Fresh Herb Pasta: the taste of summer in Provence

fresh-herb-pasta

What do alfabeto, funghini, lumaconi and strozzapreti have in common?

New European fast cars? New European fashion models? New characters in a telenovela? Nope, keep guessing…

OK, I just realized that if you read the title of the blog first, the guessing game is probably a moot point and you know that alfabeto, funghini, lumaconi and strozzapreti are all different shapes of pastas. So much for playing my dream role as Alex Trebek on Jeopardy. Note to self: don’t give away the answer before asking the question.

I well and truly adore pasta in ALL of its shapes and incarnations, and I’ve raised a pastaholic teen as well. I think it’s kind of neat that some of the first things my daughter learned to make for herself were chicken noodle soup (not from a can, thank you), Asian noodle bowl with garlic and ginger, and one mean bowl of saffron risotto. All comfort foods, all the time, that’s my girl.

I used to make handmade pasta more often, but I’ve fallen off in the last couple of years. Luckily a couple of King Arthur recipes have really spurred my interest lately, and I’ve been back in the pasta groove.

Our Heirloom Tomato and Fresh Pasta Salad is a real winner, and this recipe for pasta made with fresh herbs literally has me dreaming of pasta in the middle of the night.

Based on a pasta recipe in Richard Olney’s lovely coffee-table cookbook, “Provence The Beautiful Cookbook,” you don’t just sprinkle the fresh herbs and greens over the finished pasta, or mix them into a sauce. You don’t sandwich them between two paper-thin pasta sheets either (a lovely but impractical method, to my thinking). Instead, you create a paste of fresh herbs/salad greens that mixes right into the dough and flavors every.single.bite with exquisite taste.

Let’s make wonderfully Fresh Herb Pasta.

Wash and dry your herbs and greens, in whichever combination you choose. You’ll need about 4 to 5 ounces total, about 4 cups by volume. The mix I used was fresh spinach, fresh arugula, and fresh chives.

Aren’t they GORGEOUS! I did take time to pull off the tougher stems of some of the spinach leaves. Using baby spinach will help if you want to skip this step.

Use a pair of kitchen shears or herb scissors to chop the greens into smaller pieces.

Like this. You can certainly do this with a chef’s knife and then transfer to the bowl, I  just liked the scissors approach. By now, the kitchen was already smelling heavenly and full of heady, green vigor.

Sprinkle on a healthy pinch of coarse salt and find a nice implement to help you smush the leaves to a wet paste. You can use a pestle, the handle of a sturdy whisk or, as I did, a small, flat-bottomed bowl.

Press and grind the herbs against the bottom and sides of the bowl. The salt will help draw out the moisture as you work.

Perfect. It was all I could do to stop myself from wrestling a fresh piece of bread away from our baker, Frank, and slathering it with these fragrant herbs. Of course, Frank is literally a foot and a half taller than I am, so  I think he would have won in the long run.

In the bowl of your mixer or bread machine, place 2 1/2  cups King Arthur Perfect Pasta Blend Flour and 2 large eggs, at room temperature.

Mix in the eggs. The mixture will be quite lumpy, bumpy, and dry at this point.

(no KAF Pasta Blend on hand? You can use KAF All-Purpose instead)

Pour in the herb paste and 3 tablespoons of cool water. Mix on low speed in the mixer (3 to 4 minutes), or set on the dough cycle of your bread machine (stop after 10 minutes). Mix until the dough is smooth and elastic. It will still seem somewhat drier and denser than regular bread dough, but that’s how it should be.

Can you knead this by hand? Absolutely. It will probably take you about 10 minutes. Try not to add extra water until the dough is very dry. If you must add extra water, sprinkle it directly on the dry bits, then work them into the main mass of dough.

Cover the dough well with the bowl you used, or wrapped well in plastic wrap and let it rest at room temperature for 30 to 60 minutes. You can leave this in the fridge all day if you make it in the morning, but the beauty of fresh pasta is in the freshness.

After the dough has rested, it will roll out beautifully by hand. More on pasta machines in a moment.

P.S. – Now’s time to get your water boiling! Use a large stock pot and plenty of water. Add a good handful of salt to the boiling water, too. According to my pasta teacher, Rosemary, the boiling water should taste like sea water.

I like the rustic feel of hand cut-noodles for herb pasta. A pizza wheel is perfect for rolling through the dough. You can also use a sharp knife to slice through the dough.

Toss the cut strips with just a touch of flour.

If you’re going to cook them right away you can leave them as is. If you need to wait, separate the strands into small “nests” of noodles and set out to dry. Humidity is a killer for fresh pasta, so try to keep the kitchen cool and dry.

So, what about a pasta machine? While the flat rollers will work just fine for making sheets of pasta, cutting with the machine is much trickier with this particular pasta. The oils in the herbs keep the pasta moist and the cutting wheels just can’t cut through cleanly. Trying to pull apart each separate strand would have me tossing the spaghetti against the wall BEFORE cooking it, so I still prefer hand cutting for this particular recipe. If you want to use a machine, by all means, go for it.

When the water is boiling, reduce the heat ever so slightly and add your fresh pasta. You want it cooking, but not roiling around furiously in the pot. Fresh pasta will cook in about 3 minutes, so get the plates, cheese, forks, and relatives ready before putting the pasta in to cook.

