Fresh Extruded Pasta: Rigatoni, Sausage and Ricotta

Making pasta at home is nothing new. I’ve been doing fresh egg pasta, flat, stuffed, hand-rolled or on a chitarra for years. However, making “dry” fresh pasta was not something I’ve tackled. I did not want to invest in a pasta extruder and was not sure it will be worth it. Also, most books never bother with extruded pasta. On a recent visit to William-Sonoma I noticed they had on clearance several small hand-cranked pasta machines that are used to make Rigatoni, Spaghetti and a few other extruded pasta shapes. The machine seemed like a very good deal at $19, so I picked one up to give it a shot. I tried it once using a  pasta recipe from Modernist Cuisine and it worked well. The resulting pasta was ok, but it lacked the “roughness” of good dried extruded pasta since it was made with regular all-purpose flour. Then recently, I got Mark Vetri’s latest book “Rustic Italian Food” and he devotes a good chunk of it to extruded pasta made with 100% semolina. None of my Italian cookbooks ever bother with that!

His recipe could not be simpler, just semolina flour and water. That’s it. He focuses on the importance of drying to obtain the proper texture. After extruding, the pasta is laid on a baking sheet uncovered and dried in the fridge for at least 8 hours. This removes excess moisture that could make it gummy, gives it more structure and helps build that highly-desired al dente texture when cooked. I had some homemade ricotta on hand when I made this first batch of Rigatoni as well as my homemade Italian sausage. So it only seemed natural to toss it all with a quick tomato sauce and enjoy it with a glass of wine. The fresh “dried” Rigatoni had a wonderful texture and held on to the sauce perfectly. I hope my cheap pasta machine will hold for a good while with repeated use (it is mostly plastic afterall). If it breaks, I think a small investment in the KitchenAid attachment for extruded pasta will be in order.

Eggplant Involtini with Ricotta and Scallions

I  forgot I had these nice eggplants I got from the farmers’ market until I saw them in my crisper drawer a week later. So, I needed to use them right away. For a quick weekday dinner, straight from Mario Batali’s “Molto Italiano“, I made this addictive dish (I had tomato sauce on hand from another dinner).

Thinly slice eggplant.

Fry eggplant.

Spread slices with a mixture of ricotta, Parmesan, egg and scallions and roll them.

Layer in a baking dish with tomato sauce and bake.