Every other Friday, I make homemade pasta while Kaelin cheers me on from the couch and takes care of whatever we’re drinking that night. On this occasion, we had just received Avaline’s newest release in the mail ~ the sweetest petit bottle of sparkling rosé. Something about the charm of the bottle, the lighting in our kitchen and a newfound knowledge of my camera settings inspired me to document this evening in a more intentional way.
Most weeks, I’ll use the same method for pasta dough and then decide on a pasta shape either by hosting a poll on our Instagram stories, or asking Kaelin and her partner what they feel like eating that week. This evening, Kae requested farfalle, which at first I thought was a big ask as my comfort zone extends mostly to flat pasta that require little technique.
Not wanting to disappoint, I took to YouTube to try and figure out what makes a good farfalle. Naturally, one of the first faces in my search was none other than Gennaro Contaldo ~ Italian chef, author and co-star of Two Greedy Italians (which is now at the top of my to-watch list). Hosted by Jamie Oliver, Gennaro shares all of his farfalle secrets over the course of a 7-minute video. I highly recommend carving out some time to spend with Gennaro whether you’re interested in pasta making or not, just to experience his charm and a moment of escapism to an Italian countryside kitchen.
Energized by Gennaro’s promise that the “little butterflies” are much more simple than they appear, I set my culinary stage with fresh mock flowers from our local florist Erica and took to our bread board to start on my usual dough recipe, with a twist.
Two weeks ago I ventured into unknown territory with Full Belly Farm’s Organic Iraqi Durum Wheat Flour. The experiment nearly sabotaged Pasta Friday as I was unprepared for how different the flour was in comparison to the standard all-purpose I typically use. I managed to turn the ship around that night, but it was a close brush with ordering takeout. So this evening, I decided to experiment with that lesson in mind. Following my usual ratio of 1 cup of flour to 1 egg to 1 dinner guest, I used 50% wheat flour and 50% all-purpose flour ~ mostly because we had leftover durum wheat flour, but also because Gennaro told me farfalle requires a heartier, thicker dough than other pasta shapes.
Praying to the dough gods for success in my experiment, I began what is slowly becoming familiar territory to me ~ first, I sifted ½ cup durum wheat flour directly onto the bread board, followed by ½ cup all-purpose and a pinch of salt. I soon realized it would’ve been far more effective for me to first mix the flour types and then sift together ~ a level-up trick for next time. Then I formed a small, shallow well surrounded by tall peaks and poured in 1 rapidly-whisked egg (if you want to know how to properly whisk an egg, visit the Jacques Pépin Foundation’s Instagram….another gem of a man and treasure trove of culinary knowledge).
The technique I use to incorporate the egg & flour was shared with me by a friend I met in London and stay in contact with over Instagram ~ mostly by sending each other pasta content. With a fork, I gently whisk the egg mixture into the flour, beginning at the outer rim and working my way to the center. The keyword here is gently, and I should also add patiently. This process takes a few minutes but the alternative is the dreaded dam break in the flour wall, which results in a big old egg-y mess.
Once the egg and flour incorporate and begin to form small chunks, I’ll add water as needed and begin working the dough with my hands. This is where patience comes in handy once again ~ a developing theme. When I’m using 100% all-purpose, I’ll typically knead the dough for about 10-15 minutes. Since durum wheat seems to require a bit more finesse, I worked this mixture for 25 minutes (!) With Maggie Rogers radio on Spotify and a few rosé breaks, the experience was actually pretty meditative.
I’m still learning how to understand when the dough is “ready,” but I feel like an educated guess is the best method. I call it when cracks are minimal in the dough and it feels elastic ~ I’ll test this by lightly pressing on the top and if it springs back, I know we’re good to go. Once that happens, I’ll wrap the ball tightly in beeswax paper and let it rest on the counter for 25-30 minutes.
At this point in the evening, I’ve usually lost track of time and the intervals between Kae asking me “how far out are we?” have grown shorter and shorter. I’ll typically then offer a little appetizer. On this particular evening, I was inspired by the rosé and put together a cute snack consisting of rosemary crackers, aged parm, BV Tradizionale and a pinch of thyme salt.
