It had been a long time since I’d made fresh pasta. In the early 80’s, David gave me an electric Simac pasta machine for Christmas that we played with for awhile. It was an early version, and I remember the pasta quality was inconsistent—hard and dry at the beginning of the extrusion process, soft and sticky by the end.

During my Cook’s Illustrated days, I bought a manual pasta machine for testing recipes that featured fresh pasta, but this infrequently used machine landed in the basement. Post Cook’s Illustrated I’ve made it my mission to develop recipes for busy cooks like me who may not have time to make fresh pasta. And so that manual pasta machine has sat in my basement, out of site, out of mind.

A few weeks ago I received several new pasta attachments for my KitchenAid stand mixer. As I unpacked them, I instinctively knew what to do. All my homemade pasta making knowledge and experience from the 80’s and 90’s returned. Even the old egg pasta formula I used to use—2 cups all-purpose flour and 3 large eggs—came back to me.

Maggy was with me the day I gave it a try. What shape would we try? What sauce would we make? We both agreed that if we were making fresh pasta, we’d likely not make a sauce, so we simply roasted seasonal butternut squash with a large onion. While the squash roasted, we made pasta. Both fans of wide egg noodles, we agreed on that too—pappardelle.

As I started running the pasta through the machine, Maggy was suddenly bright-eyed and twelve years old again. “Lemme do it, lemme do it!” she squealed with excitement. I don’t think either of us had experienced this kind of excitement in the kitchen since Sharon and Anthony made homemade corn tortillas a few years ago.

The process of making homemade pasta was exciting for sure, but as we all took our first bite of Pappardelle with Roasted Butternut Squash and Ricotta, we exclaimed almost in unison, “There is a difference, there IS a difference!

Fresh pasta was so much fun that night that I made it again then next night, and then a couple of nights later. What’s for dinner tonight? I don’t know about the topping, but I’ve already got my pasta dough made!

Pappardelle with Roasted Butternut Squash and Ricotta
Serves 4 to 6

1 large onion, cut into large dice
1 medium butternut squash (about 6 cups), cut into bite-sized pieces
3 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and ground black pepper
1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage
2 large garlic cloves, minced
1 pound parpadelle (or 1 recipe fresh, see below)
1 cup part skim ricotta
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese

Toss onion and squash with oil and a sprinkling of salt and pepper in a large bowl to coat evenly. Turn onto a large (18-by 12-inch) rimmed baking sheet. Set pan on the bottom oven rack and turn oven to 425 degrees. Roast vegetables, stirring once or twice, until golden brown and tender, 20 to 30 minutes (If your heating element sits over the oven floor, the browning process will take the lesser suggested time.) Add sage and garlic; toss to coat.

Meanwhile, heat 3 quarts of water and 1 tablespoon of salt to boil in a large pot. Add pasta and cook until tender (If using fresh pasta, this will only take a few minutes. If using store-bought pasta, use back-of-the-box cooking times as a guide.) Reserving 1 cup of the cooking liquid, drain pasta and return it to the pot. Add squash, ricotta, and some of the pasta cooking liquid; toss to coat, adding more water as needed and adjusting seasonings to taste. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and serve.

Fresh Egg Pasta
Makes about 1 pound

2 cups all-purpose flour
3 large eggs

Mix flour and eggs in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment until dough starts to form rough little balls. Remove dough from machine and place on a lightly floured work surface; knead briefly until dough comes together into a smooth ball. Wrap in plastic and let rest for 15 minutes or up to a couple of hours. (Can be refrigerated up to a couple of days.)

When ready to make pasta, divide dough into quarters, and pressing each piece into an approximate 1/2 –inch thick rectangle. With pasta machine fitted with the roller attachment adjusted to widest setting, run the first rectangle of dough through the roller. Fold dough in thirds and continue running it through the roller set at widest setting, folding it into thirds after each roll, until dough is smooth and pliable, 3 to 4 times.

Turn knob to the next thinner setting and run pasta through, adjusting the setting to the next thinner setting after each rolling, lightly dusting dough with flour as necessary. Lay pasta on work surface to rest. Repeat rolling, folding, and stretching steps with remaining 3 pieces of dough.

Switch to pappardelle (or fettuccine) attachment. Working one piece at a time, run stretched dough through cutter to form pappardelle or other shape.