Homemade Pasta with Fresh Basil Pesto! 🌿
Updated: Sep 23, 2020
On this occasion, I made a tagliatelle type of pasta and topped it off with fresh Genoese basil pesto, harvesting some basil from our 'garden.' I particularly enjoyed sharing both quality time and wine with my son while we made the pasta together. I used to be intimidated by the thought of making fresh pasta, but once I began to tackle the challenge, I realized how easy it is. While homemade pasta is certainly delicious to eat and impressive to make, more importantly, it is a fun activity to do with others.
I learned how to make homemade pasta from an acquaintance of mine, named Simone, who was born and raised in Italy. He taught me the recipe which I currently use and specifically recommended the use of "00" flour. This type of flour is commonly used in Italy, although not as well known in the USA. The "00" designation indicates that the flour is very finely ground ... ultra-fine. (Coarsely-ground, type "2" flour, is at the opposite end of the spectrum). Aside from distinguishing the level of grind, the gluten in "00" flour will also behave differently. The gluten in "00" flour will typically be quite elastic, hence ideal for pasta and pizza dough. The gluten in durum wheat semolina flour tends to be very strong, but not so elastic. By combining durum wheat semolina flour with "00" flour the result is pasta with a 'nice bite and chew.' Hence, the two make a perfect combination! If you cannot find "00" flour where you live, then using all-purpose flour would still yield a good result.
Tagliatelle is a long, thin, flat ribbon-like pasta measuring about 6-10 mm in width. With homemade pasta, the length is variable. The name derives from the Italian verb tagliare, which means 'to cut.' The primary ingredients are flour and eggs. This pasta type originated in the northeastern section of Italy, more specifically the Marche and Emilia-Romagna regions. While this pasta type can be served with several different kinds of sauces, classically it is served with a Bolognese sauce, a meat-based red sauce, typical of the city of Bologna which is the capital of the Emilia-Romagna historical region. (I will cover Bolognese sauce in a future blog). To make the tagliatelle, it is helpful and certainly easier if you use a pasta rolling and cutting hand-cranked pasta machine, but rolling it out and cutting it "free-hand" is always an option.
I'm choosing to serve my tagliatelle with a Genoese Basil Pesto sauce. This is a green sauce made essentially of basil leaves, pine-nuts, garlic, and hard cheeses, all blended together with extra-virgin olive oil. This sauce originated in Genoa which is the capital of the Liguria region in the northwestern section of Italy, along the coast. This sauce is not cooked, just assembled of the raw ingredients, and best served at room temperature. The word 'pesto' (from the Italian verb pestare) means 'to pound' or 'to beat.' Historically this sauce was made with a mortar and pestle and the ingredients were pounded together into a paste before olive oil was added to thin it out. Interestingly, the ancient Romans ate an herb dip with their bread, called 'Moretum', that was quite similar to our pesto of today. Moretum consisted of fresh herbs and cheese, a little salt, olive oil, and even vinegar, all crushed together in a mortar. Occasionally they added different nuts to their spread, as well. Sounds rather familiar, doesn't it? While some chefs still insist on using a mortar and pestle method to produce an authentic pesto, that technique is far too cumbersome and labor-intensive for my schedule. I make my pesto with a food processor for the convenience of time (takes about 10 minutes), not to mention, the food processor grinds the ingredients into finer pieces, thereby producing a smoother sauce.
Homemade Pasta recipe
Ingredients needed PER PERSON:
3/4 cup flour (50% 00 flour and 50% Semolina flour)
1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO)
pinch of salt
Mix the two flour types together on a clean surface. Make a well in the center of the flour mound. Scramble the eggs with a fork and combine it with the EVOO. Pour egg mixture into the well. Work the flour and egg together into a dough ball. Knead for 10 minutes. Kneading activates the gluten. Divide the dough ball into 3 parts. Wrap each dough ball in plastic wrap and let rest for 30 minutes.
Remove the dough ball from the plastic wrap and flatten with the palm of your hand into a rectangle. Pass the dough through the rollers of the pasta machine starting with the widest width and narrowing the width with each pass. Once the desired thinness has been achieved, pass the thin dough sheet through the cutter and hang the pasta ribbons on the 'drying' rack.
Leave pasta on the rack until ready to cook in the boiling salted water. Fresh pasta takes considerably less time to cook than dried pasta and will be done in 2-3 minutes. Remove a noodle with a tong, taste, and test for doneness. Strain pasta, retaining some pasta water, and transfer to a bowl.
Genoese Basil Pesto recipe
Ingredients: (makes 1 cup of sauce)
2 cups loosely packed basil leaves, washed and thoroughly dried
1/4 cup pine nuts
2 medium cloves garlic
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
1/4 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese
1/4 tsp salt
freshly ground black pepper
Trim basil stems. Thoroughly wash and dry basil leaves. Place basil leaves into food processor with a steel blade. Add pine nuts, garlic, and salt. Pulse on high until mixture is finely chopped, scraping down sides as necessary. With the machine running on low, slowly add the olive oil to form a smooth paste. Then add the grated cheeses. Pulse to incorporate. Taste and add freshly ground black pepper to taste.
Add pesto sauce to the cooked pasta. You may need to add a ladleful of retained pasta water to better melt the cheese and facilitate the coating of the pasta with the sauce.
This is a delicious dish and the freshness of the pasta can both be tasted and appreciated. Prior to serving, you can garnish the pasta with some basil leaves or thin shavings of Parmigiano cheese. Serve this pasta dish alongside any meat of your choosing or even grilled fish, like whole Branzino or Red Snapper. In Cinque Terre, Italy we frequently ate this yummy pasta dish with fresh meaty anchovies that are abundant along the Ligurian coast. As for wines, Sauvignon Blanc wines or a Fumé Blanc pair beautifully with the fresh green pesto. A clean and crisp wine is key. Chardonnays can be awkward. Certainly, I would avoid oaky wines and be cautious with reds as they may be too heavy. I hope you take advantage of the fresh basil of the season while it is still green, abundant, and available. The cooler days will soon set in and rapidly stunt the basil's growth and blacken its leaves.