I bought a sack of 00 flour years ago, with the intention to make homemade pasta “one of these days.” It took the BBC series Two Greedy Italians, which I watched nonstop this week, to finally bring those plans into action. Gennaro Contaldo, the show’s enthusiastic co-presenter, threw together what he called dunderi, little dumplings of ricotta, from his childhood on the Amalfi Coast. He is a classic southern Italian man, a character he seems to relish playing up: shirt buttoned halfway, gesticulating wildly, and bringing every topic of conversation back to his mother, who first prepared dunderi for him when he was a boy. His encouragement and casual ease with the dish finally convinced me to give it a shot.
Since then I’ve had a hard time eating anything else, simply changing the sauce from day to day to suit my mood. The taste of fresh pasta is special—a certain airiness, dressed with a pomodoro sauce like buttering bread, just enough to taste both. The preparation is remarkably easy and takes even less time than making dry pasta, since it cooks faster in boiling water. Far from the time-consuming, expert process it’s made out to be, homemade pasta is perfectly conducive to sprezzatura and the golden rule—never spend more time cooking than you spend eating and enjoying.
Dunderi (adapted from Two Greedy Italians)
Makes 2 large portions, or 3 to 4 side portions
For the sauce:
1 28-oz. can whole Italian tomatoes
Few tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves garlic
Salt to taste
Chiffonade of basil
For the pasta:
220 grams ricotta
3 egg yolks
200 g. flour
20 g. parmesan
1/2 tsp. salt
To prepare the sauce, warm some olive oil in a skillet or sauce pan over medium heat and quickly fry the garlic. Pour in the can of tomatoes and a bit of salt and let simmer while you make the pasta, occasionally breaking the tomatoes apart with a wooden spoon.
While the sauce is on, prepare the pasta. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. With a fork, mix together the ricotta, egg yolks, Parmesan, and salt. Then add the flour and mix well with your hands, continuing to knead until the dough comes together smoothly and is no longer dry and crumbly. Continue to knead on a lightly floured surface, then pinch off 2-inch balls of dough and roll them out into long, thin cylinders about an inch in diameter. With a knife, cut the pasta into half-inch pieces, and repeat with the rest of the dough. Drop the pasta in the boiling water and gently stir; once they start to rise to the top (which will be quickly), skim the finished pasta off and toss into the tomato sauce.
Now add a copious drizzle of olive oil and toss the pasta well with the sauce. Plate, then garnish with a bit more parmesan and a nice handful of basil.
Jeffrey Ozawa is a writer and cook living in Chicago. His blog, Gorumando, explores life’s pleasures through food.
(photos: Jaimie Lewis of Machins Choses)