Simply Italian

pasta bianca
Comfort food. Different things to different people. But always disarmingly simple. A few ingredients, a basic recipe, but the final outcome is something that satisfies a craving that nothing else will. A dish that wraps you around your home, your family, your culture, and many times, around the various stages of personal growth.

I am always drawn to such fare – what people cook on a regular basis in their kitchens, curious about what fits the bill for others. For many a Kashmiri it will have to be haak-baateh (braised haak greens served over rice), the equivalent of what dal-chaval is to a lot of other Indians.

When Meeta asked us to cook authentic Italian I became curious about Italian comfort foods…

Nothing says Italy like its food, and nothing says Italian food like pasta.

Pasta goes far into the history of Italian cuisine, all the way back to the 8th C, to the time of the Arab invasion.  There are a mind-boggling variety of pasta found in Italy today – over 650!  If anything, I am traditional in my ‘experiments’ with food, and what I have prepared might well be amongst the older ways of preparing pasta.

All you need for good pasta are fresh ingredients.  I was not sure I could rely on the neighborhood grocery for a fresh package.  So, I did what I do best.  Make my own.  We have all seen it done on TV food programs umpteen times. And it is not a big deal for a people who make fresh roti multiple times a day! It is fairly easy to make your own pasta.

Traditionally pasta is made with either semolina or all purpose flour.  The Emilia-Romagna region of Italy is famed for its fresh pasta made from all purpose flour and eggs – ingredients stocked in most pantries.  And tagliatelle, the ribbon pasta, is the classic pasta of the region.  Things were falling into place.  I had made my pasta with all-purpose flour (shocking that I was able to resist the urge to add 50% atta – Indian wholewheat flour), cut it into ribbons the size that qualifies as tagliatelle, was planning to cook it while fresh…  Enough to make me wonder if I might have had a past life connection to Italy in addition to that with Southern India! I kid you not, I did all this reasearch after having consumed my meal.  Of course I searched the net for a simple recipe and found it here, and double-checked to confirm how to make my own pasta… but I made the pairing quite instinctively.  Even the cheese that I used to flavour, parmesan, is from that region!

Just last month I had cooked fresh pasta for the visiting nephews who were craving a taste of home.  All the cooking that it had involved was tossing cooked pasta in a little olive oil.  In my effort to redo that I realised I had a very authentic regional Italian recipe!  In the Emilia-Romagna region they serve their fresh pasta in a buttery sauce with slices of local black truffles.  Isn’t my pasta bianca just that?! Yes, I know, I am missing the truffles.  But I am allowed to vary the dish to adjust to local conditions, aren’t I?

pasta bianca
Pasta Bianca
(serves 1)

half portion* fresh pasta, preferably, tagliatelle,
1-3 teaspoons cultured butter, such as Amul (or homemade!),
a pot of water, and a generous amount (1 tablespoon) of salt,
freshly cracked pepper and a little grated parmigiano reggiano, maybe a teaspoon or so

Add salt to the pot of water and bring to boil. Place the butter in the pasta bowl. Cook pasta, stirring it around, till al dente (you’ve heard it often but it cannot be emphasized enough – tender but firm to the touch) – mine took just over two minutes. Drain pasta over a pot so that you have some pasta water reserved. Add some of this water (4-5 tablespoons of it) to the bowl that has the butter. Top with the cooked pasta. Toss the pasta in the buttery sauce. Sprinkle with pepper (preferably white, but I had only black pepper), and grated Parmesan. Mix a little to flavour through.

pasta bianca
The taste is as unbelievable as the recipe is simple. But you believe when you know it is Italy’s ultimate comfort food!

Brown the butter before adding pasta water to it.  Or, fry a clove or two of minced garlic in the butter.

*For 1 portion of fresh pasta (serves two)
1 medium sized egg, preferably desi (organic) but those are available only in the winter time in Delhi – and only if I place an order of minimum 30 eggs!.
all purpose flour as needed

egg and flour
Mound about three-fourth cup of all purpose flour. Make a well in the center and break an egg into it. Gently whisk with a fork to gradually incorporate the flour. Add more flour if you need. Knead till the dough is very smooth, about 10-15 minutes. Roll thin, dusting with additional flour. You could have read the headlines through mine if not the main columns of the newspaper. Rest for an hour or so (you deserve it! 😀 ), covered with a cloth. Roll from opposite ends towards the center. Cut into desired widths.

Who needs a pasta machine?!

25 thoughts on “Simply Italian

  1. Delicious,I too have sent in my entry.This looks tasty and easy and bookmarked.I would try to make it eggless if possible :D.Thanks

    Very easy, and very good! Eggless should be alright too, i think.

