Whenever I prepare homemade pasta, I’m automatically transported back to when I was a small child in my mother’s kitchen. She never bought prepared pasta, but would always make it from scratch. I still recall watching her knead the flour and eggs together with a pinch of salt. She would use a special long rolling pin that was very thick in the center and thin at the edges, which was perfect for making varying size and shape macaroni pieces. My mother would prepare a spicy sauce with chili and bell peppers that cooked over a very low flame for hours and hours. She was always checking to see if it was ready yet.
We surely don’t need to wait for a special occasion to prepare a delicious spaghetti sauce with fresh tomatoes, olive oil, garlic and peppers. In my opinion, preparing homemade pasta is a great way to bring the whole family together, and so is a worthwhile endeavor despite the extra time and effort it requires.
It’s best to add salt to the water only after it comes to a boil.
It’s best to cook pasta in a tall, wide pot.
It’s best to cook pasta only until it’s al dente (literally “on your tooth”), in other words, so that you still need your teeth to bite into it.
After you’ve finished boiling pasta, it’s best to return the drained pasta to the pot and add olive oil and salt so the pieces don’t stick to each other.
If you’re using pasta for a cold salad, you can rinse it with cold water, which removes some of the starch.
NOODLES WITH ALMONDS AND RAISINS
These noodles can be made with a pasta machine, but this recipe calls for noodles that you can purchase ready-made in the store to cut down on preparation time.
Makes six to eight servings.
2½ cups water
½ cup dry white wine
50 g. margarine or olive oil
1 Tbsp. pareve chicken soup powder
½ Tbsp. white pepper
2 bay leaves
200 g. egg noodles (no. 12) or homemade pasta noodles
3 Tbsp. oil
100 g. almonds, blanched and peeled
100 g. raisins
Heat water together in a pot with wine and margarine for 2 or 3 minutes over a medium flame until the margarine has melted.
Add the soup powder, white pepper, bay leaves and stir. Bring to a boil.
Add the egg noodles and cook for 10 minutes until they’ve softened. Drain and transfer to a serving platter. RISHTA – HOMEMADE SOUP NOODLES
Rishta are homemade thin noodles that are very popular in Libyan cuisine. These noodles are steamed over a pot of boiling water, just like couscous. Originally, they were prepared and cut by hand, but nowadays, they are made using a pasta machine. This dish is best served with pomegranate seeds, citrus blossom water and cinnamon.
Makes five servings.
500 g. flour, sifted
¼ tsp. salt
2 Tbsp. oil
1¾ cups water
1-1 ½ cups water
3 Tbsp. oil
2 Tbsp. oil
1 tsp. citrus blossom water
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
Add the flour, salt and oil to a bowl and then gradually add the water. Knead well. Split the dough into 8-10 equal-sized pieces and roll them into balls. Flour each ball well and then insert them one by one into the pasta machine. At the beginning, use numbers 6 or 7 to make thick strips. Dust them with flour and put them through the machine again another two times on the same thickness. Now, change to thickness to 4 or 5, and put pasta strips through machine another two times (sprinkling with flour each time). Next, change setting to a thickness of 1, 2 or 3 and put dough through two more times. Cut strips to desired length.
It’s very important to sprinkle the dough with flour each time you put it through the machine so it doesn’t stick. Each time you put the pasta through on the same number, it gets a little thinner. You can prepare them until they reach the desired thickness. Hang them to dry for 30 minutes.
To prepare the water for steaming, fill the pot until it’s ¾ full and then place the couscous pot with holes in it on top of the steaming water. Heat the covered pot over a medium flame and bring to a boil. Place the dried dough strips in the couscous pot above, making a little space between each noodle. Cover and steam for 20 minutes.
Transfer noodles to a bowl. Carefully pour half of the boiling water on top of the noodles and carefully separate noodles as they absorb water and oil.
Then, return the noodles to the couscous pot and continue steaming them for another 20 minutes. Transfer noodles to the bowl again and pour remaining water on top of them. Separate noodles gently and then pour off water. Sprinkle with oil, citrus blossom water and cinnamon.
PICI PASTA WITH CHERRY TOMATOES AND HERBS
Makes 6 servings.
250 ml. water
500 g. flour
8 tsp. extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, chopped or halved
500 g. cherry tomatoes, quartered
1 spicy red chili pepper, chopped finely
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 tsp. thyme or sage
Parmesan Pecorino cheese, grated
Fresh basil leaves
To prepare pasta, place the flour on your work surface and make a well in the center. Gradually pour the water in the middle and slowly mix into flour. Occasionally, add a little water until the dough reaches the correct consistency. Continue kneading and stretching the dough vigorously until it’s soft but not sticky. But even if it’s not soft enough, don’t worry – it will soften while it rests. Roll dough into a ball and cover with plastic wrap, but without closing it completely. Let the dough rest for 20 minutes.
Cut the dough into extremely thin pieces. Roll each piece into a snake shape that is ½ cm. thick and 30 or 60 cm. long. Place on a tray that is covered with cornflour.
To prepare the sauce, heat the oil in a frying pan over a medium-high flame. Add the garlic and sauté until it softens, but doesn’t begin to burn. Add the cherry tomatoes, peppers, salt and pepper. Sauté vigorously. Add the herbs and continue to sauté a few more minutes.
In the meantime, fill a pot with water and a little salt. Bring to a boil. Add the pici pasta and bring back to a boil. Cook until pasta begins to float. Drain pasta and transfer to the pan with the sauce. Stir and cook for another two or three minutes. Then, transfer pasta to a serving platter. Sprinkle a little grated or sliced Parmesan or Pecorino cheese on top, and adorn with basil leaves. Translated by Hannah Hochner.
Text and styling: Pascale Perez-Rubin
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