Category Archives: pasta

Pasta Shaping Workshop


A couple of weeks ago I decided to arrange a pasta shaping workshop with a couple of friends. The workshop was a good excuse to get loads of pasta done and at the same time have some wine with friends. When it comes to pasta shaping, I’m a total beginner.


We made three different types, casarecce, cavatelli and busiati. The cavatelli was our favorite. It was fun and easy to do. And we made them on top of a sushi mat to created a striped pretty patterns (not shown in the illustration but you can watch this video). I also enjoyed making the casarecce, especially when they came out really small and thin. The busiati shape was the hardest and honestly we only made a few.
It was trickier than I thought especially when you want the pasta to be thin and not too thick. However I think in the end we did really well, but to master it, I will need loads of practice!


My friends brought an excellent Sicilian pesto with roasted eggplants. It worked really well with the cavatelli and busiati. For the cararecce I had prepared a spinach cheese sauce. To the meal we also made a tomato salad with roasted peppers. For dessert we had local (Brooklyn) Italian style ice cream topped with my homemade chocolate sauce. It was an excellent dinner.

To arrange your own pasta shaping workshop you will need…

• a pasta dough (that you can prepare in advance)*
• extra flour (all-purpose or semolina)
• a few bbq sticks (or something similar, they can even be a little thicker)
• a sushi mat (if you want the cavatelli or other shapes to have a pattern)
• rolling pin (we didn’t need to use it but can be handy for other shapes)
• something to drink while shaping (i suggest Prosecco)
• some antipasti to nibble while working: e.g salami, prosciutto, olives, pecorino, bread
• 1 – 2 different pasta sauces that can be prepared before hand
• suitable wine to serve to the final meal (or what you would like to drink)
• a salad
• something sweet to end the meal

*The pasta dough recipe I use is by Clotilde Dusoulier. Its very clever and easy to make. You just measure the eggs, take the same weight in flour and add 1/2 the weight in semolina (plus a little salt). I love it an it tastes exactly how I want it.  Clotilde’s recipe is based on Michael Ruhlman’s 2 parts egg to 3 parts flour pasta dough ratio.


The Geometry of Pasta, the site & the book
Pasta Shapes Dictionary

Four-Cheese Ravioli with Tomato Sauce by Stephane Lemagnen
Spinach Lasagna by kokblog
Chicken Gnocchi by Emiko Davis
Spaghetti Carbonara recipe (with white wine) by Amateur Gourmet
Pasta – story by Jamie Schler and recipe & photographs by Ilva Beretta

How to shape casarecce by Michela De Filio
Shaping busiati
Hand-Pulled Chinese Noodles by New York Times
Rolling out pasta with a rolling pin video by Michael Ruhlman

Fresh Tomatoes for Pasta

One of the best things about summer are the variety of fresh tomatoes that are available at the food markets right now. My favorite tomato is the local Beefsteak tomato. The may look ugly but the taste is rich and flavorful.

I can’t get enough of them so I eat tomatoes almost every day, preferably with just a simple vinaigrette on a slice of homemade sourdough bread topped with mozzarella. The tomatoes are also great in a watermelon salad with feta cheese. Another of my recent favorites is a tomato salad with red onions, celery and middle eastern string cheese. The string cheese is often spiced with black cumin (Nigella sativa) which gives this pleasant cheese an interesting flavor.

As an appetizer, a fresh tomato salsa, spiced with cilantro, chili and garlic is never wrong. If I’m starving and too lazy in the summer heat I turn pretty much the same thing into a cool tomato sauce for pasta.

Fresh Tomato Sauce
(serves two persons)

2 large tomatoes
½ red onion
Fresh chili pepper (amount depends on how spicy you want it)
Plenty of chopped fresh basil
2 garlic cloves
1 tablespoon champagne vinegar *
3 tablespoons olive oil
A dash of lime juice
One teaspoon mustard
Salt & pepper
Honey (optional)

Topping (suggestions)
Freshly grated Parmesan
Toasted sunflower seeds

Wash the tomatoes and chop them into smaller pieces. Chop the onion and the chili (adjust the strength to your own liking) into tiny tiny bits and pieces. Rinse the basil and chop the leaves roughly. Place all the prepared ingredients in a bowl and squeeze in 1-2 garlic cloves. Mix together vinegar, olive oil and mustard. Season with lime juice, salt & pepper. If you like you can also add some honey to the dressing but if you are using a sweeter mustard that may not be necessary.

Serve this cold tomato sauce on your favorite pasta topped with freshly grated parmesan and toasted sunflower seeds.

* It works perfectly well with other kinds of vinegar such as balsamic, apple cider or white whine vinegar.

