I know this post is super delayed but I wanted to do justice to what it meant to me.
Also the love for pasta is real. No amount of “Pasta is as good as eating a bowl of sugar” will keep me from this gorgeousness. There’s little that matches up to an al dente pasta with just the right amount of sauce and tang to go with. It’s the ultimate comfort food and then some.
My first introduction to Pasta making and a Pasta machine was through none other than Samira Shahzad. Whoever has lived in Lahore especially through the 1980-90s will know what I speak of when I say that she was the first ever Teaching Chef of the Lahori Fraternity.
I first took her class somewhere in 2004 or 2005? That’s where I saw my first ever Pasta Machine only to rush out and buy one. She taught us how to make egg noodles from scratch. I still remember it was Chanda Store in Main Market who used to stock it (anyone looking for it now, Chanda store don’t stock it any more but Kaka Bawa Store just ahead of Anees Book Corner in Main Market allegedly have it. Don’t ask me about the names of these shops. I haven’t named them).
Life was considerably different and slower in pace without a kidlet attached to the hip so the frivolity of even considering to make one’s own pasta was one of the blessings that went rather unnoticed.
A year post having a baby, making pasta at home was as far from my mind as bungee jumping is (still is. Always will be. I have a weak heart. If I post that I am about to go skydiving please know that either I am being robbed or my account is hacked.)
Until I happened to be in London for my birthday and this popped up.
So every birthday I try and give myself an experience-based birthday gift. For the past many many years, I have been eyeing Jamie Oliver’s cooking classes in London (never for a birthday though) but somehow I always seem to miss out on it. The dates are off or the ones I want are sold out or I run out of time just lazing. Something.
This time I checked and the one I liked was JUST the weekend of my birthday. This had to be it. I booked online and was all set to learn the art of making filled pasta.
Called them twice about where it is in Westfield Hammersmith because even though I know that Westfield like the back of my hand (I used to live at a stone’s throw), back then Jamie Oliver didn’t have a restaurant there let alone a Cookery school.
Got F to babysit baby boo and reached there just in time. The high was surreal. This is the Naked Chef’s own Cookery school. So what I learn here is a recipe or a technique straight from the top man.
I quite literally had a lump in my throat as I walked through those doors, knees wobbling, pretty smiles put me at ease almost instantly, jamming a drink and an apron in my hand, leading me to my work station
Looking around nervously at being the only one there by myself, I discreetly tried to document the excitement I wasn’t able to outwardly display. Everyone else was there in pairs or some even as a family!
The workstation had a taam cheeni bowl (mmm nostalgia) with pasta fillings already prepared for us (though Easy peasy lemon squeesy I’ll share the basic one that made me one plate full of happy by the end of it all. ) two pasta stamps (weeeeee Pasta and stationery? Who doesn’t love that now?) and a pirch of Salt.
One was just plain cottage cheese or ricotta cheese or a mix of both which I like best because then you can play with the sauce on top but since there wasn’t much sauce to go with it, the green filling was as follows.
Wilt the spinach in a pan and squeeze out the extra liquid. Then chop it roughly.
Mix it in a bowl with the egg, grated Parmesan, ricotta, finely chopped garlic.
Season with a little sea salt and pepper and add a pinch of freshly grated nutmeg. Mix and adjust seasoning.
Rest for 30 minutes before filling ravioli.
Without further ado here’s the star of the show.
(Since we were making quantities fit for one person to eat, please feel free to double triple or quadruple them according to need.)
100g Italian Flour (00)
Now this is very important. In order to have ample gluten to be activated during the kneading, you need this extra refined lovely double zero flour. Any other won’t get the required result.
1 large egg.
Place the flour in a large bowl and make a well in its middle. Crack the egg in the well and beat it gently with a fork trying your best not to disturb the flour around it. Now using your hands incorporate the flour bit by bit into the egg until it is all combined. Knead it until you end up with a smooth lump of dough.
Now cover it with the bowl and leave it to rest until it springs to the touch.
Knead the dough with the heel of your palm until it is smooth and silky to the touch.
Now press the dough with your fingers to roughly form a thick, flattened rectangle -ish paerra (dough ball).
Run it through the pasta machine at its widest once. Then pop it to one setting lower. Run through it again. Now fold it in half and run through the machine at its widest setting again. And then one setting lower. Do this 5-6 times. Adding a pinch or a few of flour if the dough starts getting sticky.
Now run through the pasta machine once through each setting starting from the widest to the finest. Lightly dust both sides of the pasta every time you pass it through the machine. Once you have a tidy piece of pasta fold it half lengthwise and another time and another time and once more until you have a nice square. Now run it through the pasta machine starting from the widest to the finest settings once each time again. See if you can lightly see your hand through the pasta. It is now ready for filling!
Once done now you have to work really fast because pasta dries in a matter of minutes. In order to prevent it from drying out place a wet tea towel on top of it.
Cut the pasta into 15×30 Cm strips.
Now place a teaspoon of filling for each ravioli on one half of the pasta strip.
Now lightly brush the pasta around the filling with water and gently fold over the other half of the pasta, moulding it carefully around the filling pushing out any air bubbles. This is essential.
Cut into squares with a pizza cutter or a crinkle cutter or a pastry cutter or one of those stamps we saw! If you have any.
Bring a pan of salted water to a rolling boil, pop your pasta in and cook for a maximum of 3-4 minutes just until it changes colour.
Infuse garlic and a sprig of mint into butter and a dash of olive oil. Take the mint out and discard and just quickly flip freshly prepared ravioli in it just to cover it with the fragrant butter.
Take that out and serve with a fresh green salad and fresh Parmesan grated on top. OMG NOTHING compares to freshly made pasta. In the world.
It melts in your mouth as if you’re eating clouds. Like a savoury candy floss.
Best birthday gift ever.
No wait. The Prime Meridian trip literally trumps everything else. But yes. Still pretty cool.