Pasta and Herbs

A natural noodle connection.

| April/May 1996

Pasta Recipes:
• Egg Pasta
• Basil Pasta
• Parmesan, Garlic, and Pine Nuts with Basil Pasta
• Cilantro Leaf Pasta 
• Tomatillo Jalapeño Butter with Cilantro Pasta
• Saffron Pasta
• Feta, Chives, and ­Pistachios with Saffron Pasta 

If olive oil if and wine are the heart and soul of the Italian table, pasta is the body, and herbs are the spirit. Not a day goes by in most Italian lives without a bowl of pasta, lightly sauced or in broth. Tons of dried noodles are consumed in Italy, but the most respect is accorded fresh, homemade pasta. Our friends who introduced us to pasta fresca when we lived in Italy during the 1970s were passionate about it, and we soon learned to echo their sigh of satisfaction: “Che buona è la pasta!” Pasta is easy to make and always appreciated, and here in the United States it has become a comfort food for youngsters, teenagers, and adults alike.

As for the herbs, though we both grew up in families in which cooking was a pleasure as well as a necessity, neither of us had encountered anything like the abundance of fresh herbs in the Italian kitchen. In fact, the variety of fresh and distinctive fruits, vegetables, and herbs, the simplicity of the dishes, and the combination of flavors so intrigued and seduced us that Italian cooking remains our favorite twenty years later.

Being devotees of both herbs and pasta has led us through many delicious experiments in combining the two. The perfection of homemade pasta comes from its fresh, satisfying flavor and its resilient yet silky texture. Herbs awaken and stimulate the palate: when used to flavor the noodles themselves, as in the dishes we present here, they confer an extra dimension of liveliness with little extra effort.

Because we learned to make pasta in Italy, our guiding principles about herb and pasta combinations are Italian in character. Perhaps the most important is simplicity, born of necessity and elevated to genius by generations of cooks throughout Italy’s many regions. A few ingredients are usually better than many, provided that they work together to contrast and amplify the elemental flavors of sweet, sour, salt, and bitter.

So Simple!

Just flour and eggs make the finest Italian-style homemade noodles. Add­ing fresh herbs to the dough subtly but distinctly complements the flavor when the noodles are cooked. The quality of these few ingredients, as well as the way in which the noodles are rolled, can make a perceptible difference in the flavor and texture of pasta. Our tried-and-true recipe for Egg Pasta, along with step-by-step photographs.

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