Pasta, Pretty Please: A Vibrant Approach to Handmade Noodles, written by Linda Miller Nicholson, is a pasta lover’s dream. Using a variety of all-natural colors, Linda features dozens of fun pasta shapes, fillings, and sauces. Highlights include Stars Pappardelle, Small Striped Agnolotti, Purple Sweet Potato Gnocchi, Hand-Cut Tajarin, Bacon-Peanut-Tomato Sauce, Piemontese Cheese Sauce, and so much more. I will also be sharing her recipe for Burrata Gnocchi following the review.
Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from William Morrow in exchange for my honest review. All comments and opinions are my own. This post contains Amazon affiliate links. If you purchase something through the link, I may receive a small commission at no extra charge to you.
Linda Miller Nicholson
Linda Miller Nicholson of Salty Seattle has received international recognition for her pasta creations using naturally-dyed dough. Her work has been featured in Saveur, Good Housekeeping, Buzzfeed, Elle, Cosmopolitan, Delta Airlines, BBC, Business Insider, Food Network, and more. She is currently based near Seattle with her husband, son, and flock of chicken and ducks (which provide the eggs for her pasta). This is her first cookbook.
Pasta, Pretty Please
Chapters are divided according to the following: Dough, Basic Pasta Sheeting Techniques, Advanced Pasta Sheeting Techniques, Gnocchi and Other Rolled Pasta, Sauces, and Fillings.
Linda begins with everything you need to know about making homemade pasta including the dos and don’ts of dough, ingredients (best type of flour to use), basic kitchen tools, specialty items, storage, freezing, cooking methods, and sauce pairings. Among the pages, you will find over 100 patterns, shapes, colors, and fillings using 25 different dough recipes with vegetables, herbs, and superfoods in a variety of colors. I especially love the ideas for using the scraps of extra dough to make interesting designs, pastina, or even turning them into crackers.
The photography is provided by Brittany Wright. At least one photo accompanies every recipe along with plenty of step-by-step guides to help with the shapes, designs, and use of the pasta machine. Measurements are provided in US Customary and there is a small conversion chart at the end of the book. Headnotes include personal stories, tips, techniques, serving size, pairing ideas, and more.
Gnocchi lovers will find plenty of recipes to choose from in this book. I was immediately drawn to the Burrata Gnocchi. I actually only tried burrata a couple of years ago while at Cheesetique Northern Virginia. This rich semi-soft Italian cheese has a solid outer curd pouch that gives way to a creamy, buttery center. It adds such a wonderful light and pillowy texture to the gnocchi.
The Burrata is combined with Parmigiano, egg, and nutmeg in the food processor until pureed and folded into the flour to create a soft and smooth dough. Be careful not to overknead the dough or use too much flour while forming each individual piece of gnocco, because you want to keep that light texture. I used this gnocchi board to form the distinct ridges, but a silicone sushi mat will also work.
Linda came up with this recipe as a way to use up some burrata that was about to expire. Due to the freshness of this cheese, it definitely doesn’t last long before spoiling so look for one with as distant an expiration date as possible when choosing a container at the store.
The Burrata Gnocchi is best paired with roasted tomatoes with basil oil sauce (recipe also in book). Since basil isn’t readily available this time of year, I served the gnocchi simply with a drizzle of balsamic vinegar and olive oil along with some leftover cherry tomatoes and arugula. It is definitely one of the best gnocchi dishes I have tried so far.
I also made the Pasta alla Chitarra, Polka Dot Farfalle, Rigatoni, and Rosmarino Maiale Monday Sauce.
I got a Chitarra (Italian guitar-like tool with strings that cut the dough as it is rolled over the top) for Christmas and tried it out for the first time with this Pasta alla Chitarra! Using the Matcha dough to create a dusty green color, I paired the noodles with the Cold Noodle Dipping Sauce recipe. The combination is perfect on its own, but would also work well with sugar snap peas, beets, radishes, carrots, cabbage, ginger, cilantro, or cucumbers.
