Last month, Isaiah and I spent 2 days in the Barolo wine region of northwest Italy. We stayed a gorgeous little hotel called La Villa and drank so much wine that I couldn’t really even look at wine when we returned to Singapore. There were a lot of favorites on this trip – amazing food, wine, sun-drenched vineyards, wine, total quiet – but my favorite part was a private cooking class we took with the head chef at La Villa. Isaiah joined mostly to humor me, but turned all eyes and ears when he heard we were making homemade pasta. Pasta is his absolute favorite food. The very next day, we went to a market in Beaulieu-sur-Mer and purchased a pasta machine.
I’ll start off by saying that I am in no way a pasta expert, but I learned that pasta is a very regional dish and there are many variations to how you make it depending on what part of Italy you’re from. In Piedmont, they make a very egg-yolk heavy pasta called tajarin. That scored a lot of bonus points from Isaiah, who has for years been trying to convince me for that pasta is ‘healthy’.
Sure. You guys can decide for yourself.
The accompanying sauce starts with a huge amount of good quality extra virgin olive oil (luckily evoo is good for you, right? Kind of in the same way pasta is). In goes minced garlic and shallots (or onions) cooked on low for 10-15 minutes, before jarred passata and peeled whole tomatoes are added. Salt, sugar. Simmer for as long as you have time for. That’s it. It sounds simple, and it is, but the flavour is rich and complex, so good you would have never guessed it was only 5 ingredients. Make this basic tomato sauce, coupled with tajarin, your Saturday night staple.
Measure 250g of flour onto your work bench and create a well in the middle. Separate the egg yolks from the whites (save the whites for an egg white omelette or scramble) and add the yolks + 1 whole egg to the well. If you buy high quality, cage-free eggs (I buy freedom eggs from Cold Storage), the yolks will be a gorgeous deep orange, and the eventual colour of your pasta will be much deeper.
Pull flour into the egg mixture (this part will get messy but don’t worry – it will quickly come together) until you get a messy dryish ‘ball’ of dough that barely holds together. Stop adding flour at this point. Knead the dough for 5-10 minutes. The dough will be tough so if you’re a weakling like me, you may want to recruit assistance from your buff husband for this part. If you don’t have a buff husband, don’t despair. Just throw your entire body weight against the dough as many times as you can until your arms turn to jelly and then give up. So long as your end result looks somewhat like the ball of dough on the rightmost picture above, you’ll be fine. This pasta is very forgiving (aaand all pasta experts around the world roll in their graves. Hey, I started this post by saying I am in no way a pasta expert! The end result is good enough for plebeian me).
Cover the dough with saran wrap and pop it in the fridge for at least 15 minutes.
When ready, remove the dough from the fridge and divide into 4 pieces. Flour your work surface. Assemble and secure your pasta machine. Flatten the first piece of dough with your palm and run it through the widest setting. Keep on going until you get to the narrowest setting, running the dough through 2-3 times at each setting. Once you’ve got a thin sheet of pasta, cut it in half with a knife and run the half sheet through your spaghetti cutter. Lightly flour the strands, place on a tea towel, cover to keep from drying, and repeat with the remaining 3 balls of dough.
(If you don’t have a pasta maker, go buy one. We got ours for 20 euros. Theoretically you could roll the dough out and cut by hand, but I feel like that would take a lot of effort.)
Keep going until you get four gorgeous piles of homemade pasta. A serious work of art. I could look at this photo all day. Beautiful.
At this point you just chuck the pasta into boiling salted water, let it cook for 3-5 minutes, fish it out, and serve it however you’d like.
Moving onto the only tomato sauce recipe you’ll ever need to know, because it is seriously that delicious.
Here’s the ingredients: passata, EVOO, whole peeled tomatoes, shallots, and garlic (+ salt and sugar, not pictured). Passata is an unseasoned Italian tomato puree that you can find on the bottom shelf of the tinned tomato section of Cold Storage.
Finely mince the shallots and garlic.
In a heavy pan (I’m using enameled cast iron), heat 1/2 cup of extra virgin olive oil and add the onions and garlic. Your house will soon smell delicious. Cook on low for 5-10 minutes until the garlic and onion is golden, add the passata, chopped whole tomatoes, sugar and salt. Stir to combine as best as you can – at first the oil will be stubborn and refuse to marry the tomato sauce. But like any relationship, patience and persistence will win out and the oil and tomato sauce will combine to create one whole that is greater than the sum of its two halves.
Continue to cook on low for as long as you have the patience for. The longer you cook the sauce, the richer, thicker, and more delicious it will get.
Here’s the printable recipe.
Tajarin: Egg Yolk Pasta from Piedmont
Serves 2 generously
Active prep time: 30-45 minutes
Wait time: 15 minutes to many hours
Cook time: 5 minutes
250g Italian 00 flour (all-purpose flour will do just as well if you can’t find 00. The only place I’ve seen it in Singapore is at Poon Huat but they don’t always have it in stock)
5 egg yolks
1 whole egg
- Measure 250g of flour onto a clean counter or in a very large bowl.
- Create a well in the middle of the flour and pour in the 5 egg yolks and 1 whole egg.
- Using a fork, beat the eggs.
- Begin adding flour to the eggs starting from the flour closest to the egg well until you get dough that is crumbly-dry. It should stay together but just barely. At this point do not add any more flour. You may not use all 250g of flour depending on the size of your eggs (Singapore eggs tend to be on the smaller side)
- Knead the flour by hand against the counter until the dough looses its dryness and feels somewhat moist, similar to Play-Doh.
- Roll the dough into a ball and cover with saran wrap. Place in the fridge for at least 15 minutes.
- When ready to roll the pasta, remove the dough from the fridge and cut it into 4 pieces. Roll each piece through the pasta machine starting at the widest setting to the narrowest. Run sheets through spaghetti cutter and gather in on a tea towel with a sprinkle of flour or cornmeal to prevent sticking.
- Shake excess flour off the spaghetti strands. Cook in boiling salted water for 3-5 minutes. When the pasta is done it will float to the top.
- Serve with tomato sauce (recipe below), kalamanta olives, fresh basil, and grated Parmigiano-Reggiano.
Basic Tomato Sauce
Serves 2 generously
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: at least 1 hour
1/2 cup good quality extra virgin olive oil
4 garlic cloves, minced
3 french shallots or 1/2 onion, minced
1 700g jar of passata (you can find this in Cold Storage on the bottom shelf where the tinned tomatoes are)
6 ripe tomatoes or 1 14oz can of whole skinless tomatoes
1 tsp of white sugar
salt to taste
- In a saucepan over low heat, combine olive oil with garlic and shallots and simmer for 5-10 minutes until golden. Be careful not to burn the garlic.
- When fragrant, add 1 jar of passata and mix well.
- If using ripe tomatoes (only go this route if local, high quality, ripe tomatoes are accessible to you. This is basically never possible in Singapore): bring a quart of water to a boil. Slash a cross at the bottom of each tomato and boil for 10 minutes, or until skins begin to peel back. Remove tomatoes from water and place in a bowl of ice water. Peel the skins away, cut into 1/2-inch pieces, and add to the sauce.
If using canned whole tomatoes: drain tomatoes, add the liquid to the sauce, cut tomatoes into 1/2-inch pieces, and add to sauce.
- Add salt and sugar and simmer for at least 30 minutes or up to many hours, stirring occasionally to ensure the bottom doesn’t burn.
- Serve with your favorite pasta or homemade tajarin, kalamanta olives, fresh basil, and grated Parmigiano-Reggiano.