There's something magical about sinking the prongs of a fork into a perfect plate or bowl of fresh, glossy pasta.
That's why Odette Williams, an Australian cook and author, wrote "Simple Pasta" -- to share her original recipes and tips that give home cooks an entry point into the art of pasta making.
"If I adore pasta and I'm a good cook and I've never made fresh pasta I can't be alone," Williams recalled thinking the first time she tried her hand at making pasta in her 40s. "I think that that's the magic of pasta. It does this other thing that other foods can't do. Everyone is happy with a bowl of steamy pasta."
"It's such a special treat and you will respond emotionally. It's visceral," she said.
"The easiest starting point, I say, is to start with the gnocchi, because essentially it's mashed potato," Williams continued. "Except this time we're going to mash it real fine and we're going to put in a bit of parmesan, salt and pepper -- and everyone can conceptually understand rolling it into a snake and cutting it."
For anyone attempting to make homemade pasta, she said, "Don't fret about it having to be perfect -- do it together or do it by yourself with hours to spare and a glass of wine and play your favorite music."
Williams thoughtfully sorts and showcases her recipes by season in "Simple Pasta," and shared two of her favorites from the book with "Good Morning America" that are perfect for the transition from summer to fall.
Check out her recipes, below.
Potato Gnocchi with Luxurious Pomodoro
Makes 4 servings, approximately 3 cups of sauce
Fresh Potato Gnocchi
1 1/2 pounds unpeeled russet potatoes
1 large egg, beaten
1/3 cup finely grated Pecorino Romano
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper
1 1/2 cups (195 grams) all-purpose flour or Tipo 00 flour, plus more as needed
If using store-bought gnocchi: 1 1/2 - 1 3/4 pounds
Luxurious Pomodoro in a Flash
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
4 to 6 anchovy fillets, chopped
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 tablespoons oregano leaves
28-ounce can San Marzano crushed tomatoes
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
For the gnocchi: In a large wide pot, add the potatoes and enough water to cover them (you'll also cook the gnocchi in this pot). Bring to a boil and cook until a sharp knife poked into a potato meets only a little resistance, 35 to 40 minutes. Turn off the heat. Remove the potatoes from the water and, when cool enough to handle, remove the skins.
Using a ricer, box grater, or Microplane, pass or grate the potatoes into a fine consistency, making sure there are no lumps. Spread the potatoes out on a baking sheet to dry out and cool a little.
In a large bowl, combine the potatoes, egg, pecorino, salt, and pepper. Gradually add the flour and use your hands to combine everything and bring the dough together.
Place the dough on a clean, dry, lightly floured work surface and knead just until the dough comes together in a smooth ball. If the dough feels a little sticky, add a bit more flour. If you won't be rolling out immediately, cover with a piece of plastic wrap.
Dust a large baking sheet with flour. Lightly flour a large wooden cutting board or work surface. Take a small piece of dough and roll it into a snake about 3⁄4 inch thick. Using a sharp knife, cut the snake into pieces about a thumb's width. (If you'd like to give your gnocchi a little flair, roll the cut pieces along the tines of a gnocchi paddle or a fork.) Place the gnocchi on the prepared baking sheet. Repeat the process with the remaining dough.
If cooking within a couple of hours, leave the baking sheet on the counter. To store, freeze in a single layer of gnocchi on the baking sheet, transfer the frozen pasta to a ziplock bag or airtight con- tainer, and freeze for about 1 month. To cook, don't defrost, just boil frozen, otherwise they will fall apart.
For the pomodoro sauce: In a large skillet over medium-low heat, warm the olive oil.
Add the anchovies to the skillet and cook them slowly, mashing with a wooden spoon until they melt into the oil. (Don't let the oil get too hot or it will fry the anchovies rather than melt them.)
Add the garlic and oregano to the anchovies and sauté for a few minutes. (Get your face in there and take a whiff of that glorious aroma.)
Finally, add the tomatoes to the skillet, season with the salt and pepper, and let simmer for 20 minutes. Serve while warm, or let cool and then keep in airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.
To assemble: Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add half the gnocchi and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, or according to package instructions if using store-bought. When they float to the surface, it's a good indication they're done. Pop one in your mouth to make sure it's cooked through. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the cooked gnocchi into the warm sauce. Repeat with the remaining gnocchi.
Cook the potatoes whole, in their skins, so they don't absorb too much water.
If you have leftover mashed potatoes, make gnocchi! I'll often make extra mash and use it the following evening to make gnocchi.
A bench scraper is very handy for gently lifting the gnocchi and transferring them to the boiling water.
To make this gluten-free, use Caputo's Gluten-Free Flour instead of all-purpose flour.
Wicked White Bolognese
"White Bolognese is a welcome change from the more ubiquitous red-sauce kind. If I'm honest, I think this version has more panache with its porky bits, veal, cannellini beans, and cream," Williams wrote in the cookbook. "This goes with just about any pasta shape, fresh or dried, but my absolute favorite is to have it with dried macaroni because every spoonful has equal portions of Bolognese and pasta, and I feel like a kid again."
Makes 6 servings
Fresh pasta: 1 recipe egg dough, cut or shaped into fettuccine or garganelli, or semolina dough shaped into orecchiette or cavatelli
Store-bought pasta: 1 pound dried macaroni, casarecce, or fettuccine
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, or as needed
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 ounces pancetta or prosciutto, finely diced
1 cup finely diced celery
1 cup finely diced carrot
1 cup finely diced yellow onion
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 pound ground pork
1/2 pound ground veal or beef
1/2 cup good dry white wine
1 cup chicken stock
15-ounce can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley, with tender stems and leaves
1/4 cup finely chopped marjoram or thyme
1 to 2 tablespoons lemon juice
Finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano for serving
In a large heavy-bottomed frying pan or Dutch oven over medium-low heat, combine the olive oil and butter and warm until the butter is melted. Add the pancetta, celery, carrot, onion, garlic, bay leaf; season with the salt and pepper. Sauté, stirring often, for 20 to 25 minutes. Make sure to really cook this soffritto down to get it caramelized. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.
Turn the heat to medium-high and add the pork, veal and a splash more oil, if needed, to the pan. Cook the meat, breaking it up with a wooden spoon, until browned, 8 to 10 minutes.
Add the wine to the pan and deglaze, scraping up the browned bits with a wooden spoon. Let simmer for a few minutes, then add the chicken stock, beans, cream, parsley, marjoram, and pancetta-soffritto mixture. Lower the heat and let simmer for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Finally, stir in the lemon juice.
Meanwhile bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook until al dente, 2 to 3 minutes or according to package instructions if using store-bought. Using a large spider or slotted spoon, transfer the pasta into a large bowl and stir in a splash of olive oil to stop it from sticking together.
Serve the pasta topped with the Bolognese and grated Parmigiano.
Reprinted with permission from Simple Pastaby Odette Williams, copyright (c) 2022. Published by Ten Speed Press, a division of Penguin Random House, LLC.