How To Make Fresh Pasta
One of my favorite springtime dishes of all time is a classic daube of lamb, a Provencal stew made from unctuous lamb slowly simmered in rose with lavender honey until it is impossibly tender. Traditionally daubes are served with something starchy like pasta or gnocchi. In Nice, they often accompany daubes with a dark green gnocchi (Pate Nicoise) that simmers in the stew for the final 30 minutes. The same dough can be rolled out into fresh green pasta instead.
Foraging in Vermont
Lately, I have been finding lots of wild garlic (ramps) on my morning walks with my dog. Endless carpets of ramps and fiddleheads stretch out as far as the eye can see. I like to use the ramp greens to make fresh green pasta. Though if you cannot find any ramps just use baby spinach instead.
The Italy influence on Provence
People are often curious about the Italian influence on Provençal food. When you travel to Nice you notice a lot of Italian dishes like porchetta, pesto (pistou), gnocchi, and ravioli being served. The area surrounding Nice was once part of the Italian Kingdom of Savoy, which traded hands several times before permanently becoming part of France in 1860. The Italian influence has a lot to do with Provence’s isolated location. It was far easier to travel along the coast by boats rather than cross over the rugged mountainous terrain that separated the South from the rest of France. This allowed the Provençal coast to develop its own independent cuisine and culture. The Mediterranean coast did not really open up to the rest of France until the railroads came to Marseille in 1848 and Nice in 1864.
Fresh Green Pasta
prep: 15 minutes; cook: 2 minutes; 4 servings
The beauty of this dough is its versatility; you can shape it into small balls and cook like gnocchi, or roll it out into pasta sheets and make ravioli, cannelloni, or strands of pasta. If you don’t have ramp greens substitute more baby spinach. I like to serve the pasta alongside roasted chickens and stews as much as eaten by itself simply tossed in butter, salt, and grated parmesan.
- 3 ounces ramp greens
- 3 ounces baby spinach
- 2 eggs
- 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
- pinch of fine sea salt
- pinch nutmeg
- 10 ounces all-purpose flour
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a roiling boil. Add the ramps and spinach and cook until wilted, about 2 minutes. Strain the greens out and rinse under cold water. Squeeze as much water out of the greens as possible.
- In a blender, mix the greens, eggs, olive oil. salt, and nutmeg and puree until smooth and green, about 1 minute.
- Combine the blended greens with flour and knead for 7 minutes, or until fully mixed together into a smooth dough. You may need to add a little more flour if the dough is too sticky.
- If making gnocchi, mix in 2 tablespoons of grated parmesan. If rolling into pasta, follow your pasta machine manufacturer’s instructions.
- To cook the pasta, bring a large pot of salted water to a rapid boil. Drop pasta in and cook for 2 minutes. Drain well.
Author Geraldene Holt’s recipe for Pate Nicoise from her excellent book, French Country Kitchen. Too often these days we are faced with celebrity cookbook authors who either have never cooked a single recipe from “their” books or a modern mish-mash of traditional cuisines. In Geraldene’s classic tome “French Country Kitchen” she transports us into her home and surrounding gardens to taste what French people actually eat. French Country Kitchen is so much more than simply a cookbook — it is the Rosetta Stone for those of us who prefer a more simple traditional cuisine. Her words transport us to the sun-drenched landscapes of Provence and Ardeche. Buy this book — You will thank me later.
- 3 ounces spinach
- 3 ounces Swiss chard
- 2 ounces lettuce
- 2 ounces Parmesan (finely grated)
- 10 ounces flour
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 eggs
- Wash the greens well, drain. Shred them all, sprinkle with salt and let sit for 30 minutes. Rinse in cold water, then squeeze completely dry.
- Chop greens very finely. Mix with cheese, flour, oil and eggs, and just a little salt.
- Roll dough out according to your pasta machine’s instructions. Cut into wide noodles, then cook quickly in rapidly boiling, salted water. Toss with butter and serve.