I made the Polka Dot Farfalle using the milk dough (white) and cacao dough (brown). It was such a fun shape to create. Claire especially loved cutting out all the little circles.
I don’t own a pasta extruder, so I didn’t even think it was possible to make homemade rigatoni. Linda’s instructions made it fairly easy with the help of dowels and a gnocchi board (or silicone sushi mat). She also mentions that by rolling the pasta diagonally across the board, you can make elicoidali instead of rigatoni. The dough (I used the beet-blueberry to make the rich purple color) also held up well to boiling.
I paired the purple rigatoni with the Rosmarino Maiale Monday Sauce. Perfect for weeknights, this rich and flavorful sauce comes together quickly with ground pork, kale, garlic, rosemary, balsamic vinegar, dry white wine, mozzarella ciliegine (small balls), and spices. It is definitely one of my new favorites.
This book is a great pick for those interested in trying out fun and interesting pasta ideas at home. Recipes range from simple shapes and basic dough recipes to the more impressive Six-Colored Fettuccine, Hearts and Stripes Pappardelle, Argyle Lasagne Sheets, and Emoji Ravioloni. For those avoiding eggs, Linda has included options for egg-free dough. A few ingredients used to make the natural colors may be more difficult to locate such as butterfly pea flowers, activated charcoal, cacao powder, ‘nduja, harissa, spirulina powder, and chestnut flour.
Burrata Gnocchi Recipe
Excerpt from Pasta, Pretty Please
- 4 (4 ounce each) balls of burrata cheese (two 8 ounce containers), drained and patted dry with paper towels
- 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
- 1 large egg
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- 1 3/4 cups "00" pasta flour plus more for dusting
- Kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- Pulse the burrata, Parmigiano, egg, and nutmeg in a food processor until just combined, about 10 seconds.
- In a medium bowl, combine the puree and 1 cup of the flour and stir until combined. Add the remaining flour a little at a time, pulling the dough away from the sides of the bowl.
- When the dough is no longer tacky, turn it out onto a floured surface and knead gently into a ball, adding flour as needed to keep the dough from sticking to the surface. Knead for about 2 minutes, until the dough is uniform. Do not overknead or the gnocchi will be tough.
- Cut the dough into four pieces and roll each piece into a snake that is 2/3 inch in diameter. When you're rolling the snakes, keep in mind that they will roll more uniformly if you can use as little flour as possible, but you'll want to roll quickly back and forth so that the snakes don't stick to the surface.
- Line the snakes up next to one another and flour them so they don't stick together. Using a pastry cutter, cut the snakes into 1/2-inch pieces. Toss the gnocchi in flour.
- If you would like grooves in your gnocchi, place either a silicone sushi mat or a gnocchi board in front of you with the grooves running perpendicular to the edge of the counter closest to you. Set a gnocco parallel to the counter on the board or mat and use your thumb to roll it against the board or mat, pushing the grooves away from you. Press firmly enough to imprint grooves but gently enough that you don't squish the shape. Repeat to imprint the entire batch.
- Line a sheet pan with parchment paper and lightly dust it with flour. Arrange the gnocchi on the sheet pan. Refrigerate, uncovered, for at least 30 minutes or up to 2 hours.
- Preheat the oven to 425˚F and bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Working in batches of fifteen or so at a time, boil the gnocchi until they float to the top of the pot, 1 to 3 minutes. Test the gnocchi for doneness by removing one with a slotted spoon and cutting it in half. If it looks (and tastes) cooked through, the batch is ready to remove. If it is gooey, continue boiling and retest.
- Meanwhile, put the butter and oil in a 9 by 13 inch baking dish.
- Remove the gnocchi from the water with a slotted spoon or spider and put them in the baking dish. Repeat to cook the rest of the gnocchi. Stir to coat well with the butter and oil, then bake for 10 minutes, gently stirring once after 5 minutes. Sauce and serve immediately.