Pasta always seems to be so simple to make ... you go to the store and buy a box of the dry somewhat-broken stuff, come home, boil some water and dump the contents of the box into the water. After about 12 – 15 minutes you drain the water off and (shudder!) some people then rinse the pasta under cold water (DO NOT EVER DO THIS!!). Then a sauce of some sort is heated in a microwave oven and dumped onto the pasta and maybe some cheese (from a can, may contain non-cheese items too) is plonked onto the table and the hopeful Gordon Ramsey wannabe hollers “Dinner’s On”!
This is ... disgusting.
This is not good food.
You can do better, I tell my class, and it will be a LOT cheaper and will make better pasta than you have ever eaten in your life. It will be simple, tasty and pretty quick. It does not contain any microwave anything and the cheese is made from the gift of real cows with nothing but a little salt and water used to make it. Here's how.
Make pasta ... remember the rule of 3s. 3 hundred grams of good hard flour, 3 eggs plus an extra yolk and 3 teaspoons of good olive oil. This takes technique and patience and a good strong pair of hands. Oh ... and a good story.
Clean your counter and dry it. Make a heap of all the flour on the counter and use a few fingers to make a well in the centre. In a bowl put the eggs and the oil. Gently pour the egg/oil mix into the well.
Work all the flour into the mushy mix in the middle. Start to knead. Clean the counter off with a bench scraper and start to knead strongly. Have someone tell the story to you, or you tell it between kneads. The time the cat climbed onto the ceiling fan and got dizzy and spectacularly ill after 9 turns. When you rode a bicycle into the back of a police car by mistake. Mowing the lawn for the first time on your own, not knowing a nervous parent was watching from behind a curtain. Knead and knead.
When the kneading is done and the pasta is a butter-smooth ball of beauty, wrap it in plastic and put it in the frig for a while to rest.
Take good olive oil and warm it up in a sauté pan. (Never call it a frying pan, always a sauté pan, says Chef. They’ll pay you more if you use the proper terms, and saying it right makes you sound well-trained and cultured. That’s got to be worth at last an extra 50 cents and hour!)
Infuse the oil with a bit of garlic (smashed, with the anima removed, of course) and some slivers of red onion. Gently infuse this for about 25 minutes. No colour on the garlic or onion ... just let these relax into a beautiful warm oil bath and give you all the flavour they have to give.
While this is being done, have a friend (the one who you shared the story with) grate fresh parmegiano into a bowl. Reserve this for use very soon!
While infusing the oil, take the pasta out of the frig and pass it through a pasta-roller machine and cutter. Have a BIG pot of boiling water going and, while rolling at the boil, salt it to the same salinity as blood, tears or sea-water. We all came from the sea, I tell them, eons ago, and the salinity we need in our bodies is a remnant of that part of our evolutionary voyage. (But don’t drink sea-water of course ... we have now evolved to be different!) Most people don’t put enough salt into the pasta water ... it makes a BIG difference getting this right! I show them with one sample, and the class is usually aghast at the amount until they try the result, and then they understand.
Just stick your finger quickly into the boiling water, then taste it, I teach them. You won’t get burnt and you’ll be able to accurately taste the salinity. Do NOT use any tool to do this other than your hand! First the brave try it, then most of the rest. A last couple hang on until the very end, then try to fake it. Then they realise this is not going to hurt them, and their bravery quotient increases dramatically!
Now that the infusing is done, take out the smashed garlic but leave the slivers of onion in the oil. Add a bit of fresh-cracked pepper to the oil and at the same time throw the fresh pasta into the boiling water. Cook for about 60 – 80 seconds and then get it out FAST and directly into the infused oil. It will sizzle a bit. Stir quickly with a pair of tongs or a wooden spoon. Serve immediately onto hot plates, and add freshly-grated parmegiano to taste.
First image is from foodirl.com