I made this dinner purely as an excuse to gloat about my egg-poaching skills. Seriously, look at that fucking thing. It’s like art.
Did I make this dinner just so I could gloat about my infinitely awesome egg-poaching skills? I may have. But maybe I ALSO made it so I could gloat about my willingness to make things painstakingly by hand – let us not forget the angel hair cucumbers – rather than relying on the modern conveniences that would hasten dinner’s journey to my table. Because I? Am better than you.
To wit: fresh, hand rolled and cut pasta tossed with onions, garlic, red spinach and bacon and topped with a poached egg. Proof that cheap can still be pretentious!
Brian is kind of a clean freak, and I was SO, SO GLAD he wasn’t home for this part.
I knew I wanted to do pasta with a poached egg tonight and had been planning on doing it with orzo, thinking that the gooey yolk would make a lovely, unctuous coating for the teeny pasta bits. Which it would, but there was something unsatisfying about it. I’ve been wanting to make my own pasta for a while, but I don’t own a roller and thought that trying to roll it by hand would be tedious and ineffective. Which it was. Tedious (and a little painful), I mean. But after sitting down to this meal – which will be making regular appearances on my plate for breakfast, lunch, second lunch, dinner, supper, third lunch and nonce* – there is no doubt of its effectiveness.
*This is not a meal, it’s a monastic prayer time. But I needed another word and “nonce” makes me laugh.**
**It’s not like you didn’t already know that I’m a giant nerd.
Fine, maybe I used SOME modern conveniences. Shut up.
I looked at several fresh pasta recipes to get an idea of the flour-to-egg ratio before deciding on one egg for every three ounces of flour, a formula pretty much akin to Mario Batali’s. I suppose I could have done everything in the stand mixer, but I love making the little flour well and incorporating the eggs by hand; my skin starts to glow azure with my extreme Italian-ness. A helpful tip for you: when you do this, you will do it on your largest cutting board or work surface, not your smallest. Not that I did that. But you might, so I thought I’d warn you.
After incorporating the eggs and flour, I inaugurated the Professional 600′s uber-mega-dough hook (I’m a yeastophobe, so it gets depressingly infrequent use) for kneading. I also found different knead times, and decided to stick with Batali for consistency’s sake: 15 minutes. I recommend that you spend that time reading trashy, heavy-handed feminist sci-fi.
When the kneading period ended, I wrapped the smoothly elastic dough in plastic and let it rest for 30 minutes while I read more trashy, heavy-handed feminist sci-fi helped six old ladies cross the road, rescued a kitten from a tree and adopted two Malawian orphans.
In southern Italy, a single tear of joy is running down my nonna’s cheek.
After the rest, I dusted a bit of flour on my pastry board, split the dough into four smaller chunks and got a-rollin’. The dough was nice and sturdy and tear-resistant, so I didn’t have to curse at it or nothin’.
I wasn’t sure how thin I’d be able to get the dough by hand without ripping it to shreds, but with enough elbow grease and careful handling I was able to roll it so thinly that the veining in the marble board was clearly visible through the dough.
How do you like THEM apples?
I sliced each sheet of pasta into thick ribbons; I was aiming for about three-quarters of an inch wide but ended up all over the map, which I declare is part of the charm of hand-cut pasta and not a flaw. I tossed the strands – I suppose, technically, the pappardelle – with a little cornmeal to keep them from sticking together, and set them aside for a few minutes while I turned to the spinach and onions.
These are no ordinary onions.
Well, okay, they are plain old yellow onions, which I guess is pretty ordinary. HOWEVER, these specific yellow onions are being sauteed in bacon fat. While I’m counting the cost of the bacon toward the total for this meal, bacon is, for me a pantry staple. When I buy a package, I roll each slice up and freeze the little rolls individually. When they’re frozen but good, I toss ‘em in a ziploc. When I need a little bacon for a dish I can pull out as many or as few slices as I want without thawing a whole package, and the individual rolls can be sliced and diced so you can go right from freezer to pan with no advance planning.
Maybe this is already how everyone is storing their bacon, but I was proud of myself.
In this case, I pulled out four slices, cooked them down, then removed the crispy bacon and most of the fat (which is ALWAYS TO BE SAVED) before adding onions and garlic to the pan.
