There is something so special about making your own pasta: the perfect rhythm required to knead out the dough, the exertion of rolling it out, and the concentration required to cut the pasta in perfect strips, all attest to the love & dedication that goes into making a single dish.
For my birthday this year, my best friends bought me an Imperia pasta machine. I was so excited to play with my shiny new toy but when I pulled it out of the box ( I'm a little embarrassed to admit this) I had no idea how to work the thing! My first attempt was a disaster; lets just say there was flour all of the floors and the dough was a clumpy mess. Disappointed, I packed up the machine, stored it in my cupboard, and haven't touched it since.
To much of my surprise, you can only imagine how happy I was when I received an email from the Natural Gourmet Institute inviting me to one of their public cooking classes. Of course, I jumped on the opportunity to take a lesson in fresh pasta making. Natural Gourmet Institute, located in New York City, offers a variety of public cooking classes in food that’s not only good to eat, but also good for you. Indeed, this school’s motto is “better eating, better world." We even used whole wheat flour in the pasta dough and I was very thrilled to see that all dairy products used were organic.
We prepared 5 different types of pasta; pappardelle, ravioli, gnocchi, pizzocheeri, and cavatelli. Each student was paired with someone in the class and instructed to make different parts of each dish. Paul and I stuck with the Cavatelli, which was a beautiful dish made with roasted plum tomatoes, extra-virgin olive oil, toasted pine nuts, arugula, and finished with freshly grated pecorino romano cheese. Honestly, it was to die for! I'm still dreaming about it.
The Natural Gourmet Institute for Health and Culinary Arts is a fantastic resource for anyone who is interested in healthy eating and wants to learn easy cooking techniques. Chef Richard was an amazing and informative instructor! He even showed us how to make homemade ricotta (which is super easy to make by the way) and gave us a few fun facts on its origin. Did you know that Ricotta is not actually a cheese but a creamy curd? The curd is literally cooked twice hence the name "ricotta," meaning re-cooked.
I had a blast cooking with The Natural Gourmet Institute and can confidently whip out my pasta machine again! The school also offers a variety of healthy cooking classes, specifically raw vegan, Ayurveda, macrobiotics, and gluten-free classes. If you are looking for something fun to do this weekend, check out the schedule here!
MENU FROM CLASS:
Saffron Pappardelle With Mushroom Ragu
Ricotta-Filled Ravioli With Walnut-Pine Nut Sauce
Rye Gnocchi With Sage Butter
Pizzoccheri Ala Valtellina ( Buckwheat Pasta With Cabbage And Potatoes)
Cavatelli With Roasted Tomato And Arugula
Mixed Greens With Balsamic Vinaigrette
RECIPE: Cavatelli with roasted tomatoes, arugula, pine nuts, and parmesan.
For The Pasta:
- 1 1/2 cups "00" flour
- 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 1/2 cup fresh ricotta cheese
- semolina flour for dusting sheet pan
For The Sauce:
- 12 organic plum tomatoes ( about 1 1/12 lb.), sliced into quarters
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 3 sprigs thyme leaves
- Salt and black pepper to taste
- 2 Bunches arugula, washed
- 1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
- 1/4 cup grated parmesan
- Pasta: Mix the flours and salt. Pass through strainer onto a work surface. Make a well and add beaten eggs and ricotta. Slowly incorporate egg and cheese mixture until a smooth dough forms. Knead for 5 minutes, place in bowl to rest for about 30 minutes. ( Do not refrigerate dough).
- Divide dough into four pieces. Roll out into a cord. Cut off pieces about 1 inch each. Make into gnocchi shape and curl into cavatelli shape with bench scraper or butter knife. If using machine, pass cords through pasta machine. Set aside on sheet pan sprinkled with semolina.
- Sauce: Preheat oven to 350 F. Place tomatoes on a sheet pan with olive oil thyme, salt & pepper. Roast until they start to release the juice and gain some color. Set aside.
- Roughly chop the arugula and toss with the toasted pine nuts.
- Cook cavatelli in boiling, heavily salted water ( the pasta water should taste like a tear drop) for 1-2 minutes. Toss with tomatoes, arugula, pine nuts, and a tiny bit of pasta water. Top with parmesan.
Recipe: Richard LaMarita, Natural Gourmet Institute
48 W. 21st St., 2nd floor New York, NY 10010