Homemade pasta is hard to beat. It’s tasty, hearty and inexpensive, however, making your own fresh pasta at home can be a little tricky to master.
It’s not impossible, though, if you know a few secrets, so Starts at 60 chatted with Italian-born chef Vincenzo Prosperi to find out how to perfect fresh pasta at home.
“I’m lucky because I learned from my nonna, who has been making pasta for more than 70 years,” Vincenzo said.
When it comes to fresh pasta, Vincenzo says it’s all in the ingredients. While pasta only requires a few basics, such as water, flour and salt, the key is to use them in the right quantities.
“What I like to do is make sure I don’t add all the flour at once,” he said. “I just add as much as I need to and then work it in, only adding more if I can feel I need to — practice definitely makes perfect!”
And while digging into a fresh plate of pasta is always satisfying, there’s a fine line between al dente and that gooey mess you can sometimes end up with. Ultimately, cooking the perfect pasta comes down to two things: Water and timing.
Vincenzo says the best way to cook pasta is in a big pot with salted water. Cooking pasta in a large pot with lots of water allows the starch to move away from the pasta and creates a silkier finished product.
And despite the old wives tale that the best way to tell if your pasta is ready is to throw it against the wall and see what sticks, Vincenzo says there’s a good chance this technique won’t do much more than waste your pasta and dirty your wall.
Vincenzo recommends taking a different approach by simply taste-testing the pasta before straining.
“Even though my nonna cooks pasta almost every day, she still tastes a little bit before straining the water out to make sure it’s cooked to her likeness,” he said.
Vincenzo’s favourite pasta to cook is pappardelle (similar to wide fettuccini) topped with wild boar ragu, and he’s shared his favourite recipe with Starts at 60 for readers to try at home.
“This is very traditional in my region and I love the rich flavour and slow cooking method used to make this dish super delicious,” he said. “I also like serving (and eating) it with porcini mushrooms and Italian fennel pork sausage mince. Serve it nice and hot… along with a few layers of pecorino or parmesan cheese … as much as you like of course!”
So if you’re on the hunt for a new recipe or want to try something different at your next family get-together, give this a go!
Want more cooking tips? Vincenzo will be a feature chef at the upcoming Norton St Italian Festa Cooking Stage on Sunday 28 October in Leichhardt Sydney.