I am a pasta junkie, especially fresh pasta. Whenever I go to an Italian restaurant, I always ask the waitress which pastas are fresh on the menu. Maybe it’s a pappardelle bolognese that will get my eye… or black pepper fettucini with truffles… or even a luxurious spaghetti carbonara. What’s even more special to me is filled fresh pastas–pastas filled with rich meats or seasonal produce and almost always with cheese. Yum yum yum. This dish incorporates all of that and more: gorgeous butternut squash from the farmer’s market, salty and rich pancetta and parmesan, creamy ricotta, sweet and crunchy breadcrumbs, and ribbon-like silky butter sauce.
Despite what cooking shows may try to make you believe, making fresh pasta does take time. I’ve probably made it a dozen times, and while I’ve gotten faster (and less messy), it’s still a multi-hour process–and thus requires multiple posts from me to teach you to make it. It’s also a process that requires your love and patience–if you give the pasta the respect it deserves, it will love you back enormously. Here’s my first post of three to cover this recipe. To start, here’s my step-by-step on making the dough and thinning it to workable sheets for filling.
To make things super easy, I make my pasta in a standing mixer. First, the dry ingredients: 4 cups of all-purpose flour (I like King Arthur Flour), 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, and 5 eggs. With a dough hook, first combine the flour and salt. Add the eggs, one at a time, while the dough continues to mix (on a low setting.) After the eggs are incorporated, the dough will look very crumbly.
Fill a cup with room temperature water. With the dough hook running at low speed, dip your fingers in the water and drizzle the water into the dough. Keep mixing and adding drips of water. Make sure you wait a few seconds after you add a bit of water–the dough stays crumbly for a little while and then suddenly comes together. As soon as a ball starts to take shape, stop the mixer. Notice the crumbly bits at the bottom of the bowl in the picture below–that’s ok. You will incorporate those bits when you start kneading. Take the dough out of the bowl and place on a floured work surface (I like a big cutting board for this–or you can use a clean, floured countertop.)
Once on a floured work surface, add a trace of flour to your hands and start kneading the dough. I find the best way to do this is to simply keep folding the dough back onto itself and pressing down and away from yourself. Keep going until the dough has a nice elastic feel to it (and no crumbly bits remain.) If the dough sticks to your hands or the work surface, add flour. If it feels dry, add sprinkles of water. It’s not a science… it’s art! So have fun with it. After a few minutes, you should have a nice smooth ball of dough. Place back in the mixing bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Allow the dough to rest at least 2 hours (but no more than 6).
Once the dough has rested, remove it from the bowl and cut in half. You will only need 1/2 of this dough recipe to make the butternut squash agnolotti. Feel free to make other pasta shapes with the remaining dough (or freeze for shaping and cutting at a later time.) Take the 1/2 of dough you are using and cut it into 3 equal size wedges.
I have pasta roller & cutter attachments for my Kitchen Aid mixer. If you don’t, that’s ok, you can use a hand crank version instead. I find the Kitchen Aid attachment works beautifully (and saves me from blisters), but it does cost a bit more than the hand crank. Either way, your results will be great.
Set the pasta roller to the widest setting (#1 on my machine) and turn the machine on low. Flatten the wedge of dough in your hands and pat with a little flour. Run the wedge through the machine. Fold the dough back on itself, and run through again. Fold the dough into thirds and turn it 90 degrees (a quarter turn) and run it through the pasta machine 2 to 3 times. If the dough feels sticky or starts to show you little bumps or dimples, dust with flour. Once you have a nice wide sheet, you are ready to move on to #2 on the machine. Run the dough through #2 twice. Move on to #3. Now #4. Finally, finish with #5–run through twice. The pasta sheet will be reallllly long now. When you’re handling the dough, be careful not to use your finger tips, rather, let it rest on the tops of your hands (backs of your palms.) You don’t want to dent the dough with your fingers or nails. Carefully cut the sheet in half–to help with handling. Let the sheets dry on a rack for a few minutes or lay on a floured work surface for filling. DO NOT LET THE SHEETS SIT OUT MORE THAN A FEW MINUTES. If you do, they will dry out and not be elastic–they will break on you. If you need to wait more than a few minutes before filling, keep sheets covered with a damp dish towel.
Butternut Squash Agnolotti with Pancetta, Toasted Breadcrumbs, Parmesan, and Beurre Monte
Part 1: Fresh Pasta Dough
4 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp. salt
As described above.
Use half of the dough for the agnolotti. Reserve the other half for another use.