Good Italian food is all about keeping things minimal – that’s why cream in a carbonara is as divisive as pineapple slices on pizza. To make your own pasta, you need only three simple, healthy ingredients: finely-milled “00” flour, free-range eggs and high-quality olive oil. We enlisted Jay Patel, founder of London Italian eatery Legare (), to deliver a crash course in lip-smacking nourishment.
Types of pasta
When you’re working with a broad, flat sheet of pasta dough (see method, right), it makes sense that the easiest pasta
to make is the broad, flat pappardelle. All you need to do is roll up your pasta sheet and cut it into 2.5cm-thick strips.
This is essentially spaghetti but easier to make. Most pasta machines come with a tagliolini attachment, allowing you to feed your dough through the cutter for a square-edged alternative to your standard Bolognese accompaniment.
One of the most popular pastas, tagliatelle was allegedly invented in the 15th century to emulate Lucrezia Borgia’s golden hair. But don’t let that unappetising image put you off. To make yours, use the same method as pappardelle but cut thinner strips – about 1cm.
To turn your pasta into these morsels, follow the steps until you have a smooth dough, then cut it into chunks. Push these down using a table knife until the edges curl over the knife, then invert from the other side with your thumb to give them an ear-like shape.
Keep on rolling
Your most important investment when it comes to high-quality, healthy pasta will be in the right flour. Italian “00” flour is finer than all-purpose varieties, resulting in a silkier, chewier mouthful and, crucially, less gluten. Chefs swear by Caputo ().
Pour 200g of 00 flour into a stoneware dough dish. Then, in another bowl, whisk 1.5 teaspoons of antioxidant-rich extra virgin olive oil and two eggs. Go for eggs with intensely coloured yolks – these tend to be higher in omega-3s. Make a well in the flour, pour in the egg mix, then use a fork to combine it all from the inside out. When it’s too firm for the fork, mix and knead with your hands for 10-15 minutes (add water if necessary), until you have a smooth dough. Wrap in cling wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour. Cut in half and flatten with a rolling pin.
Patel recommends a Marcato Atlas 150 (), the gold standard of pasta machines, to roll this into 2mm-thick sheets and shape according to your preference.
Pasta shapes are best matched to their sauces. Thick, meaty sauces are better when coating pastas with a flat surface – such as pappardelle – while thinner pastas suit lighter, oilier sauces. And if you want an authentically Italian taste, don’t forget to salt the pasta water and – for a deliciously viscous sauce – keep some close by.
Sub in these alternatives if you’re on a low-carb diet
Eggplant has fewer kilojoules than an energising bowl of spaghetti, and contains vitamin C and potassium.
This is rich in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants – and is also linked to several markers of improved digestive health.
Ultra low in kJs, kelp noodles are a source of vitamins such as B12 and even vitamin K. Serve with oily fish for extra omega-3.