Type to search

Fresh Pasta Is an Ideal Cooking Project for Spring

Adobe Stock / Andrey

As these local food connoisseurs explain, spring is a great time for fresh pasta topped with vegetables from the garden.

“Fresh pasta is somewhat of a labor of love—and it’s not necessarily because it’s superior to dry pasta,” says Tony Andiario. “Italians eat way more dried pasta than fresh. But if you’re craving supple pasta, then it’s very soul-satisfying to make it.”

For home cooks, Andiario suggests satisfying your soul on a Sunday afternoon when you have an hour or two to spare and a full glass of red wine. Andiario’s labor of love, however, is a self-imposed necessity. He makes fresh pasta every morning for the evening crowd at his award-winning namesake restaurant in West Chester. Here, it remains as difficult to score a reservation as it is to find a secure crypto platform.

Jeff Matyger is the culinary director for Delaware-based Platinum Dining Group restaurants Redfire Grill, Capers & Lemons, Taverna, Eclipse and El Camino. He oversees the huge amount of fresh pasta those spots produce daily. “Fresh pasta has a texture that store-bought pasta just doesn’t have,” he says.

Adobe Stock / Andrey

Whether or not you have an Italian grandmother in your lineage, spring is a great time to try making your own pasta using basic fresh ingredients like young peas, cherry tomatoes (even if they’re hothouse), basil, scallion and baby carrots. There’s also the simplicity of using basic pasta machines, whether manual or electric. At the same time, it does require a certain feel to get the texture and elasticity of the dough correct. And some of the more complex forms take practice.

There are two types of pasta machines: rollers and extruders. Each has different purposes, though there’s some overlap. Rollers are good for hand-cutting various shapes and strands. Simple extruders will mix the dough, but rollers require the dough be made in advance.

There are two types of pasta machines: rollers and extruders. Each has different purposes, though there’s some overlap. “We use an extruder for things like noodles and rigatoni,” Matyger says.

Rollers are good for hand-cutting various shapes and strands. Simple extruders will mix the dough, but rollers require the dough be made in advance. Basic hand rollers and electric extruders are available for under $50. Those looking for something more ornate can spend a few hundred dollars. “I use an Imperia restaurant model for rolling out pasta,” Andiario says. “They also make a kitchen size, as does Atlas.”

And Kitchen Aide mixers have an attachment for extrusion. I have an old Takka extruder in our kitchen that works fine for making spaghetti and fettucine, but it makes tortuous noises, especially in mixing the dough. Newer models may be quieter.

Whichever machine you’re using, the ingredients are basically the same—flour, water and perhaps oil and egg. I attended a cooking class in Wilmington years ago given by Marcella Hazan, the Julia Child of Italian cooking. “Northern Italians have more money, so they make egg pasta,” she loved to say. “But in southern Italy, they just use water.”

Both Andiario and Matyger like to use egg with rolled pasta and typically just water for extruded pasta. Those on vegan diets would just use water.

In most cases, all-purpose flour works, although some like semolina, a coarser flour, when they’re just using water for extruded dough. “Instead of all-purpose flours, you can use 00 flour, which is softer and finer, and most supermarkets now carry it,” Matyger says.

While pasta machines usually come with good instructions for making dough, Matyger’s rule of thumb is 100 grams of flour for one whole egg, then adjust with a few drops of water. Changes in humidity or flour texture can affect the amount of fluids needed.

Andiario points out that Cuisinart has a dough hook that works, but he prefers to use his fingers. “I like to make dough in a mixing bowl rather than on a counter,” he says, referring to the practice of making a well in the flour for the eggs on a flat surface. “I use my fingers to rake the flour into the egg until I get a consistency almost like strudel,” he says “The mixture should be loose and crumbly. You can adjust the mixture at this stage, which you can’t do once you start making it into a ball. It should be a slower process.” Andiario says the hardest thing for home cooks to master is getting the dough properly hydrated with just enough—but not too much—liquid.

Once the ball of dough has been made, he wraps it in plastic at room temperature for about an hour. Then it can be rolled and re-rolled until it gets to the proper thinness. The flattened pasta can then be cut into strands or shapes with a knife or pizza cutter or rolled-up cut.

Fresh pasta will cook much quicker than commercial dried pasta and. It will also seem more supple, even when prepared al dente. Once home cooks reaches proficiency, they may want to make pasta in advance—and in volume. “We hand-cut it, then dust it with semolina and freeze or refrigerate it,” Matyger says. “When we take it out, we cook from frozen.”

Then comes the fun part—using a few fresh ingredients with a little olive oil to make fresh toppings perfect for warm-weather lunches and temporarily getting away from the robust red sauces of winter. You can match these lighter sauces with fresh, crisp white wines.

As with all cooking, things can go wrong with fresh pasta—especially if you get overly ambitious too quickly. One night, we had a few chefs as guests. Most of the courses were tried and true, but I experimented with a starter course of large pasta squares imbedded with fresh herbs like basil and parsley. Floating in the brodo, they were lovely to look at, but the over-processed pasta was as tough as flank steak from a 20-year-old cow. Having really good wine—and enough of it—prevented a complete disaster.

Related: How to Cook With Wine, According to Delaware and Main Line Pros