On his dad’s side, Danny’s ancestors are from Italy. Sicily, I’m told, and I believe his father still has relatives living there. That’s where the name Valentine comes from of course. Maybe this is where his sudden obsession with getting a pasta maker came from.
The night the Oscars were playing, he decided to make spinach ravioli stuffed with ricotta. Rolled by hand, what were supposed to be little pillows were tough and disappointing for the amount of work required.
A proper pasta machine was needed. That very week he sought one out. First he struck out driving to a Williams-Sonoma store that no longer existed or just couldn’t be found. A couple nights later he found one and came home with a red Imperia pasta maker, a ravioli attachment, and a few beautiful pasta tools. One, a stamp to cut out large medallions of pasta; another to cut clean lines into long sheets of pasta.
Soon the little machine was dusted in flour and so were we.
He didn’t just want to start with linguini or spaghetti. We went right back to that spinach ravioli recipe. He fed the dough into it, and I cranked it through until the dough thinned out more each time. The dough became sheets that were supple and pliable.
Using the proper attachment, you feed two sheets of pasta on either side and scoop some filling into the middle. Turn the handle and watch the pasta and ricotta go down until they come out the other side as a sheet of perfectly pressed ravioli. We made noodles with the leftover dough.
This ravioli was worlds away from the first ravioli. Those first ones were like hockey pucks. These were delicate and eaten with just a fork.
I believed in the pasta maker.
Next we went for a more involved recipe. The April issue of Food & Wine focused on Italy and boasted Mario Batali as its guest editor. A beet gnocchi with walnut-sage butter called our name, but a toasted fazzoletti with chanterelles and hazelnuts shouted it.
You toast part of the flour to give a nutty, sweeter taste to the pasta, which is made up of big, thin squares that fold over themselves like handkerchiefs. Mushrooms are browned and reduced until they soak up vinegar and stock.
We’ve made this toasted fazzoletti three times now, including once for friends over for dinner. Making pasta like this is certainly what you’d call a labor of love. It’s for a Saturday when you don’t really have plans. You need a lot of counter space or a cleared dining table to set out your pasta sheets and then your pasta squares.
Make the pasta ahead and freeze it if you’d like to split up the tasks. After the pasta is rolled, cut out, and rested, then you just have to cook the mushrooms and boil the pasta for about 3 minutes. Then toss the pasta in the skillet with the mushrooms and open a bottle of wine. Something fruit-forward yet earthy, according to the magazine. Last time, I paired the pasta with a Rhone blend of Syrah, Grenache, and Mourvèdre. I love Rhone wines.
Use any mushrooms you like. Chanterelles are great, but they can be expensive and hard to find. We’ve used a combination of crimini and other shrooms a couple times, and most recently all white button mushrooms. Each way was delicious.
We’re still getting to know this little machine, but we’ve had some success. I can’t wait to see what else we can do with it.
toasted fazzoletti with chanterelles and hazelnuts
This is a nutty and earth pasta dish with plenty of flavor built up from the mushrooms. Chanterelles are called for, but you can use any combination you’d like. Even common white button mushrooms will brown into something delicious.
1/2 cup hazelnuts
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 pound chanterelle or other mushrooms, thickly sliced
1 large shallot, minced
1 tablespoon chopped thyme
pinch of crushed red pepper
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
1 cup chicken stock
3/4 pound fresh toasted fazzoletti
1/4 cup snipped chives
Heat the oven to 375°F. Spread the hazelnuts on a baking sheet and toast until the skins split and the nuts are fragrant, 10 to 12 minutes. Transfer the nuts to a kitchen towel and rub off the skins. Coarsely chop the nuts.
Meanwhile, cook 4 tablespoons butter over moderate heat in a large, deep skillet until lightly browned, 3 minutes. Stir in the mushrooms and season with salt and black pepper; cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally until all of the liquid evaporates and the mushrooms are golden, about 8 minutes. Add the shallot, thyme, and crushed red pepper; cook over medium-high heat for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the vinegar and cook until evaporated, stirring and scraping up any browned bits at the bottom of the skillet. Add the stock and simmer until reduced by half, 10 minutes.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook fazzoletti until al dente, about 3 minutes. Drain the pasta and add to the skillet with the mushrooms along with the remaining 2 tablespoons butter. Cook over medium heat, stirring until the pasta is coated with butter, about 2 minutes. Stir in the chives and hazelnuts, reserving some of both to garnish individual servings.
Serves 6. Recipe from Food & Wine.
fresh toasted fazzoletti
This pasta can be made ahead. Spread the uncooked fazzoletti on a baking sheet and freeze; then store in a resealable plastic bag.
3 cups durum wheat flour, plus more for dusting
5 large eggs
1/3 cup milk
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Heat the oven to 375°F. Spread 1 cup of flour on a baking sheet and toast until fragrant and the color of honey, stirring once, 15 to 20 minutes. Let cool.
In a food processor, combine the toasted flour with the remaining 2 cups of flour and pulse to combine. Add the eggs, milk, and salt, and blend until the dough comes together; turn out onto a floured work surface and knead 2 or 3 times to form a soft dough. Wrap the dough in plastic and let stand at room temperature for 2 hours.
Cut the dough into 4 equal pieces. Using a pasta machine on the thickest setting, run 1 piece of dough through the machine, dusting with flour. Fold the dough in thirds and run it through the machine at the same setting. Continue to run the dough on successively thinner settings until reaching the second to last setting. Dust the dough with flour and drape over a floured work surface while repeating the previous steps with the remaining pieces of dough. Cut the thinned-out pasta sheets into 2-inch squares and dust lightly with flour. Let the squares stand at room temperature for 1 hour.
Makes 1 1/2 pounds of pasta. Adapted from Food & Wine.