These are strange times; we’re all stuck at home. While this is because of a serious disease with a terrible impact on the world, I wanted to focus on the only positive aspect: we have more time to cook.
I’ve been receiving more messages about cooking than ever before, so I'm trying to write more. I have to say it's challenging to find energy in this crisis, but I hope I will figure that out in the coming weeks.
I’ve asked you on Instagram whether you'd want smaller episodes or one big one. The smaller format won, about 92% of you voted for it, so in the coming months - I'm afraid we'll be stuck at home for a while - I will try to send one issue around one topic every so often. Let's go.
With all that time, there are many things that we can cook that we usually don’t have the time for, like Boef Bourginion or a good Bolognese. That's a lot of fun, but what I’ve been enjoying more is diving deep into straightforward recipes, by making everything from scratch. Most of us eat Pasta at least one time every week but have never made the pasta ourselves - let’s use this time to do that.
Making Pasta From Scratch
Big disclaimer: I’m not Italian; I didn’t grow up making pasta. According to some, I have no right to speaking here. But I will anyways, unsubscribe if you don’t like it.
Fresh homemade pasta is not “de facto” better than the dried stuff you get in the supermarket. It's just very different. For starters, it contains egg, which makes it more nutritious and flavorful. I love that, especially with a subtle sauce. Dried pasta is much more firm, which works well with heavy sauces, like a bolognese.
There are a ton of ways to make fresh pasta, and frankly, there’s not a perfect way. Pasta is almost always delicious, so it’s gratifying to make, you can’t screw it up. Like everything I share: making pasta is not hard. It also doesn't take much time. In fact, I think after you've made it once, you probably want to make yourself more often.
Click here for my basic recipe that can’t go wrong, even if you don’t own a pasta machine.
Where to take it from here?
After you’ve made it the first time, it’s time to experiment. Making pasta means you’re in control of the structure and the flavor. For example, if you use semolina in your dough, it will make sauces cling more to the pasta, where Typo00 flour can make it very silky. Or you can salt the dough so that you don’t need to cook it in salted water.
Did you, by the way, know that you can cook pasta just as well in cold water as warm water? And that it’s also fine to cook it in very little water? My favorite food writer, Harrold McGee, wrote an article on that in the NY Times. It’s fascinating that the pasta cooking tradition is so strong that he only found this out in 2009. Harrold calculated that if everyone adopted his technique, it would save between 250.000 - 500.000 barrels of oil per year.
Another fun thing to try out is ravioli, the process of making the dough is the same; you should optimize for a stretchy dough that’s thin and fill it with whatever you like, as long as it’s not too watery from the inside. It’s a good way to get rid of leftover meat and produce.
Is this useful when the lockdown is over?
Yes! You can keep fresh pasta in the freezer for a very long time, so you can even make a massive batch during the current lockdown and then eat from that for the rest of the year. I think that once you’ve acquired the pasta making skill, you will realize it’s not as time-intensive as it sounds, you can easily do it on weekdays. It’s a lot of fun to make with friends - when you can see them again - too. You can even call rolling spaghetti the machine together “romantic”… (I didn’t make that up)
What to eat it with?
In my opinion, it's best in simple recipes. Like Carbonara, Cacio e Pepe or -if you've just one a lottery- pasta with black truffle:
Sandy recently introduced me to Kale Pesto. Pasta Pesto is one of these go-to student recipes because nothing can go wrong; it’s cheap and delicious. This is all of that, but better. I’d suggest adding a little bit of lime juice at the end too, to give it a little bit of an acidic edge.
That’s it for this issue. As always, thanks for reading, and I hope I’ve inspired some of you to make this at home.
P.S: Big shout out to my love @sandyvanhelden for making the illustration for this issue.
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