  2. “and only if I place an order of minimum 30 eggs!.”

    Wowie!! Did you really do that 😉

    Fresh pasta, nothing can really beat that!

    I did – last winter. I really couldn’t tell any difference in taste, bu the yolk was a deep orange. And it took me a while to finish all the eggs…so where’s the point in stale desi eggs?

  3. How did you cut them into so uniform pastas? Wow…
    I have no patience to make pastas at home, but will try pasta bianca with ready made ones 🙂

    …And as good it will be! Though it is quite simple and quick if you make only as much as I did.

  4. In our first month together, as husband and wife, my husband AM one night decided he wanted to make fresh pasta at 11 pm. And make it he did … quite well no less. At the time I never thought it could be done, four years down the road I know better!

    Your plate of Pasta Bianca looks wonderfully yummy. I am going to tempt the husband now 😉

    Wow – how absolutely sweet! He must really love pasta!
    So, did he make it again?

  5. You mean it’s a good thing that we know how to roll thin phulkis? 😀 That pasta is so delicate – I would want to just keep looking at it! So it doesn’t need to be dried?

    Shilpa, I am with you. I will buy fettucine or tagiatelle and then … forget it – I’ll just go out for dinner. 😀

    And you have rolled quite a few, right?
    You can dry it, but you can also use it fresh!
    You could always eat out… but this kind has more snob value these days!

  6. I actually do own a pasta machine; it only saves a little bit of time, really, as it will both knead (by passing it through the rollers multiple times, folding it each itme) and do the final cutting for you…but for years I made it just like you did and still don’t see any great hassle involved. You’re right, easy as roti! In fact…it’s nothing more than boiled bread-dough. Not difficult to imagine it’s invention in several cultures simultaneously (as recent speculation goes).

    Oddly enough, I was eating spaghetti tossed in olive oil with a sprinkle of parmesan last night for a quick snack. It is a very simple and satisfying dish indeed! I once knew a priest from Boston whos favorite comfort food was pasta tossed with a sauce of fresh garlic lightly fried in butter/olive oil and a sprinkle of crushed red chile. He didn’t mention cheese, but isn’t that mandatory? 🙂

    Even that tiny bit of (cheap) parmesan was amazingly good! I am planning to try garlic-butter with this next time. Sure, why not some crushed red chilli – that ought to be mandatory as well!

    I am going to try some other pastas and some simple shapes suggested by a friend!

    Boiled dough is indeed more common than we think – think dal-dhokli, or even ukdee chya polya – steamed roti!

  7. Homemade pasta! I thought it couldn’t be done…well, the recipe and the writeup are so encouraging, this just has to be tried!

    Never say never! Hope you tried it!

  8. Although I have had this a zillion times when I was a child, I never made home made pasta. I’ll have to try it this time.

    Necessity… makes you do things you didn’t think you needed to!
    How lucky you are to have counted on this food since childhood!

  9. The pasta looks so tempting Anita!
    Even I have always wanted to make pasta at home but I have only gotten around to make some tagliatelle, that a Lasagne recipe asked for 🙂
    Maybe now is the time to try it!

    The same thing – cut into smaller widths! How versatile dough can be!

  10. i am in awe. i love making my own pasta too and this is simply lovely! i am really glad to see you taking part in this!

    😉 Keenly awaiting the outcome… But, truly, I am glad I tried this – now I want to experiment with other things mixed into the dough – spinach puree, tomato puree….

  11. Thanks for all the details, didnt know that making pasta from scratch was so easy. I dont eat eggs, any ideas if the pasta can be made without the eggs??


    I believe most store-bought pastas do not contain egg. So, go ahead, and make it!

  12. fantastic pasta dish. Good job,they look so… ehm store bought. I made pasta once and it really looked like I made it 🙂
    Anita, I hope you are participating this month´s T&T. We re cooking from Monsoon Spice. I have extended the deadline for another 10 days, so please, when you get a chance, I am sure you ll love Sia´s recipes.

    I even bookmarked a couple of Sia’s recipes…only to have the time slip… 😦 I have been meaning to be there at all of the previous editions…but somehow it just slips away.

  13. i’m very impressed by your gorgeous-looking pasta! especially it’s thinness (the word thickness just didn’t fit here).

    we had some tonight, in fact. spaghetti tossed with prawns cooked briefly in garlicky butter and red chilli. delish!

    Thanks, Maninas! Just as I am impressed with the way you churn out Indian recipes! Simple things taste sooooo good!

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