This article was originally published at EcoSalon, August 21 2012 

See related recipe, Tomato sauce


Four-Cheese Ravioli with Tomato Sauce (by Stephane Lemagnen)

One small reason I draw my food is that my cooking results will probably never look as good as Stephane Lemagnen’s creations. It’s silly of me to compare (and I’m not really trying), as Stephane happens to be a well trained chef. On his site Zen Can Cook he shows mouth watering examples of his ability. If you visit the site you’ll also notice that his photography skills aren’t bad either. His cooking and recipes are creative and a great inspiration for many other cooks all over the world. Even if his creations look complicated most of the recipes are easy to follow and can be cooked in a regularly equipped kitchen like mine. My aquavit pork buns were created based on Stephane’s way to cure pork belly.

Stephane grew up in Gascony, France and trained as a cook in the Pays Basque and Paris. In 2006 he opened the avant-garde dessert bar, Room 4 Dessert here in New York City where he offered modern cuisine in the form of a dessert tasting menu. Today, Stephane works as a full time private chef for a well known (secret) client. Lucky them! Recently Stephane started Zenspotting, a space for chefs and serious amateur cooks to publish their photos with links to interesting recipes. I’m flattered to be part of it.

Stephane and I met through twitter two years ago. Ever since then we have had great and inspiring exchanges by email or tweets. I’m happy to host Stephane and I’m really happy how this simple cheese ravioli turned out. Enjoy.

Four-Cheese Ravioli with Tomato Sauce
by Stephane Lemagnen

I’m thrilled to see one of my recipes come to life through Johanna’s illustrations. I have admired her work for a numbers of years now and always loved her recipes and her artistic way of explaining how things are done. And it’s even better with a glass of aquavit! Kokblog is clever, delicious and visually pleasing and it made me wish I stuck with those art classes in 5th grade.

Ravioli are also clever and delicious little morsels of happiness, and for me they are at their best when left simple. An oozy, cheesy filling in a soft envelop of pasta with a tomato sauce flavored with hints of fresh basil is often all you need to put a smile on people’s face. And it’s as easy as… the illustrations. Drawing, in fact, is much harder than ravioli-making and eating them is definitely easier than both. They can be enjoyed right away, or made in batches and frozen for future use which makes them great little discoveries to be made in your freezer.

for the pasta dough

3 cups all-purpose or “00″ flour, plus more for dusting work surface
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 whole eggs
4 yolks
2 tablespoons olive oil

for the cheese filling

8 ounces ricotta (drained)
4 ounces Montasio cheese (grated)
4 ounces Gorgonzola (crumbled)
4 ounces Italian Fontina cheese (grated)
1 egg
½ cup basil leaves, chopped
salt and pepper

to finish

Tomato sauce

for the pasta dough

Combine the flour, the salt, the eggs, yolks and olive oil in a Kitchenaid bowl and combine on low speed using the dough hook (this also could be done by hand in a large bowl). Increase the speed until you get a rough dough. This should take 1 or 2 minutes.
When the mixture comes together transfer to a floured clean surface and knead the dough, turning the inside-out, until you obtain a dough that’s smooth on the outside, adding flour every time the dough starts to feel sticky. The whole process should take less than 5 minutes. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and let it rest in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours, or overnight.

Take the dough out from the fridge and place it on a floured surface. Cut it in 4 equal pieces. With a rolling pin make rectangle with the pieces of dough, so that they fit inside the pasta machine. Start rolling pasta sheets on the thickest setting and cut in half (so it doesn’t get too long). Keep rolling reducing the setting every time.
You should be able to see your hand through the pasta sheets when you have reached the right thickness. You want it thin but not so thin that it becomes fragile.

Make an egg wash by beating an egg with a tablespoon of water. Cut sheets of pasta so they have about the same length and lay them on a floured surface.

Pipe little mounds of stuffing on the pasta sheets. Brush the edges and the middle sections with egg wash. Cover with another sheet of pasta. Seal with your fingers and push out any air pockets. Use the back of a pastry cutter the size of the mounds to seal each ravioli. Now use a pasta cutter or pastry cutter to portion the raviolis. Reserve on a single layer on a tray dusted with semolina flour.

for the filling

Combine all the ingredients by hand, or in a food processor. Season to taste. Place in a pastry bag with a round 1/2 inch tip.

to finish

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Drop the ravioli in the water and cook until they come back to the surface. About 5 minutes. Drain them and toss with tomato sauce. Garnish with basil.

for the tomato sauce

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 28 oz. can San Marzano whole peeled tomatoes, including the juice, (or in season 1 3/4 pound of fresh tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and chopped)
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 large pinch of sugar
1 pinch hot pepper flakes
fresh basil leaves

Heat the olive oil in a saucepan. Add the chopped onion and stir to coat. Reduce the heat to low and let it cook for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring occasionally until soft and translucent. Meanwhile, place the tomatoes in a bowl and crush them with your hands or using a potato masher. Add the garlic to the cooked onions and cook for a minute more. Add the tomatoes, including the juice, a few leaves of basil, the tomato paste and pinch of sugar. Season with salt and pepper and bring to a very low simmer. Cook for 15 to 20 minutes more, stirring occasionally, until it gets thicker. Remove from the heat, if you want you can blend the sauce for a few seconds for a smooth consistency.

