Making Fresh Pasta

Make your processed food from scratch

Hi friends,

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.

x Sam

P.S: Big shout out to my love @sandyvanhelden for making the illustration for this issue.

If you want to help me, please share the digest:

Share Sam's Digest

Fresh Pappardelle

A great way to start making you own Pasta

What do you need?

It’s a lie that you need any special gear to make pasta at home. Yes, it’s easier if you have a mixer and a pasta machine, but it’s by no means necessary. In this recipe, I will explain how to do everything without any special gear.

Is this the best pasta recipe?

No, it’s a basic one, an easy one, I won’t dive into the complex details and art of pasta making. If you’re into that, I recommend this post on the science of pasta making.

Ingredients

Per 100 grams of pasta (1 serving):

  • 100 grams flour - can be all-purpose, typo 00 or semolina, or a mix. I normally go for 50/50 all-purpose and typo 00 for good silky pasta.

  • 1 whole egg

  • 1/4 tsp salt

Instructions

  1. Mix all the ingredients either by hand or in a mixer. If you’re doing it by hand make a mountain with the flour on a surface and make some kind of crater in it, then crack the eggs in the middle.

  2. Knead it all into a big firm ball, for about 10 minutes. This is harder than you think, the ball will be pretty strong. If the dough is too sticky, add some flour. If it's too dry, add a bit of water. 

  3. Wrap the ball in plastic and let it rest for about an hour (it’s not a problem if you rest it for longer). If you want to refrigerate or freeze the dough to use later, you can do that too.

  4. After resting, cut the ball into fist-size pieces.

  5. Now use a pasta machine or a rolling pin to make the balls flat. Once it’s pretty thin, fold it the long sides back into the middle and do it again, repeat that two times. If you don’t have a rolling pin, use a bottle of wine.

  6. Now it’s time to make the dough thin enough to make pasta with. If you are using a machine, it’s easy, gradually increase the thin-ness of your pasta machine until it’s the second to thinnest (7 on mine). If you don’t have a pasta machine, use a rolling pin to make it so thin that you can almost see your fingers through it, but not yet. (For spaghetti you want to get thinner, but I like pappardelle a little thicker).

  7. Lay everything in sheets on a cutting board and cut it into Pappardelle, between 2-3CM wide.

  8. Make small heaps with the pappardelle and use flour so the things won’t stick to each other (see the header image).

Cook them between 50 seconds and 2 minutes in unsalted water (we salted the dough, so we don’t need to salt the water) and eat them with your favorite sauce, enjoy!

Georgian Food

How to bring the culinary muse of the caucasus home

Hi friends,

I’ve wanted to write about Georgian food since I started this newsletter. My Kachnapuri (Georgian cheese bread) video was my most-liked Instagram story ever.

Last year Sandy and I decided to take a trip to Georgia. It’s a very hospitable country. How hospitable? Well, they’ve recently started gifting people a bottle of wine after passport control — JFK Immigration people, please take note!

All jokes aside, Georgia is a pure “foodie heaven” - their food is fantastic. We were not the first to find out. “The best-undiscovered Cuisine in Europe”, that’s how the chef of Noma, René Redzepi, describes it. The New Yorker named it the “Culinary muse of the Caucasus”.

All tough the COVID-19 situation is making travel a bit harder, I would recommend visiting Georgia. There’s a good book about the country, called Tasting Georgia by Carla Capalbo. It’s a combination of a travel guide and a cookbook, which is a smart idea on its own, but the content is also great. It talks about all the different regions, their history, and their cuisine. We learned a lot about Georgian traditions, how to make Georgian dishes, and we visited many of the restaurants it lists.

Did I mention most of the dishes in Georgia are vegetarian? They have very fertile soil, so their vegetables are incredible and often the centerpiece of their meals. I heard that in many regions, especially in the mountains, they’re not allowed to kill their cows and chicken, because they’re dependent on them for milk and eggs, so that forces them to focus on meat-free dishes too.

Eating Georgian at Home

If you have a Georgian restaurant nearby, you could try it out - and you probably should. But it’s even more fun to make this stuff at home. Fortunately, Georgian food isn’t very complex to make. I included three recipes here that are easy to make and super tasty.

