I don’t make fresh pasta as much as I did in my restaurant days, but when I do it always takes me back. I’ll always remember how I first learned to make the perfect, silky smooth pasta with just the right bite…
I was working on the southern English coast as a sous chef at a Thai Gastro pub. We used to get out of the kitchen around 10 pm and were then promptly handed a pint of ale and joined the regulars at the restaurant bar. On one particular night, I was waiting for a ride and picked up a magazine that was sitting on the bar top. The publication was Pub Chef. It was geared toward casual and fine dining chefs who spent their time in British pub kitchens. This issue featured the annual Pub Chef UK culinary competition, which I had never heard of before. I decided to enter the Eastern Cuisine category because at that time I specialized in Thai cooking. My dish was ‘Aromatic Duck Ravioli with Thai Basil and Cashew Nut Pesto’.
The next day I wrote up the recipe and submitted it. A few weeks later I was notified that I had qualified for the final four and would have to create my dish in front of a panel of chef judges in a few months. At this point, I had never made fresh pasta and knew nothing about it. My restaurant manager at the time was a regular at a little local Italian place called Amalfi’s. He made a deal with the chef – if I put in 10 hours a week as a prep cook for 4 weeks in his kitchen, he would teach me the ways of the pasta. I showed up diligently, did the work, learned how to make fresh pasta, and went on to win the competition!
Total Time: 90 min
For the Pasta
- Apple Smoking Chips
- 3 Eggs + 1 Yolk
- 2¼ cups Flour, preferably “00” but all purpose will work fine.
- 1 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
For the Sauce
- 3 Tbsp Butter
- 2 Tbsp Peppercorns, roughly cracked
- ½ Cup Parmesan Cheese, grated
- Pinch Kosher Salt
- 1 Tbsp flat leaf Parsley, chopped
When it comes to pasta, you don’t get much more classic than this old time Roman favorite. Pasta, pepper, butter, and parmesan is all it takes.
- Place the flour in a shallow container and set in a cold smoker. If you have one, you can also use a smoking gun with pot and lid. Smoke for 1 hour, adding more chips occasionally.
- When the flour is smoked, pile it on a clean work surface and make well in the center. Place the egg, yolk, and oil in the well and gradually beat into the flour using a fork.
- When all the flour has been incorporated, knead with your hands for around 10 minutes, or until the dough is smooth and shiny. Wrap and set aside to rest for 30 minutes or so.
- After the pasta has rested, set up a pasta rolling machine.
- Cut the dough into 4 equal pieces and flatten each one with the palm of your hand.
- Set the machine on the widest setting and run the first piece of dough through it. Dust with flour, fold in half and run it through again. Set the machine on the next lower setting and run the dough through again (no need to fold this time). Keep doing this until you reach your desired thickness.
- Change the attachment on the machine and do a final pass to cut the dough into noodles.
- Repeat with the remaining dough.
- Dust with more flour and allow the pasta to dry at room temp for 30 minutes by hanging or draping.
- Bring a pot of salted water to the boil.
- Add the pasta and cook for 2 minutes, or until you achieve the desired bite. Drain the pasta but keep a cup or so of the cooking liquid and set aside.
- To serve, heat up a sauté pan, add the butter. When the butter is hot, add the peppercorns and briefly toast for 30 seconds. Add a half cup of the cooking liquid and reduce by simmering for 1 minute.
- Add in the pasta, parmesan, of pinch of salt and parsley into the pan. Toss to combine. Loosen with more cooking water if necessary.
*Keep a spray bottle of water handy in case of flare-ups.