When I turned eighteen, I begged my parents to let me spend a summer working in New York City. To my surprise, they said yes.
I spent the sticky summer packed into a two-bedroom Brooklyn apartment with four friends. Our spirits were high; our weekly food budgets were low.
Our initial solution to the dinner problem was black bean and egg burritos. Then it was heaps of caramelized onions, eaten plain, on toast or scrambled with eggs. But the dish that most frequently graced the coffee table where we ate most of our meals was fresh egg pasta.
The recipe came from a worn copy of Deborah Madison’s 1987 Greens Cookbook. My mom gave me the book because it contained a favorite dish of mine, a wild rice and fennel salad with toasted hazelnuts. The book was based on the cooking of a vegetarian California restaurant located in a converted warehouse. I’ve made the yellow split pea soup with spiced yogurt and the chard and saffron tart, but it’s the egg pasta I keep coming back to.
You start by combining a cup of flour with a pinch of salt in a large bowl. Make a well in the middle of the flour, then fill it with an egg and a teaspoon of olive oil. Use your fingers to blend the egg and olive oil into the dough, adding drops of water as needed to bring the dough together.
Turn the dough out onto the counter and knead for 10 to 15 minutes until, as Madison writes, it becomes “smooth and supple.” Wrap the dough in plastic and let sit for a half hour before rolling it out.
Our Brooklyn apartment was lacking in the way of kitchen equipment, so I often used an empty, well-rinsed wine bottle as a rolling pin. I acquired a pasta machine in my college years but lost it in a dramatic move during the Washington, D.C. blizzard in 2010. Now I’m back to a rolling pin, which, like a wine bottle, requires some muscle to get the elastic pasta dough thin. I usually spend a good 20 minutes pushing and pulling the dough until I’m satisfied it won’t become any thinner.
Once you’re ready to cut the dough into strands, put a large pot of salted water on to boil. Use a long knife to cut the dough into thin strips. Once it’s all cut, drop the strands into the water and boil them for a few minutes, until just tender.
At Sally’s dinner party, I browned some butter while the pasta was boiling, setting half a stick of butter in a pan over medium-high heat, tilting and swirling it as it foamed and turned a toasty, golden brown.
I took the pasta out of the boiling water with tongs and added it directly to the pan of browned butter, tossing the pasta and adding a little of its cooking water when the strands stuck together. After a few grinds of pepper, I transferred the pasta to a serving dish and added it to the table with Sally’s pork roast.