Quick Pasta

The copyright on this recipe is held by ten million Italian grandmothers. In other words, this is a classic, but for all that, a classic well within the reach of the new cook, determined to handle every single step of his personal carbo-loading…

To make handmade pasta with basil pesto for four, you will need:
Pasta
2 eggs, complete
3 egg yolks
3 cups white flour
1 teaspoon salt

Pesto
2 big handfuls freshly picked basil leaves
1 or 2 cloves garlic
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
¼ cup pine nuts
Freshly ground black pepper on demand
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese


When we got married my varsity colleagues bought us a pasta machine. A solid, hand-cranked nightmare, hard to use and impossible to clean, this device has been out of its box twice in three decades. And then along came this recipe, and with it, my pasta-related life changed forever. Boy, is it easy. Boy oh boy, does it taste delicious!

A food processor is the secret. Measure two cups of flour (the third cup is needed for bits and pieces) and pour this, plus the teaspoon of salt into the food processor. Separate the three yolks then add these plus the two whole eggs to the machine. Let the
food processor run for half a minute or so, until a ball of dough begins to take shape. If the dough refuses to ball up, add half a teaspoon of water. If it glues itself to the bowl, loosen it with a spoonful of flour.

Once the dough becomes a ball, switch off and remove it from the processor. Place it on a clean cutting board or any suitable work surface, sprinkle lightly with flour, cover with a freshly laundered dishcloth and leave to settle down for half an hour. This waiting period allows gluten formation.

While waiting for the gluten, get moving on the pesto. Check the fresh basil for friendly goggas. Rinse and shake off excess water. Drop the gogga-free basil into a food processor, add the garlic, a tiny pinch of salt and ¼ cup of the olive oil. Rev it up for 30 seconds, then slowly add the rest of the olive oil. Tip in the pine nuts plus ½ cup of grated Parmesan or pecorino cheese. Run the machine for a couple of seconds so that the pesto is nice and chunky and not a smooth paste like baby food.

Cut the dough ball in half and roll onto a work surface sprinkled with flour to a thickness of 3mm. Cut this into 10cm squares then repeat the process with the second half of the dough ball. Drop the squares into briskly boiling, lightly salted water and cook for a couple of minutes.

Pasta texture is personal, so taste a sample to get the timing right. Remove, drain and arrange on plates. Spoon over a generous quantity of the pine nut and basil pesto, adding a little extra parmesan and black pepper. Serve with a chilled dry wine and accept the crowd’s adulation with appropriate modesty.

Contact David Basckin at [email protected] Please state ‘Real cooking’ in the subject line of your email.