When I’m asked what kind of food I cook, I usually answer, “Italian/Mediterranean with a heavy dose of seasonality”. I don’t mean “Italian-American”, but “Italian” as in from the motherland. You’d think that I’d have mastered the art of making fresh pasta a long time ago. You’d be wrong.
There are a few reasons why. For example, my kitchen is roughly the size of most bathrooms. When you live in a studio apartment in Manhattan, you have to learn to make do with limited space. My kitchen is about 6′ x 7′. There isn’t that much counter space — we’re talking about a surface that’s roughly 15″ x 24″. That’s hardly enough room to make pasta dough, much less roll it out. I also don’t have a pasta machine, mostly because of the space issue, but also because I’m not a fan of some aspects of modern technology. With kitchen gadgets, the message seems to be, “let the machines do it for us, because kitchen work and cooking is drudgery”. That’s why, for instance, I don’t have a microwave and will never buy one if I have anything to say about it.
Back to pasta. It’s pretty basic — flour, eggs, and depending on the recipe, olive oil, salt and water. I needn’t have worried, as my initial batch of homemade pasta dough turned out quite well. Unfortunately, I didn’t take any pictures, mostly out of an abundance of caution. I wasn’t sure if my maiden effort was going to succeed. Now that I’ve gotten over my “fear”, the next time I make fresh pasta (and there WILL be a next time, because my next project will be to learn how to make ravioli dough), there’ll be pix of the process.
Winter Greens with Garlic and Lemon, and Homemade Tagliatelle
1 ball of homemade tagliatelle dough, cut into quarters (you’ll use 1 quarter of dough for this recipe)
1 clove garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil + more for garnish
a pinch of dried red chile flakes
1 head green chard, trimmed and shredded (use both leaves and stems)
4 tablespoons dry white wine
juice of half a lemon
1 small head watercress, trimmed and chopped
salt, to taste
freshly milled black pepper, to taste
freshly grated pecorino Romano cheese, for garnish (optional)
Prepare tagliatelle dough as directed in this recipe. You can prepare the dough using a large mixing bowl instead of your kitchen counter. If you lack a pasta machine as I do, roll out the quarter of dough using a rolling pin and a well-floured surface like a cutting board. The dough should be, ideally, thin enough that you can see your hands or fingertips when the dough is held up to the light and your hands are positioned on the other side. In numerical terms, the dough should be approximately 1/16″ thick. This will ensure that the dough cooks rapidly in simmering water, in about 3 minutes. Once the dough is thin enough, proceed with cutting as directed in the recipe.
Add garlic and olive oil to a cold pan. Warm oil over medium heat. Once garlic has turned a pale gold, about 2 minutes, add a pinch of sea salt, a very small pinch of chile flakes and the chard stems. Cook for 4-5 minutes, or until the chard stems have softened considerably. Deglaze the pan with the white wine and lemon juice. Add the chard leaves and watercress. Cook for an additional 5 minutes. You want the greens to wilt just enough so that they become tender but not too much that they loses their green color.
Ideally, prepare the tagliatelle towards the last 5 minutes of making the sauce. Cook tagliatelle in salted boiling water until al dente, 3–4 minutes. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup pasta cooking water; transfer to the pan containing the greens. Gently toss, ensuring that the individual strands are coated with the sauce. If the pasta seems too dry, add reserved pasta cooking water tablespoon by tablespoon or until the desired consistency is reached. Taste for salt and pepper. Drizzle extra-virgin olive oil, and sprinkle a little freshly grated pecorino Romano cheese if desired. Serve at once.
Makes 2 main-course servings or 4 appetizer servings.
Time: About 45 minutes, including prep.