Sunday evening. We’ve been packing all weekend, and then fixing the last few things in the house: filling holes in the wall with plaster and painting them (my plastering skills are something I am so proud of, one of the few things for which I am apparently a natural). Then a tour of the apartment, to double check what is left for packing. I went through the kitchen cupboard and realized I had not packed my pasta machine yet.
Of course there is a box where it could sit. It should.
Well. I’ve always wanted to try a twist on pasta, and there is some basil sitting on the fridge so.. . so here I am making home-made pasta in the middle of a removal. And you know what? I totally recommend it.
I’ve been having a background train of thoughts about pasta for a while, all because of Simona at Briciole. A while ago she made the prettiest pink farfalle and I wanted to try them, so I roasted a couple of beetroot and made tagliolini with the dough because I had not time to shape the bow ties. Tagliolini, whisper-thin fresh spaghetti made with egg pasta, are a difficult pasta. I always ended up overcooking them, but this time I used durum wheat only and it was perfect. There were other issues however: the pasta did not look that pretty, I failed to take a picture in good time, the pink pasta just looked tacky with the yellow and red roasted pepper sauce I made that time (although that tasted good), and we had guests coming over. Great pasta, nothing to blog about though. It did not even taste of beetroot, to be honest. But I did want to tell you about the recipe, because I have finally nailed a recipe for the elusive tagliolini.
Then I remembered that in one of my long-ago-packed books there was a version with basil which I’ve always wanted to try. I walked to the farmer’s market and bought two big bunches of basil. One of them ended up in this favourite pasta of ours. The second one, I tried replacing the beetroot pure with whizzed basil.
Let me put this straight. This is no beginner’s, foolproof pasta. It is wet, delicate and difficult to work with, and I ended up cutting large tagliatelle by hand, not daring to pass it through the thin tagliolini cutter. But if you have experience with pasta dough, it is one of the best recipes I’ve tried this year. The basil is there but it tastes a bit different, more floral I’d say, than in a regular pesto, and it sings with the simple, late summer dressing of olive oil, zucchini and toasted pine nuts. The texture is perfect. You may find it is too late for basil this year, and actually a good two weeks passed between when I made this pasta and now. Of course, don’t try this with not-so-tasty basil. I’d love to remake them, trying to dry the basil as much as I can and see if it is dry enough to make tagliolini, in the end, because basil does not like heat and tagliolini cook in a few minutes, while these thick tagliatelle took a good 10 mins. All in all, it was a fit arrivederci to my pasta machine.
I am sending this recipe to Weekend Herb Blogging number 305, hosted this week by Cinzia @ Cindystar . I was surprised of how this recipe added another dimension to basil: it is one of my favourite herbs, but I always thought it was not a very versatile one. I may change my mind after this.
Pasta al basilico with zucchini and pine nuts
80 gr basil leaves, washed and dried
2 large eggs
300 gr semolina
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons pine nuts
2 not-too-large zucchini, the freshest you can get
2 garlic cloves, crushed
Wash and dry the basil leaves (I advise you to spin dry the leaves: it is easy to add water or oil if you need to, not so easy to take it out), then add the eggs and some salt to it. Whizz it in a smooth paste. Prepare the flour like a little volcano shape, make a hole in the middle and drop the eggs and basil mixture. Incorporate the flour starting with a fork and go ahead by hand, until you have a smooth, elastic and quite hard and dry dough (it still needs to hold together and be uniform, so add a bit of water if you need to)
Wrap with cling film and let rest for half an hour. Roll the pasta in thin, but not too thin pasta sheets using a rolling pin or the pasta machine (I used the latter and stopped at mark 3, which is maybe 1.5 mm thick). Cut into tagliolini using the pasta machine, or cut strips with a knife out of the dough to make tagliatelle.
You can let them dry up to two days; cooking time increases a bit.
To serve, cut the zucchini into tiny dice. Toast the pine nuts in a pan or in the oven until slightly golden. Heat a generous glug of the best olive oil in a pan, add the crushed and peeled garlic cloves, add the zucchini and toss them to let them brown a bit. Be careful not to overcook them – they need to retain their texture and some crunch, especially if they are really fresh. Cook pasta in plenty of boiling water – this will require anything from 8 minutes for the thick tagliatelle. Drain, toss with zucchini and sprinkle with pine nuts.