Herb Handkerchief Pasta & Aubergine Ragu
FOR THE PASTA
1 egg per 100g 00 flour
for 7 people I used 5 eggs and 500g flour, if you are serving just one course you could increase to 1 egg per person.
Sift the flour on to a clean work station and make a wide hole/well in the middle. Crack in the eggs and whisk them with a fork or your fingers. Then gradually start incorporating the flour bit by bit. It takes a bit of time and strength of wrist! Eventually when you have most of the dough incorporated you can use your hands to bring in the rest and word to a firm but smooth dough.
It is a big help to have a dough hook as it is a tough knead but if you don't, you'll have your workout ticked off too. Knead for around12-15 mins by hand, 10 mins by machine. The dough may still feel pretty firm but it will have increased in elasticity. It will become more malleable after its left for the gluten to rest. Leave wrapped or in tupperware to rest for 30-45 mins or overnight in fridge (if doing this, take it out and allow to return to room temperature before rolling). Once it has rested you cut off manageable sized piece at a time, keeping the remainder of dough covered so it doesn't dry out.
Take each piece and use your hands to shape it roughly into a rectangle then start to roll it through the machine, starting on the widest setting. You can use the first few rolls to shape, folding the ends back onto itself to create a neater rectangle. Rolling it back through then moving to the next setting. Roll it 2 or even 3 times through the first few settings then work your way to 1 - the thinnest setting.
Have your herbs, flowers or leaves washed and dried, I used the leaves of cow parsley, garlic mustard, dried cornflower and creeping Charlie. Dill, basil, parsley, dandelion, viola, wild garlic, nasturtium....would all work well - beware of hard herbs or distracting flavours.
When you have your sheet of grade 1 pasta on your bench, arrange a selection herbs over one half of the pasta. Then, like your closing a book, take up the end of the uncovered half of pasta and fold it over the decorated half. Use your hands to press and seal, especially the areas where the herbs are or they'll fall out of place when you pick it up.
Take the pasta machine back a notch, to level 2 and roll your folded pasta through, twice.
Lightly flour both sides and set aside while you work through the rest of the dough.
When you come to cook, bring a large pot of heavily salted water to boil. Then place the sheets in, a couple at time if your pots big enough , (drop them in one by one, and separate with utensil once in if they try come together) and cook for approx 3-4 mins depending on how al dente you like your pasta.
Use tongs to lift out of the water, allow the heat to regain before cooking the rest.
Toss the pasta in butter, a glug of olive oil, salt and pepper and torn basil.
Serve with a spoon of aubergine ragu.
FOR THE RAGU (v)
Serves 5 main or 7 small
3 aubergines peeled, cubed and salted ( leave in colander for 30 mins to drain)
4 shallots, sliced
1 fennel bulb, chopped small
6 medium fresh tomatoes and a squeeze of tom paste
or 1 can tomatoes
1 tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 can or cup of homemade stock or water
2 tbsp chopped parsley
Sweat the shallots, slow and gentle with the seeds in a little oil and season. Add in chopped fennel and cook down gently for 5 mins. In the meantime, pat dry the aubergine with kitchen paper. Turn up the heat and add a splash of oil, adding the aubergine. Toss occasionally to evenly colour, golden brown. Add the tomatoes, bubble for 5 then add the stock stirring to combine, once the stock is simmering, turn the heat down and leave for 5-10, until the sauce has reduced a little and the aubergine and tomato are muddling as one. This sauce can be cooked ahead and left at this stage - when you come to serve or reheat, use a few spoons of pasta water to slacken slightly. Check seasoning, lots of pepper and add fresh chopped parsley. Spoon on to pasta and top with a good grating of parmesan or pecorino.