Here are some other Ravioli recipes by Stephane:

Veal Ravioli with Culatello, Radiccio, Chanterelles & Sage
Langoustine Ravioli with Citrus-Coconut Sauce, Thai “Bird’s Eye” Chili & Fava Beans
Five-Herb Ravioli with Chanterelles, Roasted Tomato Coulis and Basil Oil

More ravioli reads on Kokblog, Duck Egg Raviolo
Pasta Shaping Work Shop on kokblog

Spätzle – German Egg Noodles

Årsta fältet, a flat field in a suburb of Stockholm, may not be the most exotic place to visit in the capital city of Sweden. But somewhere in that field I had one of my most peculiar food memories ever. It was there I ate spätzle (or maybe it was Hungarian nokedli) for the first time in my life. The spätzle was served with a rich goulash that we made in a hanging cast-iron pot over an open fire. This is that kind of moment that is hard to recreate.

The goulash was amazing but it was the spätzle that won my heart. Since then I’ve been treated to spätzle again and again and I love it as much every single time. However not many cooks have been able to share their recipe as they cook it by instinct without any instructions. Fair enough, I just had to start figuring out my own way.

I started by playing around with different recipes I found online. The result was often not that great which probably had more to do with the choice of flour than the recipe. I discovered that, for example, pastry flour (why use that in the first place?) made the batter taste really floury in an unpleasant way. I also tried adding fresh grated potatoes but then it became halušky (potato noodles). At some point I gave up and started to use just regular wheat flour. The result made me very happy and pleased!

Recently I followed Steen Hanssen’s recommendation to use dinkelmehl (spelt flour). The spätzle became darker and had a slight nutty taste. I liked it.

for the batter
(2-3 people)

3 eggs (depending on size)
¼ cup of lukewarm water
about 1¼  cups of spelt flour or regular flour
pinch of salt
some freshly grated nutmeg
a couple of tablespoons of butter

Heat up some water until its just lukewarm. Mix together eggs, water, nutmeg and a pinch of salt. Gradually start adding flour, little by little. Make sure to avoid creating lumps. The dough has got enough flour when its a little stretchy and easily falls off you spatula without breaking. If you get the dough too stiff, just add some more water. Let the dough rest for about half an hour.

There are many different ways to “form” the spätzle and its probably very individual which method you may prefer. I have tried some techniques with more or less success. I think using a spätzle lid is the easiest and my kitchen doesn’t ends up in a mess (see image above).

Heat up some salted water in a large pot that will fit the spätzle lid nicely (see below for other methods). Bring the water to a boil. Lower the heat. Place the lid on top of the pot and add ¼ of the dough on top. Start to press the dough down with a spatula (often comes w/ the lid). Stir around the spätzle a little so they don’t stick together. The spätzle are done after about 2-3 minutes when they float up to the surface. Use a skimming ladle to fish them up. Repeat above steps until the dough is finished. Adjust the heat if necessary. Add some melted butter to the spätzle so they don’t stick together.

Serve the  spätzle with a rich goulash, creamy mushrooms or baked in the oven topped with cheese.

Other methods (and there are more)
Another technique is to use a pasta strainer, preferably those with larger wholes. My stainless steel strainer worked fine, even if it was a little clumsy, the spätzle came out pretty nice, tiny and delicate! Just let the strainer rest at an angle on the edge of the pot (see image above) and use a soft spatula to press down the batter through the holes into the hot water.

If you want larger spätzle you can use a smaller chopping board and a chef knife or a bench scraper. Place one batch of dough on the chopping board and let it rest at an angle at the edge of the pot. Start to cut small pieces of the dough right into the boiling water. It worked okay and probably would be better with practice.

Recipe and drawings was originally published at EcoSalon, on 11 March 2012

Tomato Sauce (diagram)

For this tomato sauce you can either use fresh or canned tomatoes. If you use canned tomatoes I recommend that you to buy a good quality brand.  There are so many bad canned tomatoes out there, they should be banned. Here are some of my favorites: Muir Glen Fire Roasted Tomatoes, Mutti Cherry Tomatoes and the Swedish brand Willy’s Cherry Tomatoes or their organic whole tomatoes (only sold in Sweden).

This ancho rich tomato sauce is fantastic with pasta, especially with mozzarella and basil. Topped with cilantro it’s perfect for tacos and black beans. I often use either version instead of ketchup for sausages. Its definitely not the same thing but I kind of prefer it.

Also check out recipe for Fresh Tomato Pasta