Truthfully I don’t know as much about wine as I probably should having grown up surrounded by it, but this combination felt right and tasted good.
With the snacks soon gone and a few minutes of the dough waiting game still left on the clock, something beautiful happened ~ the sun came out. The scene brought full justice to these stunning etched vintage glasses from my dear friend Isabelle (via her vintage clothing & homeware shop, Archer Dean Disco Club).
Completely entranced in the moment, I temporarily forgot about the dough and most everything else as well. As our in-house amateur photographer, good lighting brings me such joy ~ especially when there are shadows and soft palettes like rosé involved.
After taking way too many photos of the same scene from different angles, I removed myself from my camera for a second to check on the dough, which at that point was ready to go.
This is when I will typically pull out our pasta machine, an Atlas 150 that truthfully was an early quarantine impulse purchase and sat unused for months. Now, we do her justice mostly every week. If you’re interested in pasta making, it’s a great machine for beginners and you can “level up” with their attachments if you’d like.
Following the advice of wise Gennaro, I cut the dough in half (rather than in fourths, as I do for flat pasta) and tightly re-wrapped one of the halves in the beeswax paper. With the working half, I lightly dusted with flour and flattened gently with the palm of my hand. I then ran the dough through the machine at intervals of 0, 2, 5 and 7.
With a standard flat pasta (pappardelle, tagliatelle, etc) I’ll run the dough through the machine up to level 9. Since farfalle requires a thicker, heartier dough to keep its shape, I stuck to a lower level.
I then repeated the process for half no. 2, and cut each into rectangles. Stacking one on top of another (up to three), I ran the flat side of a pastry wheel horizontally across, and the textured side vertically to form even smaller rectangles.
Then I started to shape! I pinched at the top of the rectangle, then again in the middle, and finally at the bottom to create a firm seal. I repeated this process until all of my dough was transformed into little butterflies. At this point I was feeling very proud and took another excessive round of photos.Truthfully, shaping farfalle is not that difficult and I have full faith that it’s a beginner-friendly shape. Although they take a bit more time than the average flat pasta, they’re fun to make and feel a bit more festive (no offense to tagliatelle which is a forever favorite for me).
Finally we’ve arrived at sauce time ~ equally as important as pasta shape in my opinion. Kae requested pesto, which I love to make because you can add such variety in simple terms. One of my favorite ways to do so is by adding beans. With this in mind, I stopped by Sunshine Market in St. Helena to peruse their olive bar, which is the most extensive selection around and always inspiring.
There I found these super-sized beans that looked interesting. They were sitting in a tomato-dill base, which I knew wouldn’t marry well with pesto, but I bought them with the intention of rinsing when I got back home. I’m not 100% sure what these beans are called, but if you recognize them please let me know! They were delicious.
Having secured the beans, I made a simple pesto in our Vitamix with a bunch of spinach, lemon zest, walnuts, black pepper, salt and Basil Olive Oil. On this evening I was in the mood for a thicker pesto, so I just pulsed the mixture rather than completely emulsifying.
I then added a generous amount of salt to a pot of boiling water and transferred my farfalle. Then in a wide-mouthed pan, I melted together a bit of clarified butter from the Farmer’s Market, plus a splash of Basil Olive Oil. Once my farfalle was just shy of al dente, I transferred it to the butter / olive oil mixture and slowly incorporated the pesto, adding in a small amount of salted pasta water to encourage the emulsifying process. Due to the delicate nature of the beans, I waited until the last minute to add them in, making sure to gently fold them with a spoon rather than mix.
Finally, I plated the pasta and finished with parmesan, a bit of lemon zest and a drizzle of Podere Gualandi EVOO.
And that’s it! I am certainly no expert in this field but I hope you enjoyed the Pasta Friday journey and learned something new. See you next time!
P.S. If you’d like to see me make a particular kind of pasta shape or sauce combination, please let me know in the comments or via Instagram!