts and cheese.

Linguine with Simple Tomato Basil Sauce

Servings: 4-6

3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

5 large eggs

2 (28 ounce) cans whole San Marzano tomatoes

¼ ¼ teaspoon salt

4 garlic cloves, minced

¼  cup olive oil

1 teaspoon kosher salt

½ ½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper

½ teaspoon dried crushed red pepper

2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil

1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano

Fresh parmesan cheese

1. Mound the flour on a large work surface; form a well in the center. Place eggs and salt in center of flour; beat with a fork. Gradually stir in flour, being careful to reinforce the sides of the flour wall so that the egg does not leak through. Continue until a shaggy dough forms. Knead dough 6-10 minutes, adding additional flour as necessary, until smooth and elastic. Wrap in plastic wrap and let rest at room temperature for 30 minutes.

2. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Meanwhile, coarsely crush tomatoes with a fork or hands, reserving juices. Sauté garlic in oil in a large saucepan over medium heat 1 minute or until fragrant. Add tomatoes with juice, salt, and peppers. Bring to a boil; reduce heat, and simmer 20 minutes or until reduced to 4 cups. Stir in basil and oregano.

3. Roll out pasta into thin sheets using a pasta roller. Cut into linguine shapes using pasta roller. Place pasta on a floured sheet pan.

4. Cook pasta, in 2 batches, in water 30 to 60 seconds or until just al dente. Drain well; add to sauce. Toss with sauce and sprinkle with cheese.

Gnocchi with Mushroom Cream Sauce

Servings: 4-6

1 3/4 pounds baking potatoes, peeled, cut into 2-inch chunks

1 large egg

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/8 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg

¼ cup freshly grated parmesan cheese

1 ½ -2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling

2 tablespoons butter

2 (8 ounce) packages gourmet mushroom blend

2 cups whipping cream

½ cup freshly grated parmesan cheese

2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme

Salt and pepper to taste

1. Place potatoes in a large saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer 10-15 minutes or until tender. Drain. Immediately rice with potato ricer or run through a food mill, being careful not to burn your hands.

2. Combine riced potatoes, egg, 1 teaspoon salt, ¼ teaspoon pepper, nutmeg, ¼ cup parmesan cheese, and 1 ½ cups flour until dough forms (dough will be sticky), adding additional flour as necessary. Divide dough into 6 equal portions. On a floured surface with floured hands, roll each portion into a ½ inch thick rope. Cut each rope into ½ inch long pieces. Roll each piece into  ball and place on a floured baking sheet.

3. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Meanwhile, sauté mushrooms in butter in a large skillet 8 minutes or until mushrooms are tender and begin to brown. Stir in cream, ½ cup parmesan cheese, and thyme; bring to a boil over medium heat. Continue to simmer 2 to 3 minutes or until slightly thickened. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

4. Place gnocchi into boiling water, in 2 batches. Cook 1 minute or until gnocchi rise to the surface. Drain gnocchi well and place directly into sauce. Toss gently.

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