The idea of handmade pasta can be a bit intimidating, but there is really nothing like a bowl of fresh, home-made noodles. While the process itself takes a bit of practice, the rewards are many: it is inexpensive to make, the flavor is a revelation compared to dried pasta, you can customize it however you like, and most importantly, it’s satisfying! These days, it’s even easier than ever to create your own home-made pasta. With pasta-roller attachments for stand mixers, ravioli molds and food processors; it can be a fairly straightforward process. Of course, if you have the time and inclination, rolling your pasta out by hand, while it takes a bit of hard work, pays off when you see your perfect strips of fettuccine in a beautiful bowl being served to appreciative diners!
If you’re up to the challenge, I’ve included a fantastic Fresh Egg Pasta recipe from Williams-Sonoma Cooking At Home by Kristine Kidd and Chuck Williams. It is a great starting place for making pasta by hand and once you’ve mastered it, there’s a ton of ways to dress it up and make it your own….herbs, spices, slow cooked sauces, fresh sauces, flavored oils…..the possibilities are endless!
Of course, once you’ve got your pasta made, you need the perfect recipe to incorporate it in – and I’ve just the thing; my Garlic Gulch Braised Rabbit Ragù with Pappardelle Pasta. You can make the sauce ahead of time and refrigerate then serve with your beautiful hand-made pasta for a really fantastic meal! And if you’ve never cooked rabbit before then this is a great recipe to try it.
So head into the kitchen and roll out some culinary magic!
Fresh Egg Pasta
Makes about 1 lb. dough
2 cups all-purpose flour
Hand method: Mound the flour on a work surface and make a well in the center. Carefully break the eggs into the well. Using a fork, lightly beat the eggs. Working in a circular motion, gradually incorporate the flour from the walls of the well into the eggs. When the dough becomes too stiff to beat with the fork, continue with the palm of your hand until as much flour as possible is incorporated. Using the palm and the heel of your hand, knead the dough, pushing it down and away, folding it back toward you and rotating it a quarter turn. If you plan to roll the dough out by hand, repeat these strokes until the dough is smooth and elastic, 5-10 minutes. If you plan to roll the dough by machine, repeat these strokes until the dough is smooth and no longer sticky, 2-3 minutes.
Food processor method: Combine the flour and eggs in a food processor. Pulse briefly to combine the ingredients. Then process using long pulses just until the dough forms around the blade, about 1 minute. Turn the dough out on to a work surface and knead with the palm of your hand as described above.
Cover the dough and let it rest for 30 minutes.
Rolling Out Fresh Pasta: Cut the dough into easy to manage portions and keep covered until needed. Dust a work surface and rolling pin with flour. Flatten a dough portion, then roll out to the desired thinness. To test, lift the dough with one hand. IF making ribbons such as fettuccini, your hand should be clearly visible through the dough; if making filled pasta, the dough should be nearly translucent. Lay the pasta sheets on a floured kitchen towel and let stand for ten minutes before cutting. The pasta should be neither dry nor sticky.
Cutting Fresh Pasta: Roll up the pasta sheet into a cylinder and flatten it slightly. Using a sharp knife, cut across the roll into slices 3/8 inch wide for tagliatelle or fettuccine, 1 1/4 inches for pappardelle, a scant 1/8 inch for taglierini and 4 inches for lasagne. Unfurl the narrow slices, form a few strips at a time into nests about 2 inches wide and place on a floured kitchen towel.
Recipe from Williams-Sonoma Cooking at Home, Weldon-Owen Inc., San Francisco.
Garlic Gulch Braised Rabbit Ragù with Pappardelle Pasta
Makes 6 to 8 first-course or 4 entrée servings
1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
1 pound fresh pasta sheets, such as egg with parsley, or substitute fettuccine pasta
Braised Rabbit Ragù (recipe follows)
Freshly shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano or grana cheese
Fresh thyme sprigs
Bring 2 gallons of water to a boil in a large pot over high heat. Add the 1 Tbsp oil and a big pinch of salt.
Meanwhile, cut the pasta sheets, if using, into 1-inch-wide strips and fluff with your hands to separate. A few strips at a time, drop the pasta into the boiling water and stir to separate; keep a close eye on the pasta while cooking to be sure that the pieces do not stick together. Cook the pasta until just al dente, about 2 to 4 minutes, then immediately drain well. Do not rinse. Put the pasta in a large bowl, drizzle with a little oil, sprinkle with salt, and toss to coat. Mix in 1 cup ragù.
Divide the pasta among large, shallow pasta bowls, and top with the remaining sauce. Drizzle with oil if desired. Shave cheese to taste over each portion and garnish with thyme.
Braised Rabbit Ragù
2 pounds rabbit, cut into serving pieces, then bigger pieces halved or quartered
1 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
3 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup diced onion
1/3 cup diced parsnip
1/3 cup diced celery
1/3 cup diced carrot
3 Tbsp minced fresh garlic
3 Tbsp tomato paste
1 cup dry red wine
2 bay leaves
2 large fresh rosemary sprigs
1 Tbsp minced fresh thyme
1 cup low-sodium chicken broth or homemade chicken stock
1 can (28 ounces) plum tomatoes in juice
Season the rabbit all over with the salt and pepper. Reserve the rabbit liver, if available, in the refrigerator.
In a large braising pan or Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Brown the rabbit pieces for about 2 minutes on each side. (Do not crowd the pan; brown the rabbit in batches if necessary.) As the rabbit is browned, transfer to a plate.
When all the rabbit is browned, add the onion, parsnip, celery, and carrot to the same pan and sauté for about 3 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender. Stir in the garlic and tomato paste and sauté for 1 minute. Add the wine and cook to reduce for 5 minutes, stirring to scrape up the browned bits. Add the bay leaves, rosemary, thyme, and broth. Using your clean hands, “squish” the tomatoes and add them to the mixture with their juice.
Return the rabbit and any accumulated juices to the pan. Make sure the rabbit is covered with the liquid. Bring to a simmer and braise, uncovered, keeping the sauce at a constant low simmer for 50 to 60 minutes, or until the meat is thoroughly tender.
Remove the sauce from the heat and transfer the rabbit meat from the sauce to a baking sheet. Discard the bay leaves and rosemary. Finely chop the reserved liver, if using, and stir into the hot sauce.
When the meat is cool enough to handle, pull the meat from the bones. Discard the bones, chop the meat into rustic pieces, and mix it back into the sauce. (Be careful of little tiny bones.) Taste the sauce for salt and adjust the seasoning if needed. Serve hot.
Chef’s Note: You can make the sauce up to 3 days ahead, then let cool and refrigerate. The ragù is also excellent served over soft polenta.
Recipe from Kathy Casey’s Northwest Table, Chronicle Books, San Francisco