Simple pleasures

Spelt Out For You

Sometimes I like to pretend I’m an Italian nonna, sitting at a table outside my stone-walled house gently rolling fresh conchiglie as my black dress flaps in the breeze. I’d chat with my neighbours, the old Montalbano and Captain Alberto Bertorelli from ‘Allo ‘Allo, all of us fanning ourselves with our headscarves.

Perhaps not, but I do like to take pasta making seriously. It’s such a simple thing, yet comes in so many shapes and sizes. It can be like origami at its most intricate or as simple as cutting the sheet into strips. And that’s what I’ve done here. You need to set aside some time to prepare the pasta, don’t try and start this half an hour before you want to eat.

I’ve used spelt flour this time, interchangeable with strong wheat flour, but sometimes it needs a little more moisture. This is something you’ll have to judge by hand. You’ll get used to it with practice.

This recipe is simply a touch of garlic, marinated artichokes, lemon zest, chilli and parsley. Then topped, of course, with good olive oil. You can put this together just before the pasta cooks, it only takes a few minutes to warm in the pan.

So sit down, channel your inner dolce vita and treat it like therapy. I like to play the soundtrack to Big Night or songs by Olivia Sellerio and drift into the olive groves.

Ingredients (for 4 people)
400g spelt flour
2 eggs
2 egg yolks
A large pinch of salt
1tbsp olive oil

For the ‘sauce’
1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
A jar of artichokes marinated in olive oil and herbs
1 red chilli, sliced
Zest of one lemon
Olive oil
Salt and pepper to season

Make a volcano of flour and salt on the kitchen surface and put the eggs, yolks and olive oil in the middle. Gradually work the flour into the yolks in a circular motion, drawing it in until everything is well mixed and breadcrumb-like.

Knead the dough for about ten minutes until stretchy and supple. If it’s dry and flaky, add a splash of water. Wrap the dough in clingfilm and rest it in the fridge for at least half an hour. When you bring it out, it should be golden and silky feeling.

If you have a pasta machine, roll the dough out gradually to the thinnest setting and lay the sheets on the counter, covering them with paper so they don’t dry out. If you don’t, you’ll have to use a rolling pin and a good bit of elbow grease. But if nonna can do it, so can you.

Roll a sheet up lengthwise and cut it into thin strips. Put them in a tray, dust them well with more flour and a bit of semolina and continue until finished. Dry them out a little on the backs of chairs or coat hangers before cooking. It helps a little with the texture. If you don’t need all of it, completely dry what you want to keep and store in an airtight container. If you don’t want your kitchen to look like goldilocks has been scalped you can cook the pasta straight away.

Heat a sauté pan and gently soften the garlic with the olive oil. Add the chilli amd artichoke and warm through. Season and stir through the parsley and lemon zest.

Cook the pasta in plenty of boiling, salted water for two minutes, drain and add to the sauté pan. Mix well and serve.

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