If the thought of making your own pasta from scratch sounds like a daunting task, cook and writer Odette Williams is here to show people it doesn’t have to be. His book Simple pasta: easy pasta. Life made better. releases August 30, and it’s packed with accessible pasta recipes and general cooking wisdom.
“I’ve always loved pasta,” Williams told me. “Every time I eat it, everything in life feels good. It’s my comfort food, my escape, my indulgence. It’s given me endless pleasure. I’ve been truly lucky to have such joyful and delicious food to write about during the pandemic.
In simple pasta, Williams demystifies the process of making pasta from scratch, which she herself never did until she was 40. There are only three basic batters (egg batter, semolina batter, and gnocchi) in the book, two of which don’t even require pasta. machine. The book is divided by season, with tried-and-true everyday sauce recipes plus tips and tricks for rolling, cutting and shaping fresh pasta dough. Of course, you don’t have to make your own pasta to take advantage of Williams’ recipes. Just use your favorite dry pasta.
If you’ve never made pasta, his advice is simple: remember it’s just pasta. “There’s nothing a home cook can’t pull off, and yes, I’ll convince you to make your own pasta,” Williams said. “I’m proof, I had never made fresh pasta until I was 40 (even though I had eaten it almost every night of the week). Now I do it religiously. I wanted to share this pleasure. This book will hopefully be your unlocker without getting overwhelmed. And then for the nights when you don’t have the energy for the cool stuff (I understand) you can always use dry pasta.
Reproduced with permission from simple pasta by Odette Williams, copyright (c) 2022. Published by Ten Speed Press, a division of Penguin Random House, LLC.
Wicked White Bolognese
All my friends love it! White bolognese is a welcome change from the more ubiquitous type of red sauce. If I’m being honest, I find this version has more panache with its chunks of pork, veal, cannellini beans and cream. It goes with just about any form of pasta, fresh or dried, but my favorite is to have it with dried macaroni because each spoonful has equal portions of bolognese and pasta, and I feel like a kid.
Makes 6 servings
5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, or as needed
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 oz pancetta or prosciutto, finely diced
1 tsp celery, finely diced
1 tsp finely diced carrots
1 c yellow onion finely diced
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 lb ground pork
1/2 lb ground veal or beef
1/2 c good dry white wine
1 cup chicken broth
1 can (15 ounces) cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
1 tsp heavy cream
1 cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley, with tender stems and leaves
1/4 cup finely chopped marjoram or thyme
1-2 tablespoons of lemon juice
1 pound dried macaroni
Finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano to serve
In a large, heavy-bottomed skillet or Dutch oven over medium-low heat, combine the olive oil and butter and heat until the butter is melted. Add pancetta, celery, carrot, onion, garlic, bay leaf; season with salt and pepper; and sauté, stirring often, for 20 to 25 minutes. Be sure to cook this soffritto thoroughly to caramelize it. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.
Reduce the heat to medium-high and add the pork, veal and a little oil, if needed, to the pan. Cook the meat, breaking it up with a wooden spoon, until browned, 8 to 10 minutes.
Add the wine to the skillet and deglaze, scraping up the browned bits with a wooden spoon. Simmer for a few minutes, then add the chicken broth, beans, cream, parsley, marjoram and pancetta-soffritto mixture. Reduce heat and simmer 10 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Finally, stir in the lemon juice.
Meanwhile, bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook until al dente, 2 to 3 minutes or according to package directions if store bought. Using a large spider or slotted spoon, transfer the pasta to a large bowl and add a little olive oil to prevent it from sticking.
Serve the pasta topped with Bolognese and grated Parmesan.