When the onions were golden and the garlic fragrant, I added a bunch of chopped red spinach, threw the bacon back in and let the veggies wilt down and mingle with the onion. This beautiful red spinach came from our first CSA box of the season along with some snap peas, lettuce and lots of garlic scapes, but any kind of spinach (or other dark green – rainbow chard, which is in season now, would be quite good) could take its place. In fact, if you keep frozen spinach in the freezer, then you’d most likely have all the ingredients needed for this dish at any given time.
I was going to add the scapes as well, but that would have pushed me over the $5 limit. I was tempted, though, as an easy out for my scapes; tasty though it may be, I don’t want to make the same garlic scape pesto that everyone and their mother is making. Although I probably will.
But you’re not here to read about my scape-related anxieties, which, while legion, have no bearing on this meal. So: I set the veggie mix aside while I poached the eggs and cooked the pasta.
First rule of egg poaching: never talk about egg poaching.
I can talk a big talk, but when it comes down to it, I’m not much of horn-tooter…except when it comes to egg poaching. I AM THE MASTER AND THE COMMANDER OF THE POACHED EGG. I fall down the stairs on a daily basis for no good reason, but I can poach the holy hell out of an egg. I’ve written about my method before, although I should reveal that I’ve left a critical step out of my instructions to prevent anyone else from gaining the egg-poaching upper hand.*
This time, I was slightly more harried than usual because I was trying to coordinate the timing of the poached eggs and fresh pasta, which requires an enormous pot of boiling water but then cooks in three nanoseconds. I wanted very runny yolks to coat the pasta, so I didn’t want the hot eggs to spend too much time sitting around waiting for pasta. In the end, they sat for a minute longer than I would have preferred, but with no major overcooking.
*Okay, not really. Or did I?
Flour, garlic and onions, pantry staples. Five total eggs, $1.05. Bunch of spinach, $2.49. One-quarter of a package of bacon, $1.28. Total cost, $4.82, or $2.41 per person.
I removed the cooked pasta to the pan with the spinach mix, along with some of the pasta cooking water, and tossed everything to combine. I heaped some of the pasta into a bowl, topped it with the egg and sprinkled it with some extra bacon bits (and okay, fine, some chopped garlic scapes). I immediately broke the egg open and mixed it into the pasta. I grated in a little cheese – also a pantry staple, some kind of hard grating cheese should always be in your fridge, and a little goes a long way – as well.
This dinner, I would pay serious money for it in a restaurant, and not just because I love bacon. The fresh pasta was amazing – amazing texture, perfectly cooked, eggy and wonderful – and the salty bacon was perfectly balanced by the sweet onion, pungent garlic and biting spinach. The runny egg yolk, starchy pasta water and heat of the dish coated everything in a layer of yum, and the egg brought some needed protein to the dish.
As testament to the deliciousness of the fresh pasta I can report that after cleaning his plate, Brian went back to the stove and finished off the remaining severely overcooked pasta that had been sitting in its pot of water, and did so with great gusto. What else do you need to know?
You can use any veggie you like for the dish above. Try to time the pasta and egg so that the egg is barely cooked and still runny inside when the pasta is done.
9 oz. AP or Italian tipo 00 flour
3 large eggs
Make the dough: You can either dump the flour on a work surface, make a well for the eggs and combine them with your hands or a fork, or do the mixing directly in the bowl of a stand mixer.
When they are fully combined and form a ball, knead (again by hand or with a stand mixer) for 15 minutes. After kneading, wrap the dough in plastic wrap and set on the counter to rest for half an hour.
Roll and cut the pasta: After the rest period, break the dough up into 3 or 4 smaller balls. Dust a work surface with flour. With a rolling pin, roll the dough from the middle out to the edge, turning the dough 90 degrees after each pass. Continue rolling until you can see your work surface through the dough; this took me about 5 minutes per dough ball.
Use a sharp knife or pizza cutter to slice the sheets of dough into noodles of your desired thickness; I like 3/4 inch. If not cooking immediately, toss with a little cornmeal or semolina to keep the noodles from sticking and set aside on a baking sheet until you’re ready to use them.
Cook: Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil and add a teaspoon of salt (fresh pasta will absorb a lot more salt than dried, so don’t go overboard). Add the pasta and cook until it floats to the surface, 1-2 minutes.
Remove the pasta with tongs and add it to whatever sauce you’re using. Toss to combine and serve immediately.