Khachapuri

These “cheese boats” taste even better than they look. Seeing people eating these on social media is what made me want to go to Georgia in the first place. They’re reasonably easy to make and will impress your guests. I’ve tried a lot of recipes and wrote one myself here.

Nigvziani Badrijani (Eggplant Rolls)

These are roasted eggplants filled with walnut paste. It’s a great side dish because it’s very nutritious and has a very bright flavor. I found a recipe here; the walnut paste filling is also good with crackers or chips.

Mushrooms with Tarragon

Both mushrooms and tarragon are very prominent in the Georgian kitchen. This dish is exciting because it tastes like chicken. It has a salty and oily flavor, which gets brightened up with tarragon. Definitely worth a try. I’m working on my own version of this recipe, but I was lucky and found one recipe on the web.

Wine

I can’t write about Georgian food without mentioning their wine. These people like the good life, so besides making incredible food, they invented wine. Seriously, the earliest evidence of wine was found in Georgia. They found 8000-year-old jars there, and the fun thing is that they still make wine in those types of pots, called Qvevri.

Unlike the western world, wine is not a fancy thing in Georgia. Everyone drinks it, and they drink it out of jerrycans or plastic bottles. It’s often made at home, families take great pride in their wine and will always offer you a glass (which usually tastes very good). Even in the cities, people grow grapes on their balconies or the street.

Just like their food, the Georgians are very traditional about winemaking; they let the grapes do their work and don’t try to control or add anything. This means that the stems and skins of the grapes are left with the juice during the fermentation process, resulting in more tannic and flavorful white wines. They call them white, but they look more orange, because of the skin contact. What we call “white wine”, they call “orphan wine”, because the skins get separated from their grapes too early. They keep their wines in clay Qvevris (clay jars) underground and drink it young.

When in Georgia, you should do a wine tour through Alazani Valley, you can visit a lot of wineries there and learn more about the process. If you don’t live in Georgia, order a Georgian bottle in a cafe the next time you see it, you won’t regret it.

That’s it for this issue. Thank you for reading this, if you want to help out, please share the newsletter using this button:

Share Sam's Digest

xx Sam

P.S: My next issue will be about how the whole COVID-19 crisis and how that impacts our food.

P.P.S: This issue wasn’t edited by the talented Juan Buis. If you think my writing is bad, please let me know. If not, please let me know as well, because then I don’t have to bother him anymore.

Khachapuri (Georgian Cheese Bread)

The ultimate comfort food

Kachapuri is a Georgian traditional dish that is part of almost every meal. The hospitality-trend forecaster af&co called it the “dish of the year 2019” and I totally get why: It is the ultimate comfort food. It’s filling, fatty and has a great structure: the Georgians invented the cheese crust. It’s great as part of your dinner, but can also be a good lunch or midnight snack. We’re lucky, because these cheese boats are pretty easy to make :).

This recipe is for a basic Khachapuri, but you can customize by adding fresh herbs or chillies to the filling.

Ingredients (for 2 breads): 

  • 400G flour 

  • 150mL warm water 

  • 150mL warm milk 

  • 1tbsp salt

  • 1tsp sugar

  • 7g yeast 

  • 3 eggs 

  • 500g cheese mix - can be any cheese: I often use Sulgini, Feta and Peyniri, but widely available cheese like Cheddar and Emmentaler work just as well.

Instructions

  1. Mix all the ingredients except the cheese and eggs in a mixer or by hand. Make a big dough ball of it. 

  2. Leave the ball covered in a warm place and let it rest for 45 minutes until it doubles in size.

  3. While the dough is rising, beat one egg and cut the cheese into blocks.

  4. When the dough is ready, it’s time to preheat the oven at 220°C.

  5. Cut the ball in two pieces, these will become the two breads.

  6. Use a rolling pin (or a bottle of wine if you don’t have one) to flatten the ball in a rectangle shape. Move the dough over to a baking sheet.

