Making Instagram-Worthy Rainbow Pasta Is Not as Hard as You Think
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Linda Miller Nicholson, Instagram sensation and author of new cookbook Pasta, Pretty Please ($29), treats her favorite food in the world — pasta of all shapes, sizes, colors, and fillings — like edible art. She makes rainbow pasta, including multicolored pappardelle, polka-dot farfalle, and argyle lasagna, with ease and with 100 percent natural ingredients. Her book shows that with a few kitchen tools, you can too. Check out the recipe for six-color fettuccine below, and you’ll see that creating colorful pasta is not too much harder than making dough.
If you’ve never made pasta from scratch, don’t let the photo above scare you away from Pasta, Pretty Please. Nicholson insists in the intro of the book, “If you have a rolling pin, a bench scraper, and some elbow grease, you can make noodles.” Start with Nicholson’s easy recipes for pasta dough, which are only three ingredients: pasta flour, eggs (use hot tap water to make it vegan, she says), and a coloring agent. To make pasta of every color in the rainbow, Nicholson uses not sketchy artificial dyes, but superfoods like açaí (purple), activated charcoal (black), matcha (green), paprika (orange), spirulina (blue), and red beets (red).
When your dough is ready, turning it into pasta is as simple as rolling it flatter and guiding it through a pasta sheeting machine (Nicholson’s favorite is the Atlas Marcato). To make two-toned fettuccine, for example, just lay one blue sheet of pasta dough onto a green sheet, use a rolling pin to stick them together, and put them through a pasta machine to make impressive noodles that are blue on one side and green on the other.
PPL is divided into informative sections on colorful dough, shapes and patterns, fillings, and sauces, so you can mix and match recipes to make the edible artwork of your dreams. That might be pink ravioli with squash ricotta filling or star-studded pappardelle with sage browned butter. You can even use the instructions as more of a suggestion than a strict guide; Nicholson shows that even messily layering blue spaghetti onto plain pasta can look like modern art.
If you’re really serious about pasta making, you’ll like Nicholson’s list of useful tools (like lidded sheet pans for pasta storage) and unexpected cooking tips (like how to use pasta scraps to make crispy crackers). Even if you’re not so serious, you can still read Nicholson’s book for pure culinary entertainment. Her story about falling in love with pasta (involving a nonna’s cacio e pepe in Italy, of course) is pure fun to read, and her vocabulary is as colorful as her fettuccine.
basic mother dough
This dough is the real workhorse of the bunch. It’s a classic pale yellow and extremely versatile. If you’ve never made pasta before, this is the best place to start.
Recipe Notes: The author recommends picking up the book for full instructions on how to use foods to dye the pasta. In the meantime, whether you are using a powder (like turmeric or matcha) or puree (like tomatoes or beets), add it with the flour and eggs in the first step so it fully blends into the flour. If the dough becomes too wet (this can happen with purees), add a little more flour and keep mixing until the right doughy consistency is reached.
1. Combine the flour and eggs in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and mix on low speed until a ball of dough forms. Continue to knead for 3 minutes, either by hand or in the mixer, so that the dough develops elasticity and silkiness. Cover the ball of dough in plastic wrap and let it rest at room temperature for 30 minutes before sheeting.
2. Alternatively, you can let the dough rest for up to 24 hours in the refrigerator. The color sometimes fades after that, although the dough is still usable for up to 3 days.
Here you’ll learn how to make stripes with six colors on a pasta sheet. You can cut that into whatever final shape you want — pappardelle, lasagne, what have you — but I’ll show it here as fettuccine and trust you to make your own shaping decisions in the end.
Don’t work with too much dough at a time, or it will dry out and you’ll get frustrated trying to (wo)manhandle a big ol’ hunk of rainbow goo.
1. Sheet the basic pasta dough to the middle setting on a pasta machine, taking care to keep it as rectangular as possible with edges that go all the way to the sides of the pasta roller. Cover this sheet with a very lightly water-dampened kitchen towel in a place out of the way of the pasta machine.
2. Sheet the 6 dough flavors until they are the same length as the basic pasta sheet (the machine setting may vary, and that’s okay). Dust them with flour, then run them through the fettuccine attachment on a pasta machine. Make each color into a little separate pile next to the basic pasta sheet. Wipe the basic pasta sheet with a damp paper towel so the “stripes” will adhere to it. Keep the paper towel handy in case you have to re-moisten partway through.
3. Working with one color strip at a time, lay it lengthwise along the basic pasta sheet, starting at one lengthwise edge. You can follow a color pattern from red to purple and repeat if you’re going for the rainbow look, or use your imagination and create stripes in your own fun pattern. When the entire sheet of basic pasta dough is covered in stripes, lightly roll it with a rolling pin to make sure everything stays in place.
4. Cut the sheet into 5-inch lengths, or as long as the width of your pasta machine rollers, and re-roll them through a pasta machine to the desired thickness setting. Take care that you are rolling the sheet through horizontally now, with the stripes parallel to the roller. This is to ensure that each piece of pasta will have all of the colors on it, rather than the one or two that it would have if you sheeted it lengthwise.
5. Lightly flour each sheet and layer them on a floured surface with a kitchen towel between each layer and on the top of the stack. Let the sheets rest for 10 minutes.
6. Feed each pasta sheet through the fettuccine cutter on a pasta machine and hang the noodles to rest (see page 16 of the cookbook). Let the fettuccine hang for 30 minutes or until it feels leathery to the touch. Carefully remove it to a lightly floured sheet pan, forming it into little “nests” so that it’s easy to pick up each one and plunge it into boiling water.
7. If you would like to cook it another day, store the pasta on the sheet pan covered in plastic wrap in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Increase the cooking time by 1 minute if working with refrigerated pasta.
8. Boil in salted water for 2 minutes, drain, dress, and serve immediately.
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(Recipes via Linda Miller Nicholson and William Morrow, an Imprint of HarperCollins Publishers; photos via Brittany Wright)