I’m about to share a couple of things with you that may be surprising. In fact, they may even be downright shocking. Brace yourselves, friends….
1. Homemade pasta is easy.
I know it sounds daunting, and it may even look daunting, but making homemade noodles is super easy. “Dough” tends to be an intimidating word because doughs are notoriously finicky, and add to that the concept of making tiny little noodle strands, and it’s a scary word…homemade pasta. Spooky!
But don’t be afraid of pasta. It’s remarkably quick and easy to work with. It’s forgiving. I won’t lie, it might make your back hurt, as it does mine sometimes, but for the most part it’s not hard at all. I promise. Just trust me on this.
Combine its ease of making with the fact that it requires minimal whole ingredients and is healthier and more cost effective than store bought pasta and you have yourself a winning combo. You might even find the taste more appealing, too. Homemade pasta is silkier and more delicate than store bought. It cooks much faster as well.
2. Essential oils can be used in cooking.
No, really! I know that cooking is so rarely mentioned when we talk about the myriad of uses for essential oils, but it is downright dadgum true. There are many essential oils that are recognized as generally safe for human consumption, and these oils can be used to flavor dishes.
It is extremely important to be sure to use only the highest quality oils for consumption, however. The essential oil industry is booming and with that success comes companies and individuals with less than stellar integrity. Many essential oils are diluted, stretched with synthetic additives, or otherwise lack purity and are therefore not safe to consume. Reach out to me to learn which brand of oils I trust exclusively, especially when it comes to culinary uses.
For this recipe I am using black pepper essential oil. I love the flavor of black pepper, and the oil makes it much easier to distribute some of that lightly spicy goodness in my pasta.
Here’s the Recipe:
Black Pepper Pasta in Garlic Oil
– pasta machine (this is technically optional, but believe me, it is worth it)
– clean surface or cutting board
For the Pasta:
– 2 cups unbleached all purpose flour*
– 3-4 eggs
– water, as needed
– salt and cracked black pepper
– 1-4 drops black pepper essential oil
For the Garlic Oil:
– several cloves of garlic, sliced
– olive oil
– fish sauce (don’t worry, this will not make it taste fishy)
– red pepper flakes
– grated parmesan cheese to sprinkle on top, if preferred
*You may cut this recipe by half and it will turn out just as well. A half batch makes about 2-3 servings.
First, we make the dough.
Place your flour on your clean surface and sprinkle with a pinch or two of salt and cracked black pepper. (You will still want to salt your water when you cook the pasta.) Make a well in your flour.
Add your eggs and 1-4 drops of black pepper essential oil to the well, and try to do a better job than I do. I always have container failure with my eggs.
I personally add about 3 drops of my black pepper essential oil, but this is to taste. I would recommend starting out with 1-2 drops first and then going from there. Also remember that certain sauces will mask the flavor more than others.
Mix the flour and eggs with a fork at first, until the egg is mostly incorporated. At this point you will have what appears to be a crumbly mess; that means it’s time to jump in with yours hands. This is not a dough that you can approach in a hands-off fashion. Dust your hands with flour first to help prevent sticking (but you will still get some sticking).
Work with your dough and add very small amounts of water if necessary. You want a smooth but relatively firm dough. It will have quite a bit of elasticity — if you were to try to roll it out by hand right now, it would spring back. While it should be stiff, it should not be dry or crumbly after you work it for a bit. If it is staying dry and crumbly, that is your cue to add a dribble of water.
The end result after a bit of kneading should be a dough that is smooth and no longer dry or crumbly, but it should not be moist, sticky, or too squishy. You will get a feel for the texture you’re going for with practice.
Now let your dough rest for at least 30 minutes. This gives it time for the gluten to work its magic on the dough and soften it’s springy, almost impossible to roll out texture. It will remain fairly firm, but it will be much easier to work with after it takes a nap. (Aren’t we all?) You can let the dough rest overnight as well if you would like to prepare it a day in advance. I have done this. Just be sure to wrap the dough air tight so it doesn’t dry out.
If making the garlic oil, you may start on this step now while your dough is resting. See below.
When you’re ready to start rolling and cutting, first start a pot of water to boil. You do not want to have your fresh noodles sit too long waiting on a boil or they will start to stick together.
Now take your pasta dough out and start to work it with your hands into a semi-flat rectangle. Dust both sides with flour to prevent sticking. If you are going to use a pasta machine, taper one side to go in the machine easier.
If you are going to roll and cut your pasta by hand, you have a lot of work ahead of you. I have done this once and don’t have any intention of doing it again if I can help it. I love my pasta machine. You will work up a sweat. The dough will not get as thin, either, and the noodles will be thicker and take a longer time to cook. But, it is doable.
