I have three great loves in my life: my husband, my puppy and making homemade pasta. Okay, okay… maybe there are a few more things and loved ones that rank above making homemade pasta, but it is something I am very passionate about for a number of reasons.
I really enjoy making what I call “project-based foods”. These are dishes that essentially feel like a fun craft project and dinner-making session wrapped into one. Project-based foods require some sort of extra process or assembly that make them conducive to making together with friends, your kids, or your significant other. Multiple hands aren’t required for project-based foods though and can actually serve as some nice kitchen therapy when tackled solo for a de-stressing activity. The added steps to project-based foods can seem daunting to some, but if you approach it as a joyful task not to be rushed through, then I think you will find the same zen that I do when approaching these particular meals.
Other project-based foods include things like potstickers, pierogis, cupcakes or cookies for decorating, hand pies, empanadas, egg rolls, spring rolls, and so on. One thing that these foods have in common is how versatile they are. Fillings, doughs, batters, and toppings can be altered in multiple ways to accommodate a variety of cravings and taste buds. Pasta is no different. The possibilities for pasta are endless.
Your typical pasta dough comes out as a beige-yellow color, usually due to the eggs in the recipe. For added flavor and color, you can throw in things like spinach (green dough), tomato paste (red dough), saffron (yellow-orange dough), squid ink (black dough), beets (pink dough), and mushrooms (brown dough).
Another way to play with the flavor of the dough is to experiment with things like herbs, citrus zest and wine.
You can use a low-tech method of rolling using a rolling pin or wine bottle, and then cutting with a pizza cutter.
Or you can invest in a contraption designed to crank out even, thinner sheets of pasta. My favorite is the Marcato Atlas hand-crank machine that we use and sell at The Chopping Block, but other available options on the market include electric pasta machines and pasta roller/extruder attachments for KitchenAid mixers.
This roller alone can produce quite the variety of pastas with the assistance of a regular or fluted pastry/pizza cutter: angel hair, fettucine, ravioli, tortellini, lasagna, pappardelle, farfalle, and pansotti.
You can also play with a nice assortment of hand-rolled pastas without the use a roller. Some of these varieties include: orecchiette, busiati (using a skewer), strascinati, and cavatelli.
The experimentation is not just in the pasta though. There are so many wonderful options for delicious sauces to top your pasta projects with.
Traditional Pasta with a Classic Bolognese Sauce
Lemon Herb Pasta with Italian Sausage, Tomatoes, Collard Greens, & a White Wine Sauce
Spinach Fettucine with Vodka Sauce & Grilled Chicken
Pappardelle with a Wild Boar Ragu with Cranberries
Don’t forget about your cold options either! Homemade pasta can also lend itself to some really nice cold pasta salads, like this spinach pasta salad with ham, diced onions, parmesan, and an Italian vinaigrette.
Our pasta classes tend to fill up super fast, but we surprisingly have a few spots left in The Chopping Block’s Pasta Workshop at our Lincoln Square location on Monday, December 12th. If you have a passion for pasta and would like to learn how to make a few of these delights, take advantage of the openings and be sure to sign-up!
If you are ready to try out some of the more advanced methods, join us for Pasta Boot Camp at Lincoln Square on January 8th.