I’m sure you’ve heard people say bread baking is a form of meditation, and it is… it requires kneading and resting for long periods of time and the repetitive motions and focus on a simple task can help clear you mind. Bread is very simple in terms of ingredients, yet it requires a lot of time and technique to get it just right. Homemade pasta is similar. It must be mixed a certain way, it must be kneaded, and it requires technique and patience. Slight changes in the simplicity of a recipe can make a world of difference whether that means just adding an extra egg or incorporating a new ingredient like spinach.
Craving something savory and simple while feeling the need for “a project”, something I could spend some time on and relax mindlessly with, I pulled out one of my cookbooks for simple and authentic Italian recipes: Saveur Cooks Authentic Italian. The recipes are, for the most part, fairly simple and they concentrate just a few main ingredients. The pasta caught my attention as always, so I went for the Pasta Verde recipe.
The book’s recipe makes a large batch of dough for a lasagne recipe, but I halved the recipe and cut it into a thick pappardelle style pasta, one of my favorite styles of pasta because it easily holds thick, chunky, more rustic style sauces. I also altered some of the ingredients by using about 1/4 c of white whole wheat flour.
These two different approaches are worthy of being made again and again, but make sure to keep in mind what you are looking for when you choose your sauce/topping. If you want something that really highlights the pasta (it is a flavored pasta after all), keep it simple. Use some salt and pepper enhance the flavor of the pasta. Use olive oil for its distinct yet subtle flavor. It will also thinly coat the pasta for texture. To create an extra little kick, top the dish with some parmesan for a bit of that sharp flavor. This combination of ingredients can be seen in the photo above.
The second recipe (shown above) used a traditional pappardelle – sauce pairing: mushroom sauce. Unlike the first recipe, the mushroom sauce did not allow the spinach pasta to stand out quite as much, but it wasn’t obscured either. The flavors blended well together. Because of the thickness of the sauce and the wide surface area of the pasta, the sauce and chunks of mushroom coated the pasta and really clung to it. You can even see that the pasta looks a little dull in the mushroom recipe versus the olive oil and parmesan recipe, but you can still see the spinach pasta through the mushroom sauce; the flavors acted the same way – neither flavor is overpowering, you get a little bit of both.
Pasta Verde Ingredients
- 1 bunch of spinach, trimmed;
- 1/2 c all purpose flour;
- 1/4 c white whole wheat flour;
- 1 egg.
- Bring a small pot of water to a boil.
- Cook the spinach in the water just until it has wilted, then remove it and finely chop it.
- Combine the flours on a clean surface and make a well in the center.
- Crack the egg in the center and break the yolk with a fork, then add the spinach to the well.
- Beat the egg and spinach together while slowly incorporating the flour until a dough begins to form.
- Knead the dough to form a ball that is no longer sticky (about five minutes) – you may need to add some flour as you go.
- Flatten the dough so it can fit through a pasta roller or start rolling it out with a rolling pin until it is at your desired thickness (remember it will become a bit thicker when it cooks).
- Cut the pasta into approximately 1/2-3/4 inch wide strips, then hang to dry or cook in salted boiling water.
- Once cooked, drain and rinse the pasta in a colander.
Mushroom Sauce (small serving)
- 1 – 1 1/2 c vegetable broth;
- 1 tsp butter;
- 1 tbsp flour;
- 1/2 c mushrooms, diced;
- splash of heavy cream;
- olive oil;
- salt & pepper.
- Place a saucepan over medium heat and add 1/4 c broth and the butter.
- Once the butter has melted, add the flour and whisk it until it is no longer clumpy and forms into a thick batter-like consistency.
- Add another 1/4 c of broth while whisking.
- After the mixture has become smooth and even, add another 1/4 c of broth and repeat.
- Bring the heat to medium high and add the mushrooms, a drizzle of olive oil, and some salt and pepper.
- Continue to stir the sauce as the excess liquid evaporates, about 2-4 minutes (you can continue to add more broth as long as you let it evaporate afterwards for that creamy texture).
- Add a splash of heavy cream and stir to combine, 2-4 minutes.
- When the mushroom sauce has reached your desired consistency, add the cooked pasta to the saucepan so it becomes both reheated and coated evenly with the sauce.