  7. Add two lines of cheese close to the edge of the dough and add a little bit of beaten egg and pepper, like this:

  8. Now fold the sides over the cheese and make a knot at the ends like this:

  9. Fill the middle with cheese too. The bread is ready to go in the oven now. Around 20 minutes at 220°.

  10. After 20 minutes the bread should start to brown. Make a little hole in the middle using a spoon. Put an egg in it and move it back to the oven for about 4 minutes. Key here is that the egg yolk is still very runny when you take it out. The egg will continue to cook in the hot cheese, so it’s better to take it out a little too early than too late.

Serve immediately :), you eat it by breaking pieces of crust off the side and dipping it in the middle.

For more recipes like this one, sign up for my newsletter

Better-Than-TakeOut

Fitting cooking into a busy schedule

Hi friends, 

Thanks for your great replies to the previous email — it gave me so much energy! I’ve got a ton of ideas for upcoming issues.

Lately, I’ve been trying to understand why things are happening the way they are in the world, and something I learned is that convenience is one of the most underestimated and least understood forces. This NY Times article explains that convenience often makes decisions for us because we frequently pick the path of least resistance — even if we believe those aren’t our true preferences. A lot of things fell into place when I read that article. This explains why I find myself browsing Instagram so often when I actually wanted to read a good book

The same concept applies to cooking. Even though we like doing it, it has become harder to make time for it as there are so many quick and easy options out there, like ordering take-out.

It’s crazy — food is trendier than ever, yet millennials don’t cook.

For my generation, it seems that the mantra is to optimize our time as much as possible. I think this is a really bad habit, but sometimes I still find myself ordering food when I get home tired after work  — it’s just easier than getting up to cook.

That’s why I wanted to dedicate this issue to sharing some ideas on how to change this mentality.

How can we make cooking fast and convenient enough so it fits in our busy schedules? 

1. Make a weekly meal planning

I experimented with this a bunch when I was living further away from the better grocery stores and it was a ton of fun. It’s simple — you take a bit of time on the weekend to plan what you’ll be eating the rest of the week. This way, you’re saving a lot of food waste (for example by reusing herbs), and you only need to shop once. You can still maintain some flexibility around what you’ll be eating every night, though, because it’s easy to switch days up.

There are a couple of pre-made meal plans out there, but I highly recommend just making one yourself. You can find a free app to help you do it here

However, most of us don’t really like to plan ahead — and that’s where the system failed for me. That’s why you could also...

2. Double the amounts

Creating your own take-out is easy as well. Just make twice as much of whatever you’re making and save it in the fridge for the next day. This works especially well for sauces and soups! One dish Sandy and I love to make in large quantities and eat for a couple of days is Palak Paneer. It’s a flavorful Indian curry that goes well with naan bread or rice. This way, you could do naan on day 1 and rice on day 2 — you get the idea.

3. Cook dishes that you don’t need to go to the store for

I have yet to find a cookbook that focuses on this — maybe I’ll write it myself someday! Whenever I browse recipes online, it always says how long it takes to make, but never mentions shopping time. That’s why I’ve included some recipes that you can cook at home at any time. The ingredients aren’t perishable, so it’s easy to stock up on them. All of these can be made in as little as 20 minutes — from getting the ingredients until having a meal on the table. There are very little Uber Eats options that can beat that time, so next time you open the app, consider one of these.

Pasta Cacio e Pepe

There are lots of pasta recipes that require very little ingredients, but this is my favorite one — you only need three. It’s been around since the Roman era, and even though it’s very simple, it’s rich. Recipe and video

Unagi Don

Easy recipes don’t have to be boring! This dish is actually quite exciting — and great to make if you want to impress friends. I’ve written the recipe here.

Peanut Soba Noodles

I know, it sounds weird, but this is the ultimate comfort food. I’ve tried out several versions of this over the past few weeks, and put my favorite recipe here. The cool thing about this dish is that it’s very flexible. You can add anything you like to it: from parsley to pickled radishes, and from breadcrumbs to mango —  anything is possible.

Alright, that’s it for now! I hope this inspired you to cook something this week. As always — if you have any ideas or feedback, just hit reply :) Till next time,

x Sam

By the way, some of you asked me how you could help me. It’s easy — just share the digest! The more people hear about it, the more we can do.

Share Sam's Digest

Shout out to Juan Buis for editing the issue.

Loading more posts…