Fresh pasta comes in different shades

Please never make me choose between dried pasta and fresh pasta. There’s a time and a place for each of them, and I confess to loving both equally.

Dried pasta, when cooked properly, is delightful. Nothing compares to its chewy, satisfying texture and simplicity, with a restrained amount of flavorful sauce coating it perfectly. On the other hand, fresh pasta has its own addictive charms, chief among them its silky tenderness. It is a pleasure to make and an even greater pleasure to eat.

Much of the commercially available “fresh” pasta is designed to be sturdy and never has the delicate texture of homemade. I usually opt to roll and cut my own.

Don’t let the idea of making pasta at home intimidate you; it just takes practice to master the process. Basic pasta dough really has only two ingredients — eggs and flour — but even with a recipe, you’ll need to get familiar with the feel of properly hydrated dough, which is the single most important factor. It will make the difference between pasta dough that is smooth and easy to roll, and a lumpy, unmanageable dough that will drive you to tears. Simply put, it must not be too wet or too dry.

Once you have the feel for making fresh egg pasta, try branching out into the world of flavored dough. I’m not talking about doughs that are merely colorful but otherwise tasteless (maybe you’ve bought an expensive bag of that kind). Green pasta can actually taste like something if you purée raw spinach or chard leaves with the eggs that make the dough. A mixture of chopped fresh herbs (parsley, rosemary, sage) makes green speckled pappardelle that look pretty and have real herbal flavor.

I like to make black pepper pasta to toss with spring vegetables, like peas and asparagus, or to sauce with butter and cheese for a fancier (and somewhat playful) version of cacio e pepe. Adding crumbled saffron to the eggs can turn pasta a brilliant gold and add perfume to a dish, perhaps saffron linguine with brothy steamed clams or mussels.

A rusty red pasta dough that includes a mixture of paprika, cayenne and pimentón is one of my flavored pasta favorites. It’s uncanny how the essence of hot pepper really comes through for truly zingy fettuccine that contrast beautifully with sweet vegetables — delicious tossed with corn and zucchini in the summer, or with roasted winter squash during the cooler months.

And to drink ...

This is a tricky combination. The touch of heat from the pasta would generally call for a different sort of wine than the sweetness of the squash. Although this dish is well balanced, the sweetness should be more pronounced than the heat. So I would opt for a wine that harmonizes with the vegetables, like a rich chardonnay, ideally something like a Meursault or a good West Coast version. Alternatively, a full-bodied chenin blanc from the Loire Valley would work well, either sec or dry or a demi-sec, with some residual sugar. You could also try a white from the Rhône Valley. Many are made with some combination of marsanne and roussanne, which will meld well. Condrieu, made with viognier, would be delicious. A New World viognier could work, too, so long as it has sufficient acidity.

—Eric Asimov

Hot Pepper Fettuccine with Roasted Butternut Squash

Total time: 1 1/2 hours

Yield: 6 servings


2 cups/250 grams all-purpose flour, more as needed

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons Hungarian paprika

1/4 teaspoon cayenne

2 teaspoons pimentón dulce

2 eggs

Extra-virgin olive oil

Rice flour, for dusting

4 cups butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes (1 pound)

Salt and pepper

Crushed red pepper

2 ounces pancetta or bacon, cut into lardons

1 sprig rosemary, plus 1/2 teaspoon finely chopped rosemary

1 sprig sage, plus 1/2 teaspoon finely chopped sage

1 small onion, diced

3 garlic cloves, minced

1 cup fresh ricotta

1 1/2 teaspoons grated lemon zest

Grated pecorino, for garnish

2 tablespoons chopped parsley, for garnish


1. Make the dough: In a mixing bowl, combine flour, salt, paprika, cayenne and pimentón. In a separate bowl, beat eggs with 3 tablespoons water and 1 tablespoon olive oil. Pour egg mixture into the flour mixture and stir with chopsticks or a wooden spoon to combine until a rough dough is formed.

2. Turn dough out onto a work surface dusted with all-purpose flour and knead into a ball. Wrap dough in plastic and let rest at room temperature for at least 15 minutes. (It may appear dry or tough at first, but it will become hydrated and more relaxed after resting.)

3. Meanwhile, heat oven to 400 degrees. Put squash in a bowl, add 2 tablespoons oil, a generous amount of salt and pepper, a pinch of crushed red pepper, and the pancetta or bacon. Strip leaves from 1 sprig rosemary and 1 sprig sage, add to bowl, then toss well to coat.

4. Spread squash mixture on a baking sheet in an even layer and roast for 20 minutes, or until cooked and lightly browned. Adjust seasoning to taste and set aside.

5. Make the fettuccine: Roll out dough by hand or with a pasta machine into thin sheets (but not paper thin). Cut sheets into pieces approximately 6-by-9 inches. Dust each piece lightly with rice flour, stack them, and gently roll the stack into a loose cylinder, as if making a jelly roll. With a sharp knife, cut crosswise to make thin ribbons, about 1/8-inch wide. Dust a baking sheet with rice flour and arrange cut ribbons in a single layer to keep them from sticking together. Dust with more rice flour. Leave uncovered at room temperature.

6. Put 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onions, season generously with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring, until softened, 3 to 4 minutes. Add garlic, chopped rosemary and sage, and a pinch of crushed red pepper and cook for 1 minute. Add reserved squash, then fold in 1/2 cup ricotta and the lemon zest. Cook for 1 minute more and turn off heat.

7. Bring a large pot of generously salted water to a boil over high heat. Boil the pasta for 1 to 2 minutes, until al dente. Drain, reserving 1 cup of pasta cooking water.

8. Add pasta to the skillet, and gently fold ingredients together. Add 3 to 4 tablespoons pasta cooking water. Transfer to a warm serving platter, dot with remaining 1/2 cup ricotta and sprinkle with pecorino and parsley.