This project is a tricky one. Seeing as I am making every recipe Sookie mentions, that means some episodes will have several recipes and others none at all. With that being said, we are finally on the last recipe of episode 1.04 The Deer Hunters.
I know the Magic Risotto recipe was highly anticipated by die-hard GG fans, but as nervous I was to live up to the risotto’s reputation, this week’s recipe is the one I actually should have feared. Let’s remind ourselves what Lucien Mills actually wrote in Sookie’s review: “Though the much-lauded risotto was perfectly fine, it was the simple handkerchief pasta with brown sage in a butter sauce that sent me through the roof…” This man is claiming that this pasta is better than the risotto that literally saved someone’s life. Cool. Let’s do it.
I have never heard of handkerchief pasta (how many times have I said this now?), but I definitely have a love/hate relationship with homemade pasta. I know it’s worth the trouble, but it’s hard to beat the convenience of a dollar box of pre-dried pasta for a weeknight dinner. I also understand that you can’t really put the two in the same category, either.
Handkerchief pasta is what carb lover’s dreams are made of. Instead of cut noodles, it’s two full sheets of freshly made pasta (roughly the size of a handkerchief, hence the name) covered in sauce. What could be better?
My two main tips when making handkerchief pasta are this: go slow and use a pasta roller. Don’t believe any recipe that tells you it can be rolled by hand. You will have a Paris-on-CSPAN-level breakdown, which is nearly what I had mixing the pasta dough alone. There is enough to worry about with getting fresh pasta right, so use as much automation as is available to you.
I have made fresh pasta before, but none to this level. In college I made homemade ravioli successfully, but none really since then, and even then it definitely didn’t send me through the roof. I used this great guide to handkerchief pasta as my teacher, but I underestimated the technique required in mixing the dough. First you mix the salt and flour (I chose to use equal parts all-purpose and cake flour instead of traditional 00 flour that cost nearly $10 on Amazon) and then pile it onto the counter and dig a well into the center. Crack three eggs into the well along with a teaspoon of olive oil. Then USE YOUR FINGERS to gently mix the eggs bringing in a little bit of the flour mixture into the egg at a time until combined and workable. The guide above instructs you to use a fork to mix, but I side with these sassy Italian men who taught me to use my hands instead.
This is the first Sookie recipe that I had to give two tries. I tried using a fork the first time to mix the dough and I went way too fast. We had friends over so I didn’t want to be in the kitchen all evening making pasta dough. Turns out I needed to be. As I was dumping giant scoops of flour into the center like I was mixing pancakes, I scooped way to deep on one side and broke the dam of raw egg. While I was frantically ladeling handfuls of egg back into the broken well my inner Sookie had suddenly left the building and I was cursing in the corner the way we all imagine Lorelai would have if HBO had originally aired the series. By the time I had salvaged what was left of the eggs, I had incorporated way too much flour and was left with a lump of powdery clay. We ended up ordering out instead.
Sunday afternoon I was ready to try again. Watching someone else do something first makes all the difference. I only wish I had done it before trying the first time. Using my hands the second time helped me from being overzealous in mixing too much flour in and it turned out amazing. Also, using a pasta roller attachment on a Kitchenaid mixer is mesmerizing. I felt Sookie return to me with an otherworldly sense of peace watching the dough flatten into luxurious sheets of pasta with each pass through the roller.
Another great thing about fresh pasta is the cooking time. Only three minutes in salted boiling water and it’s ready for brown butter sage sauce, which can also be prepared in under 15 minutes. Total win.
I have to tell you this recipe is everything is made out to be. I 100% agree with Lucien the fictitious food critic that this dish was way more satisfying that the magic risotto. If I had tried these two meals back-to-back I probably would have described the risotto as “perfectly fine” too. This dish is light but filling and packed with insane flavor. This was no-doubt a restaurant-level dish that can be made by an average home chef. It was also toddler approved, so again, a major win in our household.
Rating: PRAISE HANDS. Yes. Make it. Make it now.
Come back next week to *finally* discuss episode 1.05 Cinnamon’s Wake and I make open-faced turkey burgers (our first Luke recipe!) with Sookie’s twist of a little lemon and cayenne and a SOUFFLE… another first for me!
Handkerchief Pasta with Brown Butter Sage Sauce
1 c all-purpose flour
1 ¼ c cake flour
½ tsp salt
1 tsp olive oil
Brown Butter Sage Sauce
2 Tbsp olive oil
6 Tbsp butter
3 cloves garlic, minced
6 – 8 whole sage leaves
Salt and pepper to taste
Mix together the flour and salt. Pile onto a clean counter and create a well in the center of the flour deep enough to hold three eggs and the olive oil. Add the eggs and olive oil and use your fingers to gently break the egg yolks. Begin swirling your hand slowly incorporating the flour into the eggs. Be patient and do not scoop the flour, use the slow stirring of your hand to work the flour in until it is firm enough to knead the rest of the flour in. There will be a point where the dough cannot absorb any more flour, so stop incorporating once the dough is no longer sticky. Knead the dough until it is smooth and springs back when pressed in the center. Form the dough into a ball and lightly cover with plastic. Place it in the fridge to rest for at least an hour. It is ready when the dough no longer springs back when pressed in the center. With a pasta roller, pass the dough through until you have 3 to 4 long sheets thin enough to see the shadow of your hand through. (The linked guide instructs to go no thinner than setting 5 on the Kitchenaid pasta attachment) Use a pizza cutter or sharp knife to cut the sheets into even squares roughly the width of a tissue.
Place the pasta two sheets at a time into a pot of boiling salted water. Cook for three minutes and remove from the water using pasta tongs or a slotted spoon. Set aside in a bowl until the sauce is ready. Mince the garlic and wash and pat dry the sage leaves.
In a skillet, heat two tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat and add 6 tablespoons of salted butter. Melt down until the butter is foam and is a golden brown. Add the minced garlic, stir in the whole sage leaves and salt and pepper to taste. Saute until the garlic is golden and the sage is crisp, about 2- 3 minutes. Remove from heat once the butter is amber brown. Using tongs, gently dip each sheet of pasta in the butter sauce and place on a plate for serving, shaking off excess butter. Top with freshly grated parmesan cheese and serve.
This recipe was adapted from the Fine Cooking instruction guide found here.