I’m so glad I didn’t give up on homemade pasta. My first few attempts were equal parts disaster and comedy, as I naively believed it might be as simple as TV chefs made it seem. Don’t get me wrong, it is not difficult to make fresh pasta dough. But unless or until you are a pro with many years experience doing it, I do not recommend the method some of those chefs follow— building up a mountain of flour on a counter and then using your hands to mix in the eggs that are cracked right into the top of the pile. The likely outcome is a big mess, and I am definitely speaking from experience.
Those early failures prompted me to suspend my efforts, and I didn’t have the gumption to try again for a few years, until after I’d purchased my first stand mixer. Let me tell you, a high-sided mixing bowl and the squiggly dough hook attachment make far easier, cleaner work of homemade pasta dough. I was still rolling it out by hand with a wooden rolling pin, which is perfectly acceptable, but when I found my hand-crank pasta machine, I was on my way to making sheets of pasta for homemade linguine and fettuccine. Fast forward another year, and I picked up a three-tray set of ravioli molds, finding my way to all varieties of sweet little pillow pastas, including the handmade spinach ricotta ravioli I shared in another post.
One day, I hope to improve my technique for hand-shaping some of the special pasta, like oricchiette and casarecce. Practice makes perfect, right? There is so much to learn in the world of handmade pasta, and my most recent obsession has been adding big flavor and color to pasta dough through the addition of pureed vegetables and other natural ingredients. This book, Pasta, Pretty Please, by Linda Miller Nicholson has inspired me to try fun new combinations, including beet-infused pasta dough, which is featured in the top left of this color chart in Linda’s book.
You can see that my pasta dough, which was made with roasted beets, has a soft pink color— not the bright magenta hue that Linda makes. I realized too late that Linda uses frozen pureed beets for her pretty pasta. I love that vibrant color she achieves, but you know what? My soft pink, heart-shaped pasta is still perfectly appropriate for Valentine’s Day, and the beets in the dough are good for cardiovascular health, so there’s that. You hardly taste the flavor of the beets, but the nutritional benefit is still in there.
This pasta would be lovely as fettuccine, farfalle or linguine, but I whipped up a quick filling and turned it into ravioli. The filling is a simple, lemon zest-scented ricotta mixture, and to keep the pasta front and center, I topped the ravioli with a simple, browned butter walnut sauce and a last-minute sprinkle of our beloved parm-romano blend.
If you have ever dreamed about making your own pasta at home, my advice is simple— start doing it! You may not get it perfect the first time, and that’s OK. This is one of the most rewarding kitchen adventures and once you get the feel for it, you’ll surprise yourself with the creative ideas that come to you. Every once in a while, you may also get a good laugh, as I did when I realized while rolling this dough that it looked weirdly familiar to me, and not necessarily in a good way. 😂
Thank goodness, it turned out delicious! If you’re interested in purchasing Linda Miller Nicholson’s book, which is filled with instruction for making every color and shape of pasta you could possibly imagine, search for it on Amazon or check at Barnes & Noble.
Handmade Beet Ravioli Hearts
Roasted beets bring a sweetheart color to my homemade pasta. If you've ever wanted to make your own pasta, I hope this inspires you!
- 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup white whole wheat flour
- 1/2 cup fine durum (semolina) flour
- 1/4 tsp. kosher salt
- 1/2 tsp. onion powder
- 4 small beets, roasted and peeled
- 2 egg whites at room temperature
- Combine flours, salt and onion powder in the bowl of a stand mixer.
- Place beets and egg whites in the small insert bowl of a food processor and blend until pureed. Pour through a fine mesh strainer into a measuring cup. Add water if necessary to measure 3/4 cup.
- Pour beet-egg liquid into flour ingredients. Use the dough hook attachment of the stand mixer to blend the liquid into the dry ingredients. Dough should be somewhat shaggy and not quite sticky. Transfer dough to a lightly floured countertop and knead by hand for about 5 minutes until it’s smooth and supple. Shape it into a ball and wrap tightly with plastic wrap. Let it rest at least 30 minutes.
- Roll pasta dough by hand or through pasta machine to thickness about 1/16-inch. If making ravioli, proceed with filling as described below. This pasta dough would also make beautiful fettuccine.
- 1 cup full-fat ricotta, strained to drain off excess moisture
- Zest of one organic lemon
- 1/4 cup grated Parm-romano blend (or Parmesan)
- 3 Tbsp. salted butter
- 1/2 cup walnut pieces, toasted until fragrant
- A few leaves of fresh thyme
- About 2 Tbsp. Parm-Romano blend, for serving
- Combine all ravioli filling ingredients in a small bowl. Refrigerate until ready to fill pasta.
- Lay one sheet of pasta dough on a floured counter. At evenly spaced intervals, place a dollop of ricotta mixture. Using a thin pastry brush or your fingertip, moisten the dough around the ricotta with cold water. Place a second sheet over the sheet with ricotta filling. Gently close the pockets of filling, pushing out as much extra air as possible. Use a pasta cutter or stamp to separate raviolis. Place on a semolina-dusted sheet until ready to cook.
- In a small skillet, heat butter until melted and bubbly. Add walnuts and toss to coat. Continue cooking until butter is browned and very fragrant. Add thyme leaves and remove from heat.