Fresh handmade pasta is something special. Sure, it leaves my kitchen covered in a thick coating of flour because I am the world’s messiest cook, but it also takes a regular pasta dish and turns up the YUM factor. Making pasta is my newest interest, and it’s definitely something that is going to require quite a bit of practice. And time. And patience.
This recipe is my second go-round making orecchiette, and I’m steadily improving. At least, my pastas looked a lot more ear-shaped this time, and since that’s how orecchiette gets its name, I’m taking that as a good sign…
To make the orecchiette, roll a portion of the dough into a long log about a half inch thick, keeping the other dough wrapped tightly in plastic wrap while not in use. Cut into 1/2 inch pieces and roll into a ball. Flatten the ball with your thumb, then, still pressing, pull slightly to one side to create a dimple. Then, take the pasta and flip inside out, placing on a floured baking sheet until it’s ready to cook. It will cook to al dente in 8 minutes. Then, the shallots are cooked until softened and wine is added and then reduced. The herbs, pasta, radicchio, and cheese get a quick toss and the whole dish is served at room temperature.
3/4 cup fine semolina flour
1 scant cup all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1/2 cup cold water
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium shallot, minced
1/4 teaspoon red-pepper flakes
1/4 cup dry white wine
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
3 tablespoons fresh flat-leaf parsley, coarsely chopped
1/4 teaspoon lemon zest, finely grated
Juice from 1 lemon
1 small head radicchio, sliced crosswise into thin strips (about 2 cups)
2 ounces Gorgonzola cheese, crumbled
Salt and pepper, to taste
1. Make the dough: Whisk the semolina and all-purpose flour in a large bowl. Mound on a work surface and make a well in the center. Pour the cold water into the well and gradually mix flour in by working around the edges of the water with a fork until the dough is crumbly. If the dough is too dry to come together, gradually add up to 1/4 cup more water.
2. Knead the dough until smooth and elastic (not sticky), about 6 minutes. Wrap in plastic wrap and let rest at room temperature, 30 minutes. (The dough can be made a day ahead and kept in the refrigerator, just bring it to room temperature before rolling it out and forming the pasta.)
3. Take about a quarter of the dough (leaving the rest wrapped), roll the dough on the counter into a 1/2-inch-thick log. Cut the log into 1/2-inch pieces and then roll each piece into a small ball.
4.With floured hands, press your thumb to flatten dough ball and drag it toward you to form a bowl shape; put the dough on the tip of your index finger and turn it inside out – they should look like little ears!
5. Place completed orecchiette on a floured baking sheet, and repeat step 4 to make the remaining orecchiette.
6. Cook pasta in salted, boiling water until al dente, about 8 minutes. Drain, and then drizzle with just enough oil to coat to keep the pasta from sticking to each other. Spread on a baking sheet, and refrigerate 10 minutes.
7. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add shallot and red-pepper flakes, and cook about 4 minutes, or until the shallot has softened. Add wine, and cook until reduced by three-quarters, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from heat.
8. Turn off heat and add herbs, lemon zest and juice, and radicchio, tossing until radicchio has wilted.
9. Add pasta, Gorgonzola, salt, and pepper; toss and serve at room temperature. (I thought it was also delicious hot.)