Making pasta from scratch can be intimidating and/or off-putting for most people. For one reason or another, we just grab the dry stuff and not even realize what we’re missing. But this simple handkerchief pasta may become your gateway pasta to all the homemade pastas. But be careful. You may get hooked.
For the Pasta Kerchiefs
1⅔ cups plus ½ cup all-purpose flour (for dusting)
2 egg yolks
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
½ cup cold water
For the Rest of the Dish
1 tablespoon white vinegar
8 tablespoons unsalted butter
8 slices smoked, cured jambon de Paris or other low-salt lightly smoked, dry-cured ham
¾ cup shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
4 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted
Best-quality balsamic vinegar, for sprinkling
Coarsely ground black pepper
Place 1⅔ cups flour in a food processor, turn it on, and add the two egg yolks and one egg, one at a time, through the feed tube. The mixture should have the consistency of moist cornmeal. Add salt and olive oil; then add cold water a couple of tablespoons at a time until the dough just gathers into a ball and is difficult to work in the food processor. Transfer to a work surface lightly dusted with flour. Knead the dough for a full 10 minutes, until it’s silky and smooth. Lightly dust the ball of dough with flour and let rest for two hours under an overturned bowl.
Using a pasta machine, roll dough first on the largest setting. Keep passing it through the rollers, decreasing the setting each time, working your way down to the thinnest setting — your sheet will be so thin you could read the newspaper through it. Cut the long sheet into eight-inch rectangles. This will make about eight sheets, but you will need only four; save the rest by wrapping them individually in parchment and plastic wrap and then freezing. (If you don’t have a pasta machine, do as nonna would and roll the dough out with a rolling pin on a lightly dusted work surface. Before rolling, divide the dough into quarters.)
The rest of this dish happens in a single pan, so have all of your ingredients nearby and at the ready, including your serving bowls. It goes nice and quickly!
Fill a wide and deep sauté pan with water and bring it to a lively simmer. Add the white vinegar. Gently crack four eggs into four separate ramekins, to make sure the yolks are intact. Then tilt each one into the water. Give the water a gentle swirl with a spoon, which encourages the raw whites of the eggs to encase the yolks in a nicely rounded shape. Poach the eggs until the whites are fully set but the yolks are still runny. This takes 2 minutes and 30 seconds with grade A large eggs straight from the cold refrigerator. Remove with a slotted spoon and place one in each of four serving bowls; set aside in a warm place nearby. Put the ham into the same simmering water to warm through, then remove with a slotted spoon, drain briefly, and casually drape two slices over each egg.
Add four pasta sheets to the same pan of boiling water and cook for about 90 seconds, until cooked through. The sheets will turn from yellowish to opaque and white. Take care not to overcook, lest the pasta turn flaccid and shred. Using the slotted spoon, gently transfer each to the serving bowls and lay it over the egg and ham like a slightly rumpled bedsheet.
Note: A little bit of warm water will accrue in the bottom of each bowl. This is a good thing; by the time you have added the brown butter and balsamic vinegar and broken the egg yolk with your fork while eating, everything binds together to make a delicious impromptu sauce.
Discard water; add butter to the same pan. Cook over medium heat until it begins to smell nutty and turn brown, then quickly remove from the heat and spoon brown butter evenly over the four bowls of pasta. Be cautious of burning the butter — it goes from brown to black in a heartbeat.
Drizzle each bowl with balsamic vinegar. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese shavings and pine nuts. Season with salt and pepper.