I started my cooking career in an Italian restaurant, where pasta hung drying in any spare space. For the home cook, pappardelle must be the easiest handmade pasta. Once you have your dough, all you need is a rolling pin and a knife. The flavour and silky texture of homemade pasta is worth the extra effort, and once you try it a few times you will see it is not so difficult to make pasta for four people. I like to get my boys involved; they love to knead the dough and wind the handle of our small pasta machine. These are available to purchase at most Italian delis.
Pappardelle is a perfect match for meatballs. For a simple option, the squid ink pasta has only a few ingredients: crab, chilli, garlic and wine. What could taste better?
Pappardelle with black cabbage and meatballs
For the pappardelle
200g plain flour
2 free-range eggs
1 tsp extra-virgin olive oil
For the cabbage
100ml extra-virgin olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
2 bunches black cabbage, trimmed, coarsely chopped
For the meatballs
1kg coarsely minced pork shoulder
1 tbsp fine sea salt
1 tbsp finely ground black pepper
1 tbsp dry-roasted fennel seeds
200ml dry white wine
plain flour for dusting
100ml olive oil
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 red chilli, deseeded and finely diced
For the pappardelle, blend ingredients in a food processor until they form a dough, adding more oil, as necessary, to bind. Tip dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth. Roll into a ball and rest in the fridge for 30 minutes. Roll out thinly and cut into 4-centimetre-thick strips.
For braised black cabbage, heat oil in a saucepan over medium heat, add onion and stir occasionally until it starts to caramelise. Add cabbage and stir for 10-12 minutes, or until tender, season to taste and set aside.
Combine pork, salt, pepper, fennel seeds and half the wine in a large bowl. Roll into walnut-sized balls and dust with flour. Heat olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat; add meatballs in batches and cook, shaking pan occasionally, until golden. Each batch should take three to four minutes. Return all meatballs to pan, add garlic and stir for one to two minutes until tender. Add chilli and deglaze pan with remaining wine. Add braised cabbage, toss to combine, season to taste and keep warm. Cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water for three to four minutes until al dente, then drain. Serve the meatballs and cabbage on the pasta with finely grated parmesan and a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil, with crusty bread on the side.
Squid ink fettuccine with crab and chilli
400g squid ink fettuccine
3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 red chilli, deseeded and chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
100ml white wine
1 whole cooked crab, picked, or
300g blue swimmer crabmeat
large handful flat-leaf parsley, very finely chopped
Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil and add the fettuccine. When cooked, it should still have a slight bite. While the pasta cooks, gently heat olive oil with the chilli and garlic in a pan large enough to hold all the pasta comfortably. Cook chilli and garlic gently until it starts to sizzle, then turn up heat and add the white wine. Simmer until the wine and oil come together. Remove from heat and add 80 grams of the crabmeat, using a wooden spatula or spoon to mash it into the oil to make a thick sauce. Place the sauce on a very low heat. Strain pasta, keeping a small amount of water, then add pasta to sauce. Remove mix from heat and add the remaining crabmeat and parsley to pasta with a sprinkling of sea salt. Stir everything together and serve immediately with a lemon wedge.
Always salt the water when cooking pasta. I was once told it should taste like the Mediterranean Sea, but I like to think of it as the Pacific Ocean.