We got a hand-crank pasta maker from Chris’ parents as an engagement gift, and it’s become part of our regular rotation lately. Making homemade pasta is surprisingly easy, and the flavour and texture is amazing. One of the first homemade pasta dishes we made was homemade ricotta and spinach cannelloni. It was delicious, so we thought we’d share the recipe!
You can technically make your own pasta without a pasta maker, but it’s a lot more work. You need to roll out the dough very thin with a rolling pin, and then cut the shapes you want. Certainly doable though, if you’ve got some time on your hands.
Our pasta maker looks like this:
It clamps on to the edge of the counter, and you can roll your dough through the machine to get it nice and thin. You typically want to start on a thicker setting, and then run the dough through multiple times, adjusting the settings to make it thinner with each run through. Your pasta maker will have instructions though, so best to follow what your particular brand suggests.
Moving on to the recipe, like I said, homemade pasta is very easy. The basic recipe we use involves only eggs, flour, and a pinch of salt. We got this recipe from our favourite Italian cookbook, The Silver Spoon.
1 3/4 cups flour
2 eggs, lightly beaten
Pinch of salt
Sift the flour and salt into a mixing bowl. Make a well in the centre and add the eggs. Using your fingers or a fork, gradually incorporate the flour, then knead for about 10 minutes. If the mixture is too soft, add a little extra flour; if it is too firm, add a little water. Shape the dough into a ball and let rest for 15 minutes. We then take the finished dough ball and cut it into about 4 equal chunks, and run them through the pasta machine one at a time, until they’re sufficiently thin (on our machine, we usually roll the pasta out to a thinness of about 2, different machines might have different settings though). The machine will make long narrow sheets (see picture below) of pasta. You can hang these up on a pasta rack (or improvise and hang them over anything clean) until you’re ready to use them. When you’re ready to add the filling, take each sheet and cut square or slightly longer pieces out of it (you can probably visually guestimate this based on pre-made pasta sheets you’ve seen in the store). Assuming you’ve used a pasta machine, the sheets should already be the right width, you just need to cut down the length.
You can make pretty much any filling you want, but my favourite is a simple ricotta filling. If you’re starting your filling, you can probably also start preheating the oven, as it doesn’t take long. Preheat to 350F.
One container of ricotta (475 g)
1/4 cup of parmesan
1 egg beaten
Pinch of nutmeg
Salt and pepper to taste
Handful of chopped spinach
Clove of crushed garlic
Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl, and then put a couple of heaping spoonfuls of filling along one edge of each pasta square, before rolling it up. I would say use your own judgement for how much filling you want in each pasta roll, I don’t really measure, I just improvise.
Put a thin layer of tomato sauce on the bottom of a 9×13 pan, and then put your finished pasta rolls on top (seam side down). You don’t really need to leave space between them, you can fill the pan right up. Once full, pour more sauce over the top (as much as you’d like, but I’d recommend covering the pasta pretty well so it doesn’t dry out). Then grate some mozzarella cheese over the top.
Depending on your oven, I would bake on the middle rack at 350F for 20-25 minutes (just pay attention to make sure it’s not burning or drying out). When it’s done, it should be nice and bubbly. If you want the top browned, you can broil it for the last minute or two, but pay really close attention to it, it will burn quickly on broil if you’re not careful.
Apparently I forgot to take a picture of the finished product (or I accidentally deleted it), but I’m guessing you can more or less imagine what the finished product is supposed to look like (hint: quite similar to any other dish that’s covered in melted cheese). This makes a delicious meal served with some fresh bread, a salad, and some good wine – definitely good enough for company!