Mama mia!

I was always under the impression that egg was necessary for fresh pasta. A quick Google search showed that eggless fresh pasta is actually quite common, ridiculously simple and was a popular way to make pasta during food shortages the World Wars. So, despite my general aversion to things grain-based (other than the odd muffin or two), I had to try it out.

The thing with fresh pasta, I think, is that to really appreciate it you’ve got to keep the sauce simple. In this case the sauce is just olive oil, herbs, asparagus, spinach, pepper and salt. And that worked beautifully. Asparagus happens to be in season, so if it’s not available where you are, just use whatever’s looking good at your local fruit & veg shop. Or whatever vegetables you have in the fridge… broccoli, zucchini, mushrooms, eggplant, tomato… etc. Anything goes well with olive oil, salt and pepper.

Fresh pasta with asparagus and herbs  (serves 2)

The thing with this dough, and it’s the same when making a bread dough, the flour dictates how much water you need. You want the dough to be malleable but not sticking to your hands. Each flour is slightly different, and for this recipe you could use spelt, pastry, wholemeal or some other sort of flour and I’m sure it would work, adjusting the amount of water. I actually added too much water and had to knead in extra flour until it became smooth and not-sticky. So just add a little water at a time until it’s right.

Egg pasta takes just a few minutes to cook in a pot of boiling water, this pasta seems to take just a bit longer, maybe 5 minutes. So have everything else pretty much ready to roll.

Ingredients:

Pasta

  • 165g plain flour
  • a good crack of salt – say 1/2 tsp
  • 1/4-1/2 cup warm water

Sauce

  • a few tbsp olive oil
  • 2 cloves of garlic, sliced
  • a handful of basil, torn
  • a handful of sage, torn
  • 1/2 bunch asparagus, sliced thinly or shaved
  • 1/2 bag baby spinach, torn
  • salt & pepper

Method:

  1. Mix the flour and salt in a bowl, make a well in the middle and slowly mix in water until dough is like Playdough – ie malleable but not sticky.
  2. Knead until the lumps are gone, cover and let sit for 20 minutes.
  3. While that’s waiting, prepare the sauce ingredients.
  4. Shape the pasta. It’s up to you how you shape it, you could roll it out flat and cut fettucini or spaghetti, or I rolled little 1.5cm balls and squished them with my thumb. As you’re shaping the pasta, lay it out on baking paper until you’re ready to cook it.
  5. Heat the oil over a low heat, and add the garlic and herbs.
  6. Bring a pot of salted water to a fast boil, and add the pasta.
  7. Turn the heat up on the oil and add the asparagus, and after a few seconds add the spinach.
  8. As soon as the spinach is half-wilted, remove pan from heat.
  9. Test a piece of pasta to see if it’s done, drain it, toss the sauce through and season.
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