Photo: jules:stonesoup/Creative Commons
From-scratch pasta is a little like fresh, homemade bread: If you take the time to make it, your guests won't even pay attention to the rest of the meal. But fresh pasta is also a lot less time-consuming than it sounds -- especially when you have the right tools.
Try one of these hearty fall pastas -- served with fresh herbs or butternut squash, walnut pesto or pumpkin-based dough -- made with your own two hands (and, in some cases, a pasta machine attachment) and you'll have a flavorful dish that makes for a memorable meal.
1. Angel Hair Pasta with Herbs
If you've gone to all the trouble of making your own fresh pasta, then a light, fragrant blends of herbs and spices will help you focus on the taste, flavor, and texture of the angel hair without overpowering it with a heavy sauce.
Here, fresh parsley and basil mixed with olive oil, black pepper, and grated Parmesan cheese let the noodles take center stage.
The Tools: Since most pasta makers are designed to make flat sheets of dough, you'll need an angel hair attachment for your hand-cranked or motorized pasta maker to get the long strings of capellini.
2. Fusilli with Walnut Pesto, Eggplant, and Butternut Squash
Rich fall flavors -- walnuts, eggplant, butternut squash -- come together in this chunky, vegetable-rich sauce, seasoned with basil leaves, grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, garlic, lemon juice, and olive oil. The twisty fusilli shapes let you gather up every last bit of the walnut pesto in the corkscrew ridges.
The Tools: The Kitchenaid Pasta Press attaches to the company's stand mixer to give your pasta an extra push -- making the shorter pastas (tubes, elbows, twists) a breeze.
3. Pumpkin Gnocchi
Serve up this pumpkin gnocchi to keep your vegetarian relatives happy at Thanksgiving -- and to maybe convert some of your turkey-loving uncles, too -- without adding too much work to your holiday routine. The simple recipe, a mix of pureed pumpkin, butter, egg yolk, flour, salt, and pepper, pairs well with a rich Gorgonzola sauce (which is equally simple).
The Tools: You don't need a machine for these pumpkin-based pillows: You can mix the dough by hand, roll it into an inch-wide cylinder, cut it, and make the telltale ridges using the back of a fork. Keep in mind, the less you handle the dough, the better it will taste in the end.
4. Ravioli with Wild Mushrooms
This recipe for ravioli with mushrooms from Emeril Green is not exactly low-maintenance -- you'll need to make the pasta sheets, the mushroom filling, the stuffed ravioli squares, mushroom broth, and mushroom topping -- but it is a warm and comforting meal for fall.
The Tools: For ravioli, you'll want to use both your standard pasta machine and your own two hands. The machine will help you roll out thin, even sheets of pasta; then you'll lay out the filling, add another sheet of pasta, seal the edges, and cut out the finished shape with a cookie cutter.
5. Linguine with Clams
Wide, flat strips of fresh linguine are highlighted with tender, juicy clams in this classic linguine and clams recipe: You'll cook the clams in a blend of olive oil, garlic, crushed red pepper, and white wine so they complement -- not overpower -- the pasta.
The Tools: You can get a linguine attachment to add to your machine, but this is another pasta you can make with a little elbow grease: Just roll out the pasta sheets and cut them into strips.