It’s one of the most common foods in the world. Pasta is inexpensive and seemingly simple – but if you’ve had a meal in Italy or the staple prepared by the hands of an expert, you know that there can be a vast difference in the end result.
Andy Ticer and Michael Hudman, chefs and co-owners of Memphis’ Hog & Hominy, believe pasta was never meant to be a meal of convenience. Both grew up in Memphis, witnessing their Italian grandmothers roll pillows of dough and stretch long flat fettuccine. Pasta wasn’t an afterthought – it was an essential part of the family feast.
“Our family is such a huge, integral part of what we do,” says Michael. “Sunday get-togethers started when we were younger, and now there are so many nieces and nephews and aunts and uncles. Our grandmothers led the charge…and now it’s up to us to keep these traditions alive because they are extremely important.”
Andy and Michael both attended culinary school in Charleston, S.C., and Calabria, Italy, before returning to Memphis to launch Andrew Michael Italian Kitchen and later, Hog & Hominy, two restaurants that meld the best of their Southern and Italian heritage. In 2013, Hog & Hominy became a James Beard Award semifinalist for Best New Restaurant, they were selected as Food & Wine’s Best New Chefs, and they released their first cookbook, Collards and Carbonara. And even though they’ve shared their secrets, they understand why people may shrink from making pasta from scratch.
“I think the biggest fear factor of pasta is just being afraid of doing it,” Michael says. “But do it once and you get comfortable with it, and it’s not so intimidating. A really good tip is to not go outside your means – start small with a 2.5-pound batch and don’t be afraid to freeze what you don’t eat right away. If it’s kept in airtight containers, pasta can freeze for a couple of weeks, and then you can have fresh pasta anytime you want.”
They teach us how to make pasta below, but if you want to taste it prepared by the pros, Andy and Michael are on the road this spring, making stops at events in Nashville, Philadelphia, New Orleans and Charleston.
Basic Pasta Dough
4 large eggs
1 Tablespoon olive oil
8 cups 00 flour (extra-fine flour is available in specialty grocers, or substitute all-purpose flour)
In a large measuring pitcher, combine the eggs, oil and enough lukewarm water to measure 2 ½ cups. Whisk until well blended. Put the flour in a large bowl, and make a well in the center. Pour 2 cups of the egg-oil mixture into the well. Then, using a fork, slowly draw the flour into the egg-oil mixture. Continue to incorporate the flour until all of it is combined with the liquid and a shaggy dough has formed. Add more egg-oil mixture, if needed to help the dough come together. Once the dough comes together, turn it out of the bowl onto a clean work surface and knead until it is smooth and has nice elasticity (it should spring back immediately when you press it with a fingertip), about ten minutes. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and let it rest for 45 minutes before using.
To form the pasta, roll the pasta dough twice through a standard pasta machine (like the Imperia or KitchenAid) to create the shape of your choice. To cook the pasta immediately, bring a large pot of water to a boil, liberally salt the water and cook until al dente. “What you’re looking for is a tender bite with a bit of chew so there’s some substance to the pasta, which should be the real star of the show,” says Michael. Serve with the sauce of your choice.