We went to Bermondsey’s newest Italian restaurant Antico, famed for its fresh pasta, and spoke to head chef Nicholas Schizas about the art form that is pasta making.
Brush up with his top tips below, and come back to The Bureau of Taste next week when Nicholas will be sharing the recipe for his signature dish: slow-roasted shoulder of pork tortelloni.
Make pasta the night before if possible. Wrap it in cling film and leave it to rest overnight. Before you start working the pasta, take it out of the fridge, and bring it up to room temperature – that way the dough will be easier to work.
Never stop reading about pasta. Start with ‘The Greats’ to learn the basic guidelines, like Theo Randall and Locatelli. There are certain rules you need to learn about pasta making. The dough should always be at room temperature, the water should always be boiling, and the pasta should always be cooked al dente.
3. Be methodical
Making pasta requires you to be neat and methodical. Roll all the pasta, and then cut all the pasta, and then fill all the pasta. Always do one job at a time, clear up in between, and store the pasta carefully in between jobs.
4. Take care where you put tortellini
Once I’ve filled and shaped the tortelloni, I place them on a piece of parchment paper dusted with semolina. It stops the pasta sticking to each other or sticking to the worktop, which can create holes in the dough.
5. Don’t let your pasta dry out
When you make pasta dough, wrap tightly in cling film to store. When working with the pasta, store it under an upturned tray in between cutting, filling and cooking as the dough dries out very quickly. The only exception to this is if you’re making spaghetti or tagliatelle – after the sheets have been rolled, leave them to dry before cutting. Otherwise the strands of pasta will stick together.
6. Keep fillings moist
If you’re making tortelloni, the fillings should be a little wet. It’s depressing to have lovely moist pasta dough with a mouthful of dried meat inside. I add fresh stock to the mixture to make sure that it’s moist enough. But be careful – if the filling is too wet, it will destroy the pasta. The perfect consistency should squeeze out of a piping bag, but not too easily.
7. The right tools make it easier
I always use Imperia machines – they are the best brand by far. But I have a couple of other tools to help. Piping bags are a neat way of filling tortellini, as they help control portion sizes, keep work surfaces clean and store easily in the fridge. I also have a spritzer of water to hand when I’m making pasta. It creates a mist which moistens the dough to help seal it shut.
8. Measure eggs by weight
It frustrates me when recipes say “use 1 egg yolk”. How big is an egg yolk? Some can be 15g, some can be 25g – that can have a big effect on the wetness of the dough. Look for recipes which instruct you on the exact weight of the egg yolks, especially when you’re starting out. That way the recipe is more precise and the dough is easier to use. The addition of egg white helps the dough develop elasticity, but should be carefully-measured out too.