I kind of feel like every pasta cook should roll and cut by hand at least once, just to appreciate those who came before us and invented pasta long before pasta machines existed, but really, a pasta machine is the way to go.
If you are using a pasta machine, start feeding your dough at the lowest (i.e. widest) setting. On my machine, that is zero. I like to feed mine through each stage a couple of times before moving on.
I typically go 2 stages at a time, so I will start at zero then hit 2, then 4, then 6, and so on until my pasta is my desired thickness. It’s amazing to watch it slowly but surely get thinner and thinner.
When I reach stage four for the first time, I stop and fold my pasta up into a nice neat square and start over again at zero. This is called “laminating.” It helps to improve the texture of the dough…and to correct any mistakes. It also neatens it up into a more even shape, which is my favorite thing about it. Feeding wonky ends into the machine is harder than feeding even ends (and it’s prettier, too).
You can laminate the dough more than once, but I usually just do it once unless I need to correct a problem.
You may find at some point that your pasta gets folded in on itself as it rolls through the machine. This may create wonky dough or even some holes in your dough. Do not despair — just laminate it again. Working the pasta machine does take a bit of practice, but after a time or two you will get a rhythm going.
When my dough starts to get longer than I can easily handle it, which usually occurs when I hit stage 6, I cut my dough in half. I flour one half to prevent sticking to itself or the counter and set aside. The other half I continue to feed through the machine until it reaches my desired thickness. Occasionally this will get unwieldy as well and I will cut it in half again. I am just not coordinated enough yet to work with a super long pasta dough.
When it reaches my desired thickness, it’s time to cut the noodles. My pasta machine has an option for fettuccine or spaghetti style noodles. When I am making angel hair style, as I did for this recipe, I aim for an 8 or 9 thickness on my pasta. Fettuccine needs a sturdier noodle with a bit more thickness.
As I make noodles, I dust them with flour and twirl them loosely or lay them out and set them aside. I dust them with flour to help prevent sticking, but it is important to continue working quickly so the noodles do not stick to themselves. A pasta drying rack would come much in handy, but I just haven’t gotten around to getting one yet. If I know I will be waiting awhile for the water, I try to lay the noodles out with more air space between them. A slightly too moist dough or hot or humid conditions will make the dough more prone to sticking.
If it does stick together, it can be salvaged — just knead into a ball and start over again. Otherwise make sure those pretties can go in the pot as quickly as possible to avoid the issue.
When all the noodles are complete, separate them gently with your hands and toss them into the boiling water. Swirl around with tongs or a spoon to help separate all of the noodles. I have found that any small clumps will separate easily when they hit the water, but larger ones may not.
Cook until done – this will take only a few minutes, so keep an eye on them and check them frequently so as not to overcook. They will cook faster than dry noodles. Drain the pasta and toss with a bit of olive oil or butter if you are not immediately tossing in sauce.
Now let’s make some garlic oil.
I tried to guesstimate measurements for this, I really did. But I’m just not good at it. I do this so much by feel, and have done it that way for so long, that trying to take measurements seems nigh impossible. So, I will do my best at guessing, but follow your own cooking instincts and tastes to make this sauce to fit your needs.
Heat a healthy amount of olive oil — enough to coat all of your pasta — in a skillet on medium low. Add several cloves of sliced garlic. You may also mince the garlic if you like, but I love the burst of flavor that the caramelized slivers of garlic give when I bite into them. You could also add some chopped shallots or onions as well.
Also add to the skillet a tablespoon or two of coconut aminos and a teaspoon or so of fish sauce. Don’t worry, fish sauce will not make this taste fishy at all (unless you just go overboard with it). It will simply add a wonderful depth of savory flavor. Add red pepper flakes to taste as well — remember these are spicy, so don’t get too generous. Unless you love spice, in which case you can add a dash or sriracha as well. Personally I find that too hot for my tongue.
Simmer the garlic in the olive oil until the garlic is tender and golden brown. Don’t be afraid of some color in that garlic! Caramelized garlic is amazing and will give so much flavor. It is important to allow the oil to simmer not only to cook the garlic, but also to allow the flavors to meld with the oil. Otherwise any bite without garlic will just taste like olive oil on noodles, and that’s no fun.
Once your garlic is done, reduce heat to low. Add the pasta when it is well drained and mix well in the garlic oil until well coated.
Serve immediately while still warm. Top with parmesan cheese if desired. This would also be delicious with shrimp or other seafood. (I’m the only one who eats seafood in my house, so I rarely cook it at home.)
Mmm, so simple and yet so yummy.