Musing with Max

Musing with Max

March 5, 2012

Pasta Imperfecta

In my quest to try and make everything from scratch (well maybe not everything, I haven't yet had the urge to milk cows or churn butter...but never say never), years ago I decided I wanted to make my own pasta. All my Italian cookbooks where they make their own pasta everyone always wrote how different it was from the dried store bought variety; how light and delicate and then there were all these interesting types of pasta, not just plain egg, the possibilities were endless and very intriguing. So Frank went and bought me a pasta maker, the hand crank kind not the one where you put the ingredients in one end and; voila pasta comes out the other in about five minutes. The hand crank one was the one all the purists said one must use if you're going to be authentic. But allow me to digress for a moment because it just occurred to me that I have written "Frank went out and bought me" quite a number of times when I refer to kitchen equipment. Umpf! Where are we going with this? Is he channeling Rick Santorum? Will all my shoes start to disappear? Should I get his slippers and learn how to make a highball? Should I be concerned and investigate this further? I'll think about it tomorrow, right now I want to talk about pasta. So my first foray into making my own pasta was a spinach lasagna from Lynne Rosetto Kasper's Splendid Table (which incidentally Frank bought me). I chose the spinach pasta, a lovely veal ragu and followed her detailed instructions. It was sublime, light and delicate, just as described. I continued to make pasta here and there and most times I had to make it twice. It seems everyone's recipe is quite different and I would wind up with dough that was too dry, too wet, too something and in making it the wrong way I then made it the right way...every single time so after a while I just went with the store bought dry kind; mainly to avoid the aggravation. Every once in awhile though we say, let's make some pasta, and then we don't so this weekend I was determined. And I remembered a dish from a Molto Mario episode at the beginning of the Food Network. It was black pepper pasta stuffed with a sausage mix.

Black Pepper Pasta- adapted from Mario Batali

3 1/2 cups all purpose flour plus 1/2 cup for dusting work surface
4 jumbo eggs
1 tbsp virgin olive oil
2 tbsp ground fresh black pepper (in coffee grinder for a coarser grind)

Make a mound of the flour in the center of a large wooden cutting board. Make a well in the middle of the flour and add the eggs, oil and pepper. Using a fork, beat the eggs, oil and pepper and begin to incorporate into the flour. The dough will come together when half of the flour is incorporated.
Start kneading the dough using the palms of your hands. Once you have a cohesive mass remove any crusty bits , lightly flour the board and continue kneading for 3 more minutes. The dough should be elastic and a llitle sticky. Continue to knead for 3 more minutes. Wrap the dough in plastic and rest for 30 minutes at room temperature.


2 lbs fresh Italian sausage, crumbled, cooked and drained

1 cup fresh ricotta
1 bunch fresh Swiss Chard, boiled, drained and chopped
1 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1 cup fresh Parmigiano-Reggiano
1/2 recipe Bechamel Sauce

Bechamel Sauce
1 stick unsalted butter
1 cup all purpose flour
4 cups hot milk
1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg

Melt butter in a saucepan. Remove from heat and stir in flour with a whisk, cook over low heat for a few minutes stirring constantly. Add 1/2 of the hot milk and whisk until smooth, add remaining milk and whisk until smooth. Bring to a boil, add nutmeg, lower heat an simmer 10 minutes.

Make the pasta and roll out to the third thinnest mark on the pasta roller.

Cut the sheets into 10 inch long pieces, cover and set aside.

In a mixing bowl, stir together the cooked sausage, ricotta, chard, nutmeg and parmigiano until well blended.

Preheat oven to 400F degrees. Bring 6 quarts of water to a boil, and add 2 tbspn of salt. Blanch the pasta sheets and drain well-lay on a clean counter.

Divide filling among pasta pieces covering each sheet with 1/2 to 1 inch of filling. Roll each pasta piece like a jelly roll and place in a buttered baking dish. Cover with bechamel sauce and sprinkle with remaining cheese. Bake for 45 minutes until light brown and bubbly. Let stand 10 minutes.

And what did I do wrong? I rolled the pasta too thin, you could see right through it which is supposed to be a good thing but not this time. In my excitement I built the dish without blanching the pasta (which probably would have worked beautifully since the pasta was so thin) which meant I had to take it apart to cook the pasta---then I boiled it and it became little tiny shreds. So in the end I boiled some dry store bought lasagna noodles and uses the filling and the bechamel, it was yummy but I was too upset to take a picture. Frank tried to blame Max

or create him, not sure what this is all about.

But did you notice who was rolling out the pasta?


  1. Totally unexpected ending to this story...I so wasn't expecting this.

    Either was Frank:-)

    xo Jane

    1. I wasn't expecting it either-ugh! Not giving up though. Will try again, after a long sojourn though.