On East Georgia here in Vancouver, just up the block from Phnom Penh, a lot of little art spaces are starting to appear beside the lot of little restaurants I have long enjoyed. One of these is Project Space, a bookshop/art studio/everything-space run by the fabulous folks behind OCW Magazine, who have kindly published my words over the past five or six years.
For the past few days (and tomorrow), Project Space has been home to Summer School, a series of free classes hosted by artists Erin Jane Nelson and Ming Lin. So, because I’m there any time someone wants to combine art with something I can eat, today I went back to school.
The class was led by Ming Lin, who taught us to make rainbow pasta. Natural dyes are a passion of Lin’s, and food is an obvious medium for the exploration of these.
Making pasta is easy. For this class, we poured three cups of all-purpose flour into a pile on the table. We dug a well into the centre of the pile, and cracked an egg into it. We added salt, beat the egg gently in the well, then added about one tablespoon of puréed vegetables – either spinach, beet, or carrot. We’d then continue stirring, this time gradually folding flour into the the mix. When the dough began to form a ball, we’d pull it from the well and knead it, incorporating more flour until the dough was firm but pliable and no longer sticky. The dough went into the fridge for 15 to 20 minutes.
The same pile of flour lasted three rounds of this, and I ended up with three colourful balls of pasta dough, each time re-piling the flour, adding egg and salt, stirring, then adding a spoonful of purée.
After resting in the fridge, the dough was ready to be rolled. At this point, I’d recommend the use of a pasta roller, unless you have the upper-body strength of someone over the age of eight. I do not, but no machine was available, so I rolled my pasta out with an empty wine bottle. Though the idea is to get your sheet of dough as thin as possible, mine was thicker than if I had run it through a pasta machine, which made the boiled noodles thicker and chewier than I prefer. But that’s okay.
Some people trimmed their pasta into long strips. That’s how I did mine, as fresh strands of pasta tossed with browned butter and grated Grana Padano combine to form one of those perfect, simple dishes we ought to make more of. Others were more creative (and patient), and attempted to fold their pasta into bow-ties and penne.
Our teacher cut hers into tiny squares perfect for a pot of soup.
I ended up with a pile of purple and orange noodles, enough for two people to enjoy a small plate of pasta each. I boiled it for about three minutes, then tossed it in a pan with butter and cheese and chopped fresh chilies, and then scattered parsley over top.
Pasta-making was a pleasant diversion, and a reminder that a small amount of effort can yield delicious results. Why not dawdle over a bit of dough the next cloudy day and treat yourself to something simple and delicious? I hope it rains tomorrow, as I’d like to purée some chilies for a batch of dough and see what happens. What’s your perfect pasta? I’d love your tips and recipes. Bonus points for butter and cheese, obviously.