This is a dish I love to turn to when the weather begins to cool and I start to crave richer fare. There is something magical about the combination of the silky soft noodles, the creamy sauce, and the little crunch of the nuts. I would never insist that a cook only use freshly made pasta all the time. In fact, there are many sauces where I believe good quality dried pasta works far better than fresh pasta. In the case of this dish, however, I only ever make this with fresh pappardelle; indeed, this might be my favorite reason to make pasta at home.
This is adapted from a recipe that was featured on Chef Steps, tuned and adjusted after making it a bunch of times. The original recipe called for serving this with a poached egg on top, which I tried the first time I made it. Surprisingly—since I love topping pasta with eggs—I found the egg unnecessary and a little distracting. There is plenty richness with the creamy hazelnut sauce and egg pasta.
Served in larger quantities with a salad, this makes a very satisfying meal. Served in smaller quantities, it makes an absolutely stellar first course.
For the Pappardelle
water, as needed (see instructions)
baking soda (if you have un-skinned hazelnuts)
fresh thyme, chopped
salt and freshly ground pepper
freshly grated parmesan cheese (or more to taste)
The pasta recipe can be adjusted as you see fit: measure your moist ingredients into a liquid measuring cup. You should have 7oz total. If you have less, you can add moisture by adding more egg or some cold water. As long as your mixture of moist ingredients includes 2 tablespoons of olive oil, a couple eggs, and totals 7oz, it should turn out well. Put all the ingredients in a food processor, pulse until just combined. Turn out onto a floured surface and knead a few times until the dough is smooth. Wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least a half hour.
While the pasta dough rests, prep the hazelnuts. If you can find skinned hazelnuts, you are in luck! If you can’t, here’s how to skin them: bring a pot of water to a boil, add the hazelnuts, and add 3 tablespoons baking soda. The water will bubble dramatically and turn an ominous shade of black. Let boil for 2 minutes while you prepare an ice bath. Drain the hazelnuts and plunge into the ice bath. Then, drain them and tip them onto a clean dishcloth. Rub them vigorously with the dishcloth. Most of the skins will rub off easily. A few stubborn nuts will demand individual attention.
After the hazelnuts are skinned, heat the oven to 300 degrees and roast the hazelnuts for 30-35 minutes, until they take on a nice golden color. Keep an eye on them: they might take longer or shorter. After they are done, let cool slightly and then, using food processor, pulse until you have a nice mix of larger crumbs and some finer powder. The mix of sizes is good.
While the nuts roast, return to the pasta: divide the dough into four pieces, keeping the pieces you aren’t working with covered. Have flour on hand: as you work the pasta, dust with a little flour anytime the pasta begins to seem sticky. Flatten each quarter into a small round, and send through your pasta maker, set to 0. Fold in half, and repeat. Turn the pasta machine to 1; fold the dough in thirds, and send through; refold and repeat, 6 times, so that the pasta is well kneaded. Always send the fatter side through first to keep the dough roughly even.
Now the really fun part: set the machine to 3 and send the dough through unfolded. Dust with flour, set the machine to 5, send through; continue this way, skipping numbers, until you get to 7 or 8, depending on how thin you prefer your pasta.
Once rolled out to the desired thinness, dust with flour and fold in half, and then in quarters. Using a sharp knife, cut the long way into wide pappadelle noodles. There might be some irregularities: it is okay. Unfold the pasta and either hang the noodles, or make small nests. Be sure to keep everything well dusted with flour so that things do not stick. Repeat with each piece of the dough.
Bring a large pot of generously salted water to a boil. In a medium-sized saucepan (large enough to hold all of the pasta eventually), heat the olive oil and add the chopped hazelnuts and a large pinch of salt, a little freshly ground pepper, and cook for two or so minutes, until the nuts are fragrant. Be careful not to burn them. Add the cream and lower the heat and simmer until it thickens, stirring frequently. When it begins to thicken, add the fresh thyme.
Meanwhile, cook the fresh pasta. It will cook extremely quickly—around 3 minutes. Drain the pasta, add it to the saucepan, and toss everything to combine and coat the noodles. Plate the pasta individually and sprinkle fresh grated parmesan cheese on each plate and some fresh ground black pepper.