In Italy I had so many wonderful pasta dishes (especially in the town of Sorrento) and was inspired to make fresh pasta myself. I've made fresh pasta in the past, but I haven't taken a lot of time and care with it so it's never been spectacular. I decided to try a little harder this time and set my sights on ravioli. This was a first for me, and it initially tried my patience. The problem began when I drafted a fairly long list of cooking projects to accomplish on Labor Day. I have few days off work (excepting weekends) and even less time entirely to myself (Charlie had to work on Labor Day) so I decided that I must maximize my alone time and fill it with projects. That's all well and good except that I wasn't really in a cooking mood on Labor Day. When I realized that I should have hung up my hat, settled in for some reading, and saved the projects for another day. Instead, I decided to push myself, and my fun projects turned into a list of chores. This rarely happens to me because I really do love to cook, but this time it did and that's unfortunate.
I started the day's (newly-turned) chores by heading to the farmers market. There I found these beauties. The one on the left is called a sweet dumpling squash and the one on the right is a calabaza. Aren't they gorgeous?!
I took them home, split them, and removed the seeds. They smelled so sweet and good.
I then rubbed them with a little olive oil, placed them face-down on a baking sheet, and roasted them at 400 degrees F for about 45 minutes. Once they cooled I scooped out the flesh, mixed it together, and smushed it with the back of a wooden spoon.
That didn't give me quite the consistency I wanted (too chunky) so I popped it into my food processor and pulsed a few times. I ended up with a beautiful, orange, pumpkiny puree. A sprinkling of salt, pepper, and a splash of olive oil gave it a little more oomph.
I took my lovely pumpkin puree and added about a cup of whole milk ricotta and 8 ounces of crumbly goat cheese then stirred it all up. It was chunky, packed with the fall flavor I was looking for, and super tasty! I couldn't stop eating it by itself! (The photo below isn't beautiful, but the filling was actually sort of pretty in a rustic way.)
At this point I was pleased with what I'd created but was still dragging my feet a bit. The task of making fresh pasta felt overwhelming, but I pulled out my ingredients, cleared a spot on my kitchen table, and got started anyway.
Almost every recipe I've read for fresh pasta (in small batches) calls for 3 1/2 cups of flour and 5 large eggs. This never seems to work for me. For some reason whenever I use 3 1/2 cups of flour I end up with a pasta that's too dry so I tend to use only 3 cups up flour (and 5 large eggs). If making pasta at home you might try it with 3 1/2 cups of flour, as that seems to work for everyone except me. If yours is also too dry then toss it out (there's no saving a bad batch as far as I'm concerned) and try my way.
A word on ingredients: I like to use oo flour for making pasta. It's almost always imported from Italy and is ground so finely that it feels like baby powder. This makes for a really silky pasta that's super light. I buy my oo flour at the Dekalb Farmer's Market (just outside Atlanta), but it can also be found in gourmet food shops, Whole Foods, and Fresh Market. If you're unable to find oo flour (or want to go a less expensive route) all-purpose will also do the trick.
Okay, so the first step to making fresh pasta is dumping the flour on a large work space in a mound. Then, use your (freshly washed) hands to create a well in the middle of the flour. It should look like a volcano with an extra wide mouth. Like this:
Crack the eggs into the well, taking care not to let them escape!
Slowly and carefully pinch the yolks apart with your thumb and forefinger. You want to break the membrane that surrounds the yolks so they will flow into the whites of the eggs. As soon as you've accomplished that (it's kind of fun), start pulling little bits of flour into the eggs. Do so carefully so the eggs don't leave the well. Slowly incorporate more and more flour into the eggs until you have a dough that is able to hold itself together. Form it into a ball and begin kneading, pulling any remaining flour into the ball of dough.