Fresh Pasta Comes in Different Shades

admin | March 1st, 2016 - 12:57 pm

Rusty red pasta dough gets its flavor and color from a mixture of paprika, cayenne and pimentón.

Dried pasta, when cooked properly, is delightful. Nothing compares to its chewy, satisfying texture and simplicity, with a restrained amount of flavorful sauce coating it perfectly. On the other hand, fresh pasta has its own addictive charms, chief among them its silky tenderness. It is a pleasure to make and an even greater pleasure to eat.

Much of the commercially available “fresh” pasta is designed to be sturdy and never has the delicate texture of homemade. I usually opt to roll and cut my own.

Don’t let the idea of making pasta at home intimidate you; it just takes practice to master the process. Basic pasta dough really has only two ingredients — eggs and flour — but even with a recipe, you’ll need to get familiar with the feel of properly hydrated dough, which is the single most important factor. It will make the difference between pasta dough that is smooth and easy to roll, and a lumpy, unmanageable dough that will drive you to tears. Simply put, it must not be too wet or too dry.

Once you have the feel for making fresh egg pasta, try branching out into the world of flavored dough. I’m not talking about doughs that are merely colorful but otherwise tasteless (maybe you’ve bought an expensive bag of that kind). Green pasta can actually taste like something if you purée raw spinach or chard leaves with the eggs that make the dough. A mixture of chopped fresh herbs (parsley, rosemary, sage) makes green speckled pappardelle that look pretty and have real herbal flavor.

Try making black pepper pasta to toss with spring vegetables, like peas and asparagus, or to sauce with butter and cheese for a fancier (and somewhat playful) version of cacio e pepe. Adding crumbled saffron to the eggs can turn pasta a brilliant gold and add perfume to a dish, perhaps saffron linguine with brothy steamed clams or mussels.

A rusty red pasta dough that includes a mixture of paprika, cayenne and pimentón is one of my flavored pasta favorites. It’s uncanny how the essence of hot pepper really comes through for truly zingy fettuccine that contrast beautifully with sweet vegetables — delicious tossed with corn and zucchini in the summer, or with roasted winter squash during the cooler months.

And to Drink …

This is a tricky combination. The touch of heat from the pasta would generally call for a different sort of wine than the sweetness of the squash. Although this dish is well balanced, the sweetness should be more pronounced than the heat. So maybe opt for a wine that harmonizes with the vegetables, like a rich chardonnay, ideally something like a Meursault or a good West Coast version. Alternatively, a full-bodied chenin blanc from the Loire Valley would work well, either sec or dry or a demi-sec, with some residual sugar. You could also try a white from the Rhône Valley. Many are made with some combination of marsanne and roussanne, which will meld well. Condrieu, made with viognier, would be delicious. A New World viognier could work, too, so long as it has sufficient acidity.

Source:  nytimes.com, 2/26/2016

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