Fresh pasta is a real treat. I’ve never made it myself, although it’s on the 2014 “to do” list, along with
a ton a couple of other foods (bagels! macarons! short ribs! marshmallows!). I had the good fortune to experiment with fresh tagliatelle from a new Bentonville-based company called BICI Pasta. The packaging proudly notes that the product is local, from water to flour (from gem War Eagle Mill). BICI Pasta graciously gave me their classic tagliatelle and shiitake mushroom tagliatelle and I decided to host an impromptu dinner party to enjoy the pasta and get feedback.
Fresh, egg-based pasta comes to you as a dough, not in a box like dried, duram semolina-based pasta. The flavor difference is profound. Fresh pasta is silky, supple, and absorbent when cooked and is perfect with dairy-based sauces. Dried pasta retains more of a nutty flavor and its firm texture works better with tomato-based sauces. I don’t believe that fresh pasta is universally superior to dried pasta, but I do think it is a delicate, divine, and easy-to-prepare option that should get more frequent attention!
The fresh pasta got rave reviews, although I was nervous because I’ve never even worked with fresh pasta before this experience. If you’re in the same position as a fresh-pasta-newbie, you’ve got nothing to fear. Fresh pasta is amazing and the process is wonderful. It’s not difficult and it’s fun to make a food in an “ancient” way.
The packaging says that the pasta is “just like your Italian grandma would make,” and that’s really what I felt like
and not because I’m frequently sleep-deprived, cranky, and feel twice my age. The pasta dough is sliced, but wrapped together, so you have to separate the dough into individual tendrils. This process is called fluffing the pasta and I think that’s wonderful and adorable. You start with floured hands and a big, clean work space. Working carefully, you unwrap the individual noodles from the mound of pasta goodness while you wait for the water to boil. The extra two minutes of “work” required to enjoy fresh pasta really is worth it. I turned into a total Giada while I was cooking, over-pronouncing every Italian-sounding word (Moss-a-relllll-uh) and bossing my dogs around in an Italian accent.
You can order BICI Pasta through their Facebook page, where they list the fresh flavors available (I’m dying to try their sun-dried tomato & saffron variety next). They also will be available at Northwest Arkansas farmer’s markets when they open for the season.
Portobello & Prosciutto Pasta with Alfredo Sauce
You will need:
- 6 portobello mushroom caps, thoroughly washed and sliced
- 10 slices prosciutto, sliced horizontally
- 1 tbsp. olive oil
- 2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
- 1 tbsp. minced fresh garlic
- 1/2 yellow onion, finely chopped
- 1/4 cup butter
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1 clove garlic, crushed
- 1 1/3 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
- 1/2 cup Mozzarella cheese, grated
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
- 1 tsp. each cracked black pepper and salt
- 1/2 tsp. oregano
- 1/2 tsp. basil
- 16 ounces fresh pasta (I recommend Bici Pasta)
- 1-2 tbsp. salt
- Heat oil on medium heat in a large pan with 1 tablespoon garlic and the yellow onion.
- Saute until fragrant, then add mushrooms and Worcestershire sauce. Cook for about five minutes and add prosciutto and cook for an additional five minutes. Turn off heat and set aside.
- In a medium saucepan, melt butter over medium-low heat. Add cream and simmer for five minutes.
- Add garlic, 1 cup Parmesan (reserve 1/3 cup), mozzarella, herbs and spices and whisk the mixture until combined, just a couple of minutes. Turn off heat.
- Pour the prepared Alfredo sauce into the large pan with the mushrooms and prosciutto. Heat to very low.
- To make the fresh pasta, set a large pot with 4-6 quarts of water to high heat. Add 1-2 tbsp. salt and wait for the water to boil.
- Meanwhile, if you’re using fresh pasta, separate the dough into individual pieces with floured hands.
- Drop into boiling water and cook for about 6 minutes, but make sure to taste the pasta to cook it to your liking. Taste is a much better judge of pasta than time!
- When it’s cooked, drain the pasta and immediately add to the sauce mixture. Stir it all together a bit to make sure everything is evenly combined.
- Serve hot, topped with reserved grated Parmesan.