FRESH ORECCHIETTE WITH WALNUT SAUCE
Making fresh pasta is truly a labour of love and is one of those things that requires a little extra time and patience, but is definitely worth it. Orecchiette is a great pasta to make if you are wanting to start making your own pasta as it doesn’t require a pasta machine and is simply flour, salt and water. Once cooked, it has a wonderful chewy texture and holds the sauce so brilliantly – it is much superior to the dried variety. I make the walnut sauce in a mortar and pestle, however, you could also prepare it in a food processor. Oregano can also be swapped out for other hard herbs like marjoram or thyme – add more or less, depending on your own taste.
400g ’00’ Flour
50g bread, without crusts
100 shelled walnuts
2 cloves garlic
50g parmesan, grated, plus extra to serve
Generous teaspoon of fresh or dried oregano, plus extra to serve
100ml extra virgin olive oil
For the orecchiette, place the flour and a generous pinch of salt in a large bowl. Drizzle in enough water to make a firm yet workable dough. The dough shouldn’t be too sticky otherwise it will be rather difficult to make the orecchiette. If you do add too much water, just add a little flour until you have the desired consistency for your pasta. Cover with cling film and set aside for at least 30 minutes to rest.
While the pasta dough is resting, you can prepare the walnut sauce. Place the bread in a small bowl and pour over the milk, just enough to cover the bread and let soak for 5 minutes. If you have milk left over, keep it aside as you can add it to loosen the sauce at the end.
Pound the walnuts, garlic and parmesan in a mortar and pestle until you have a fine paste. A little texture is fine, but you want it to be mostly pounded. Add the milk-soaked bread and continue to pound. Add the oregano and using the pestle stir, slowly pour in the water and oil. You should have a thick but pourable consistency. If you have a little milk left over, you can add it now if the sauce needs thinning. Check for seasoning and set aside while you make the orecchiette.
Working with a little dough at a time, roll a handful of the dough into a long and thin sausage. Cut small pieces from the sausage-shaped dough, about an inch wide. They will look more like gnocchi at this stage. Now press down on a small piece of dough you have cut and with a little force, push the piece away from you and flick it back so that a small dip has been left in the piece. Place on a floured tea towel and repeat with the remaining dough until no dough remains.
Cook the orecchiette in a large pot of salted boiling water until they float to the surface. Drain the pasta, retaining some of the cooking liquid. Transfer the pasta back to the pot and stir through the walnut sauce, adding a little of the cooking liquid if too thick. Serve immediately, topped with extra parmesan and oregano.