For extra yummy goodness, melt some butter in a skillet over medium heat. As your pasta comes out of the water, briefly drain it and shake it dry, then toss it with the hot butter for about 2 minutes.

Put the pasta on your serving plate, pour over the extra butter, and sprinkle on some freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

What a stunning dish! The vibrant green color and the scent of fresh herbs is a sensory wonderland, and the taste is beyond amazing.

Bill Tine, our marketing manager and the one who brought the recipe to my attention, says he’s made this with every green possible, including beet greens. I just can’t wait to try every version I can think of for this recipe.

How about you?  What herbs and greens will YOU use?

Please make, rate, and review our recipe for Fresh Herb Pasta.

Print just the recipe.

MaryJane Robbins
About

MaryJane Robbins grew up in Massachusetts and moved to Vermont 20 years ago. After teaching young children for 15 years, she changed careers and joined King Arthur Flour in 2005. MaryJane began working on King Arthur Flour's baker’s hotline in 2006, and the blog team ...

comments

  1. lisahullender

    Would it be possible to make this with white wheat flour or whole wheat pastry flour? SO beautiful.
    Yes, you sure may. I would recommend using White Whole Wheat. Replace 25 – 50% of the flour with WWW. Keep adding more water to produce a fairly stiff dough. There is nothing like fresh pasta! Elisabeth

    Reply
  2. Irene in T.O.

    This also works with a food processor. Put the herb leaves with your flour and a teaspoon of dried basil, and buzz until the leaves are in fine pieces. Then add water or egg and salt either by hand or by using the machine. The dried basil seems to make the taste of the fresh herbs far more intense especially when using spinach leaves.

    Reply
  3. velkyn

    woo-hoo, I have herbs in the backyard, and KA pasta blend in the cupboard that I’ve been waiting to use! Weekend pasta here I come!

    Reply
  4. empressqueenb

    Could you make the herb/greens paste in a food processor? By pulsing them maybe? Or would it puree them too much?
    I think pulsing them in the processor would be fine. ~Amy

    Reply
  5. "Paul from Ohio"

    Anyone care to offer up some various herb combinations that might work best with fresh basil – a huge favorite here? Not wanting to diminish the basil, perhaps JUST BASIL??

    Perfect timing on this blog MJ as we just got our first taste of Pappadrelle pasta – have a package of Lavender Fettuccine in the pantry! Can’t wait to try our very own fresh pasta………oh yeah, home made can only be THE BEST.
    You could mix some other Italian herbs in with the basil such as marjoram or oregano, but basil does stand nicely on its own too. ~Amy

    Reply
  6. waikikirie

    MJ your timing for us is not so good – teehee – The DH, who is a pasta fiend, started a diet last week. I don’t dare try this one right now while he is trying so hard. Will add this to my recipe box for down the road. Can’t wait xoxoxoxo

    Reply
  7. LA_bread

    This came out great but I did have problems getting the pasta to “release” off my kitchen counter. I did flour the counter.

    Should I have followed my instincts and heavily floured the kitchen counter? I timed to let the pasta dry for 15 minutes but lifting the pasta off the counter was difficult.

    Any suggestions?
    Allow the pasta to hang for drying or resting so that the air can reach both sides and prevent it from sticking. ~Amy

    Reply
  8. LA_bread

    The recipe came out great but I had trouble lifting the cut pasta off my kitchen counter. I did lightly flour the counter but I had to use a pastry scraper to get the pasta off the counter surface.

    I did let the pasta dry for about 15 minutes before but getting the cut pasta up was difficult.

    Do you have any suggestions for next time?
    Don’t allow the pasta sheets to dry on the counter, but rather hang it to dry. Allowing it to dry on the counter would only allow one side to reach the air adequately. ~Amy

    Reply
  9. jowolfe

    This sounds so yummy, but I am pretty sure you meant “strozzapreti” not “stroccpreti”. My family called it “strangolapreti”, both names mean “priest strangler”. I assume that some poor early Italian priest somewhere must have not chewed his pasta well and choked!

    Jo, thanks – I’ll change that ASAP. (But not to “strangolapreti” – don’t want to be accused of any crimes here!) :) PJH

    Reply
  10. Adele

    This looks WONDERFUL! Can you tell me how thin the dough needs to be rolled or doesn’t it really matter? I’m thinking around 1/8 inch, but maybe with the herbs it needs to be a bit thicker.

    Also – you mention in the comments above hanging the pasta to dry. Any suggestions on how to do that? And how long can you leave it dry before you need to cook it? Can it dry for several hours?

    I think an 1/8 of an inch sounds just right. I usually hang my pasta on a clothes drying rack, but you could even use a paper towel holder (horizontal only), or a broom between two chairs.

    I would not dry the pasta much longer then 1/2 hour otherwise it’s not fresh!

    Reply
  11. "Liz Davids"

    Is it possible to dry this pasta? To dry it, would it be necessary to blanch the greens first?
    Hi Liz,
    I think it would be difficult to do this as a dry pasta. The oils from the herbs keep the pasta very moist and my concern is that it might mold or fuzz up instead of drying. If anyone has experience though, please let us know how it works out. ~ MaryJane

    Reply

Post a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *