Dinner, Faster

Homemade Pasta on a Weeknight: It's Possible (& As Easy as Boiling the Boxed Stuff)

May 18, 2017

Fresh pasta is a staple in both my home kitchen and our restaurant kitchens. While there are some pasta shapes and sauces that have become classics in the restaurants—like the Prune-Stuffed Gnocchi at No. 9 Park or the Tagliatelle Bolognese at The Butcher Shop and Sportello—at home, I prefer to cook from the hip based on whatever I have in the fridge and pantry during cooler months and from my garden in warmer weather.

Here’s how to integrate fresh pasta into your weeknight cooking:

Transform your pasta dough with a few easy additions and substitutions.
These are some of my favorites that I do my pasta dough (here's a not-recipe to guide yours):
- Fresh lemon zest, add to the water
- Nut flours: hazelnut, almond, chestnut, subbing out for some of the flour
- Red wine: subbing out for the water
- Spices: Saffron, cayenne, smoked paprika, add to the flours
- Chopped herbs: basil, chives, tarragon, add to the water
- Pureed vegetables: beets, spinach, garlic, substitute for the water
- Dried mushrooms or chopped canned truffles, add to the water
- Squid ink, add a couple drops to the water
- Cocoa powder, add to the flour

Make fresh pasta dough to use for one meal, freeze the rest for later meals.
If you wish to cut and shape the pasta before you freeze, once it’s shaped, lay the pasta out on a tray that is well dusted with semolina. Allow the pasta to freeze thoroughly for 2 to 3 hours. Transfer to freezer bag or container, removing as much air as possible without crushing your pasta shapes, and seal well. Store in the freezer up to a month. When ready to use, simply add the frozen pasta directly to boiling water. Fresh frozen pasta cooks much more quickly than dried pasta—it will take 3 to 5 minutes to cook, depending on the pasta shape.

If you’re freezing the dough, form it into a ball, lightly dust with all-purpose flour and place in a freezer bag. Try to remove as much air as possible and seal tightly to keep the dough from drying out. If you don’t think you will use all the pasta dough at once, divide into several smaller dough balls and freeze them individually. The dough thaws best in the refrigerator in 6 to 8 hours, but you can thaw at room temperature for 2 hours.

If you’re not going to use all of your freshly-made pasta, you can also refrigerate it for up to 2 days.

Have an easy sauce recipe in your back pocket (like mine).
Making a quick sauce with whatever vegetables you have around is incredibly easy and satisfying, and there’s a fairly easy formula for it as well. Start by sautéing some garlic, or shallot, or both, add chopped vegetables, a liquid (like broth or water), some red chili flakes, and let the flavors simmer and come together. Toss with your pasta and season with a nice salt such as fleur de sel. If you have fresh herbs, add them. If you have a nice cheese, shave it on top.

Simplify, and use what you have in the fridge.

You can still create a sophisticated dish with just a few ingredients. I love to experiment with using ingredients in unusual ways—such as lettuce in a pasta sauce, or roasting watermelon to create a more savory flavor.

more inspiration for your new life with handmade pasta

Barbara Lynch is our first guest chef in residence—catch up on her other entries here, and check out her memoir, Out of Line.

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A New Way to Dinner, co-authored by Food52's founders Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs, is an indispensable playbook for stress-free meal-planning (hint: cook foundational dishes on the weekend and mix and match ‘em through the week).

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  • Maya LZ
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  • Nancy
James Beard Award winner and Relais & Châteaux Grand Chef


Maya L. May 18, 2017
Love this!
Nancy May 21, 2017
Me too!
One of those non-recipe game plans to keep in mind...