Long ago and in a galaxy far far away – Emilia Romagna, 2019 – a band of happy cyclists with Il Tourissimo spent an afternoon at Casa Artusi, the famous cooking school in Forlimpopoli devoted to l’arte di mangere bene, the art of eating well. Eating well, in the Casa Artusian worldview, includes preserving and teaching the traditional arts of handmade pasta.
Each of us was matched with his or her own nonna, a Forlimpopolian woman who would guide us on the journey from a small volcano of flour and geranium-yolked eggs to any of a dozen different pasta shapes.
I could weep, thinking of it now.
As the scythe of Covid-19 has swept across Italy, catching so many of the elderly in its blade, I’ve often thought of those women, hoped that all of them have stayed safe, are still making pasta at home in a country that reveres family. We’ve used bow ties in today’s post, one of the shapes from that magical afternoon. The sauce, as Jody will tell you below, comes from a different galaxy, but equally far far away. No one will judge if you decide to substitute commercial pasta for the cravats of Casa Artusi – we just thought it was important to show them. Enjoy.
Fresh Pasta Bowties with Lemon and Pistachio
PASTA BOW TIES – makes 1 pound of pasta
- 3 extra large or jumbo eggs
- 2 cups flour + additional for rolling
Instructions – By Hand
- Mound the flour on your work surface and make a well in the center with your fingertips. Crack the eggs into a bowl and beat with a fork to break up the yolks. Dump the eggs into the center of the well and using your fingers, slowly incorporate the flour into the eggs, pulling the flour from the walls of the well, taking care it doesn’t break, allowing the egg to run out onto the counter (which happened to me, if you look closely). If it does, don’t worry, simply use a bench scraper to pull the scraggy mess together. Form it into a rough ball and knead for about 8-10 minutes. You can add more flour, if it’s too sticky but – in one of those miracles familiar to bread bakers – as you continue to knead it will become less and less sticky, becoming smooth and elastic (the signal to stop kneading). Cover with plastic. Let rest 20 minutes. You can also wrap in plastic and refrigerate at this point up to 2 days.
- I rolled out the entire ball of dough at one time, but for ease, I recommend dividing the dough into 2 to 4 smaller balls, and working with them individually.
- Taking the balls one at a time, with a straight pin, roll out the dough into a flat circle, pulling and stretching as you go. To thin the dough, roll the dough up around the pin, using flattened hands, push the dough across the pin from the center out, as you slowly wind the dough up. Carefully unwind the dough from the pin. Turn the dough circle a quarter turn, sprinkle it with a little flour, and repeat the process over and over again until the dough is thin enough to read through. You can pull and stretch and roll the dough out from the center out after each time.
- Using a pasta roller, cut the pasta into strips roughly 2 inches wide, then cut across the strips to make 2″ x 1½” rectangles. The shapes are just slight off square. Make a few accordion folds in each piece so it resembles a fan, and then pinch tightly in the center in the center to make a bow tie.
- Set on a sheet pan covered with a tea towel.
Instructions – Using an Standing Mixer and a Pasta Machine
- Put the flour in the bowl of the standing mixer. Beat the eggs in a bowl with a fork. With the machine running, add the beaten eggs in a steady stream. Knead until the dough comes together and is smooth and elastic, about 4 minutes. If the dough seems sticky, add a little more flour. Cover with plastic. Let rest 20 minutes. You can also wrap in plastic and refrigerate at this point up to 2 days.
- Divide the dough into 4 pieces. Cover 3 of the pieces with plastic. Flatten the remaining piece of dough slightly with your hand, dust it the with flour and crank it through a manual pasta machine with the rollers set at their maximum distance apart, the setting labeled “1”. Now fold the dough in thirds as though you were folding a sheet of typing paper. Run the dough through the machine again, feeding the narrow side into the rollers. Repeat the process of folding and rolling 4 or 5 times. This process kneads the dough and prepares it for the next step of thinning it. Don’t hesitate to sprinkle the dough with flour as you continue running it through the machine. You don’t want it to stick to the rollers.
- Gradually roll the dough to the desired thinness, narrowing the distance between the rollers with each pass of the dough. If the dough tears just patch it back together and roll it through the same setting again, a little slower this time. If the dough sticks to the rollers, sprinkle it with flour. You will soon get the feel for the right speed and the proper level of moisture to keep the dough rolling efficiently. Roll the dough until it’s thin enough to read through it. On most machines this will be the the next to the last setting before the thinnest setting on the rollers.
- Cut the pasta into 2” x 1½” rectangles. Make a few accordion folds in each piece so it resembles a fan, and then pinch tightly in the center in the center to make a bow tie.
- Set on a sheet pan covered with a tea towel.
LEMON PISTACHIO SAUCE
- 2 lemons
- 1 orange
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- ½ cup diced shallots
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 cup heavy cream
- ½ cup chopped toasted pistachios
- 1 pound short pasta—fresh or dried, like bow ties, penne, casarecce, etc.
- 2 + tablespoons freshly grated Pecorino or Parmesan cheese
- Using a peeler, remove the zest from 1 of the lemons and half the orange. Cut the zest into very thin strips.
- Bring a small pot of water to boil. Add the zest, reduce the heat and simmer for 4 minutes. Drain.
- Juice the lemons and half the orange.
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil.
- While the pasta water is heating, make the sauce. Heat the butter in a large sauté pan over medium low heat. Add the shallots and cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
- Add the zests and juices to the pan and cook 1 minute. Add the cream, reduce the heat to low and keep warm. Do not let the cream reduce.
- When the pasta water is boiling, season generously with salt – it should taste like the sea. Add the pasta and cook, stirring until the water returns to a boil. Cook until al dente. Fresh will take about a minute. Dried will take 10-12.
- Scoop the pasta out of the water, add it to the pan with the sauce and cook a few minutes so the sauce adheres to the pasta. Add the pistachios, two tablespoons cheese and additional pasta water as necessary to thin the sauce. I used about ¼ cup of pasta water. Taste and adjust seasonings.
- Serve in warm bowls with lots of freshly ground black pepper. Offer grated cheese on the side.
In the early days of COVID-19 I found a silver lining. Because I was home all day I could easily chat with friends on the phone in different times zones. My friend Amy lives in France, is quarantined in the south, and is 6 hours ahead, so we chould chat while I ate a late lunch and she sipped an aperitif.
Anyway, she told me she’d discovered a recipe in the book she was reading and suggested I do it for The Garum Factory. I agreed, IF she would test it for me. We had a transatlantic testing and tasting session. Being the herb crazy person I am, I asked several times if it needed an herb – perhaps a little parsley? – but she assured me it did not. I didn’t insist. And she didn’t object to the liberties I took by adding pistachios and a little cheese.
The dish is adapted from The Land Where Lemons Grow; The Story of Italy and It’s Citrus Fruits by Helena Attlee, who encounters the sauce (on a different pasta) in a restaurant in a small village north of Florence. Chef Damiano Miniera happily gives her the recipe.
One of the pleasures of creating a dish is sending a recipe for it out into the world, watching it take on a life of its own as it becomes part of someone else’s repertoire. This one is so simple and yummy, it certainly has made it into my repertoire – I hope it does into yours as well.