Those of you that follow my blogs regularly know I love to forage for mushrooms. I have to write at least one blog a year on how to forage, clean and cook wild mushrooms. If you want to learn more about chicken of the woods mushrooms, hen of the woods (maitake mushrooms), or puff ball mushrooms, I have some good information for you in my past blogs which are linked above.
Those are all fall mushrooms, so you won’t find them this time of year. What you will find if you are very, very lucky are morel mushrooms, my favorite. If you aren’t lucky enough to find them, then you may be able to purchase some at a local farmer’s market. If you can’t find them anywhere, you can substitute pretty much any type of mushroom in this recipe.
It’s also asparagus season which is another fun food to forage for. Lucky for me, I didn’t have to go farther than my own yard to come up with enough morel mushrooms, spring leeks and asparagus to make one small batch of fresh duck egg tagliatelle to go with them.
Why make pasta with duck eggs? Ducks clearly make bigger eggs than chickens and that would naturally make the egg yolks bigger but other than just being bigger, that yolk is also richer. When I saw that one of my local favorite restaurants, Luisa’s was selling duck eggs I knew I had to make tagliatelle pasta.
Tagliatelle pasta is a long flat noodle about twice the width of fettucine and is traditionally made with eggs. Tagliatelle pasta is a pasta that is both substantial and rich, the width of the noodle makes it sturdy and the fat in the egg yolks make it rich. Making the tagliatelle with duck eggs will make an even richer pasta.
Tagliatelle is often served with meat sauces since the width of the noodle really holds on to the heavy sauce. It is also served with rich cream sauces or in vegetarian dishes since the noodle is rich. With the ingredients I planned to use, I knew tagliatelle would be the perfect choice.
Tagliatelle Pasta Dough
100 grams of 00 Flour, or 50 grams semolina flour and 50 grams all-purpose flour
1 whole duck egg and 1 duck egg yolk, or 1 whole chicken egg and 2 yolks
Pinch of fine salt
Step 1: Make the dough
Measure flour onto your clean work surface and make a well in the center. Put your eggs inside the well. With a fork, mix the eggs and gradually mix in some of the flour into the eggs until they are thickened enough with the flour that you can handle them. Set the fork aside and get in there with your hands!
Start kneading the flour into the dough a little at a time. Unless you weigh all of your ingredients, eggs included, you really cannot use an exact recipe for making pasta. All eggs are a little different in size and the relative humidity changes the amount of flour you need. The trick is to add the flour as needed rather than just taking all the ingredients and mixing them together. Just keep kneading and adding flour when it is sticky, if it isn’t sticking to your hands don’t add more flour. When the dough is no longer sticky, and it starts to feel smooth stop kneading the dough, cover in plastic or with a bowl and let rest for 30 minutes.
Step 2: Finish kneading the dough
Once the dough has rested, cut it into two pieces. Flatten the pieces out as thin as you can with your hands. Place one of the pieces of dough in your pasta machine and run it through the 0 setting on the machine. Fold the dough in half or thirds and run it through the machine again at the 0 setting. Keep doing this over and over until the dough lightens in color and gets very smooth. This process of folding and running the dough through the machine over and over on the 0 setting, is really a kneading process. You are developing the gluten in the dough, this is what will keep the pasta together when you boil it and part of what gives it the al dente texture we love. The other things that gives it that al dente texture is the semolina flour. The 00 flour I use is a very high protein flour, that high protein adds strength and flavor to your pasta.
If the dough gets sticky while you are running it through the 0 setting, it's no problem and happens all the time. Simply sprinkle a little flour over the surface, just a little on all sides and run through the machine on the 0 setting again. Just keep adding flour this way until the dough isn’t sticky anymore. It is better to have too wet of a dough than a dry dough, so give yourself a pat on the back if the dough is sticky. You can always add more flour, but you cannot add more moisture.
If you put your dough through the machine and it was a little too thick when you put it through, it may not come through easily and it may shred up on the way through. No worries if that happens, just reform the dough and pat it as thinly as you can and send it back through the machine. It should come back together fine. If you try this over and over and it is just crumbling you may have added to much flour and your dough may be too dry. It is very difficult to add moisture to an overly dry dough, the only way to really do that is to put the dough in the food processor or stand mixer and add a little water until it is pliable.
Step 3: Stretch and cut your dough
Once you have run both pieces of the dough through the machine in the same manner it is time to stretch and cut your dough. Take one half of the dough and stretch it first. Take the dough and run it through the 0 setting, DO NOT FOLD the dough anymore. Take the unfolded dough and keep running it through the machine, reducing the width of the rollers on your pasta machine each time. I go from 0 to 1, then turn the dial to 2 and run the dough through again, then change the dial to 3 and run it through again, keep doing this until you hit 8. You should have a very long piece of dough now, cut that dough into 10 to 12-inch-long pieces and set aside. Stretch the second piece of dough in the same manner.
Once the dough is stretched and cut into sections, it is time to run it through the cutter. Attach your tagliatelle cutter or fettucine cutter if that is what you have. Run each section of dough through the cutter and this will give you your classic pasta shape. Set aside on a sheet pan sprinkled with semolina flour. If it is a very humid day you may want to toss the pasta in the semolina and separate the pasta so it doesn’t stick. You do not need to dry this pasta, it is ready to cook right away.
Step 4: Cook the pasta
For fresh pasta you need a lot of rapidly boiling and well salted water to cook without sticking. Fill a 6 to 8-quart stock pot 3/4 full and bring to a boil with 3 Tablespoons of salt. Drop the pasta in and stir with long tongs or spoon, make sure noodles are separated. Fresh pasta only takes about 3 to 5 minutes to cook so make sure your sauce is ready before you cook the pasta. As soon as the pasta is cooked, drain it and toss with your sauce, do not rinse. Let it rest with the sauce for a couple of minutes.
Pro Tip: Always make your pasta sauce a thinner than you think you should, the pasta will thicken your sauce.
Morel Mushroom and Asparagus Sauce
Scroll down for a printable version of this recipe
3 tablespoons of butter
1/4 cup leeks, white part only, washed and diced small (or 1 shallot, minced)
1 cup of morel mushrooms, cleaned and cut in half or quarters (you can substitute any mushroom)
1/2 cup asparagus, cleaned and sliced 1-inch pieces
1 cup of heavy cream
Salt and pepper to taste
Toasted bread crumbs or Parmesan to top your pasta
Sauté leeks in butter over a moderate heat for 2 to 3 minutes, just until tender. Add mushrooms and asparagus and sauté for 2 to 3 more minutes. Add the cream and simmer for 2 to 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and toss with pasta. This sauce will be thin, don’t worry, the pasta will thicken it.
Sprinkle your pasta with a little toasted bread crumbs or Parmesan cheese and serve.
Want to see a virtual cooking class on making fresh pasta? Let me know in the comments! My virtual Cook Along class featuring Cacio e Pepe was very popular so if you don't have a pasta maker, be on the lookout for more pasta classes coming. We will be firing up our grills for Memorial Day weekend at Lincoln Square so be sure to check out those virtual classes too.