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A supreme moment

Holy cow you guys I just made the most amazing pasta. Alert readers will recall in a recent post I explained I was dedicating my time couch-side while nursing a virus to researching ways of improving my pasta-making sk1llz (among other things). Well, I’ve turned the corner virus-wise and am well and truly on the mend, so it was time to put my new research into practice.

I watched a video of a chap named Giuliano Hazan—actually a sequence of three videos (YouTube link: will autoplay on loading)—on rolling, kneading, slicing and preparing homemade pasta. He makes it look good. So off we went!

I piled 100g of plain flour onto the bench, made a little well in it, and cracked an egg in. I whisked the egg a wee bit and started incorporating the flour, little by little. And then gave it a hearty kneading!

Rolled pasta sheets drying

The rolled sheets, drying

This pasta differs from my usual pasta in some big ways. First up, I had previously been shooting for about 65% hydration (meaning for every 100g of flour, I used 65g of water and/or egg). Makes a soft and tender noodle, but waaay too soft and tender a noodle. Second up, the kneading: I had heard previously that one ought not knead one’s pasta, lest one overknead and end up with chewy pasta. I don’t know who is overkneading their pasta, but I would like to see their biceps, because they would be SWOLE. Anyhoo, after making up this dough—about 53-55% hydration, a massive difference—I kneaded until it was a steady, solid, homogenous dough, and then (third difference!) rested it for twenty minutes before rolling out. The dough was incredible to work with! I previously had to liberally spread flour over my pasta roller, my benchtop, my bowl, my person, to stop the higher-hydration dough sticking to everything. With this new dough, it didn’t even think about sticking to the pasta rollers. It was magical.

Finally, the other big change: letting the dough, rolled out, dry in sheets before slicing it into noodles. Now, if you’ve made fresh pasta at home, you probably know about this step: you’re supposed to hang all your noodles out to dry before cooking with them. It’s a pain in the tuchus. Go on, have a look around your kitchen right now and ask yourself where you would hang several hundred limp noodles in an uncrowded, no-sticking-together fashion. You’ll probably have to get the clotheshorse out. The solution from Mr Hazan’s video is elegant and simple: dry the pasta sheets flat before cutting into noodles. I love it! I did it and it works beautifully.

Nests of noodles, coiled for resting while the water boils

Pasta nests!

The sliced noodles are then rested in little nests while the water boils. Don’t forget to salt your water!

They cooked quickly and they were perfect. I’ve overcooked my homemade pasta so many times because it’s soft and overcooks in the wink of a heartbeat. But the lower hydration dough, rested and dried, moved elegantly from undercooked through to al dente in graceful, careful stages, and produced a nice, well-cooked noodle which was a beautiful complement to my other recently-acquired skill: carbonara sauce.

Final carbonara!

The finished glory (after a few mouthfuls)

Not an amazing photo, but you’re lucky to get a photo at all. This stuff was seriously good, and I barely remembered to photograph the finished product.

I am glowing with self-congratulations right now. I’m glowing so hard M’s getting a tan.

Allow me to distract you from my radiant smugness with an easy-peasy, veggo-friendly carbonara recipe!

Carbonara sauce

  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 whole egg
  • a generous handful of finely shredded cheddar, parmesan, or another fairly crumbly and sharply-flavoured cheese
  • a generous amount of salt and black pepper

While your pasta reaches a boil, whisk the above in a big bowl: you will need a bowl big enough to accommodate the pasta when it’s cooked, so go for the biggest you’ve got.

When your pasta is al dente (or, ideally, a fraction before that point), scoop out about a cup of the hot, starchy pasta water and set aside. Drain the pasta, then immediately add to your bowl with the eggs, cheese, and salt/pepper. Toss vigorously. Return to the hot pot the pasta was cooking in and stir in some of the hot pasta water. Start with about half: you can add more if it seems like your sauce is too thick. Traditionally, the eggs in this dish are cooked by the heat from the pasta, the pasta water, and the pasta pot: I usually ignite the gas under the pot just to be sure, but make sure you stir constantly while the sauce cooks, or you’ll end up with scrambled eggs.

Serve immediately! Delicious with asparagus or spinach stirred through, too.

One last shout-out: if you can get your hands on some smoked cheddar, I can’t emphasise enough how great that is in this dish. I know it’s not traditional, but fuck it, it’s goddamn delicious.

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