Penne for your thoughts: Chef Luke Holder
Pasta is one of the ultimate comfort foods – and nothing beats the fresh stuff. It’s pre-pasta-rously tasty.
And while you can enjoy it at a good Italian restaurant, here chef Luke Holder – who runs eatery Hartnett Holder & Co at Lime Wood hotel in the New Forest with Michelin-starred Angela Hartnett – reveals how to make pasta at home good enough to serve to paying guests.
He also divulges advice on making great off-the-shelf pasta, and offers top tips for seasoning, sauces and which supermarkets to shop at for the best ingredients.
When it comes to making fresh pasta – usually a mixture of eggs and flour – Luke says that how many eggs you use depends on how decadent you are feeling.
He tells MailOnline Travel: ‘Depending on how decadent you are feeling determines the amount of egg and yolks you should use. We use a rough guide of nine egg yolks to 200g of pasta flour as a guide.
‘We use a very northern Italian style fresh pasta – the further south you go, the fewer eggs are used in pasta, with only durum wheat flour and water used in Southern Italy – which is very rich in texture and leaves you with a much more malleable pasta if you want to make a filled pasta like a ravioli or agnolotti.
‘Knowing what you want to do before you start is important, as some dishes lend themselves to being better made with dried non-egg-based pasta, such as spaghetti vongole.
‘When making fresh pasta, one key tip is to ensure that once you bring the dough together, let it rest for 45 minutes to allow it to relax, otherwise as you put it through the machine it will tend to spring back, tightening the dough.
‘If you are making a filled pasta with fresh egg-yolk-based dough, you shouldn’t need to add any water or egg wash to seal the pasta. It should be moist and rich enough to come together naturally.’
And stand by with the flour as you put the pasta through the machine.
Luke says: ‘If the dough is sticky, just give it a light dusting of flour every time before you put it through the machine. The most common mistake when making fresh pasta is allowing it to stick to the rolling blades of the machine. Dust lightly but often and make sure your pasta machine is well attached to the work surface because if it isn’t, then rolling the pasta becomes practically impossible.’
Life is full of pasta-bilities: Luke runs eatery Hartnett Holder & Co at Lime Wood hotel in the New Forest with Michelin-starred Angela Hartnett (on the right)
And what are the do’s and don’ts for off-the-shelf pasta cooking?
Luke says: ‘There is a lot of folklore around ensuring dried pasta doesn’t stick together.
‘I often hear the advice of adding olive oil to the water, or only season the pasta after cooking. All of that is nonsense to me.
‘The key is to make sure your pasta water is well seasoned – tasting like seawater. Seasoning is a state of being and not an action!
Best-value-for-money Parmesan on the market today, without doubt, is Lidl’s three-year aged. At £14.50 per kg it’s a real bargain
‘Ensure you are cooking your pasta in enough water – the larger the volume of water, the better. Think three to one, water to pasta.
‘Once you add the dried pasta to rapidly boiling water keep it moving – stirring until the water comes back to the boil. This will prevent the pasta from sticking.
‘Always remember that no matter what sauce you are going to serve with your pasta, reserving some of the pasta boiling water will always make a fantastic addition.’
Any more on the all-important sauce?
Luke says: ‘Adding tomato puree is one common mistake. Don’t – it just makes the sauce thick and heavy.
‘Do add a touch of quality red wine vinegar – and if at all possible add great quality tinned tomato, specifically San Marzano tomatoes DOP, as they are grown on volcanic soil and have an amazing flavour. Personally, I always add chilli flakes in with the onions, garlic and olive oil before adding the vinegar.’
Is there anything Luke does in his professional kitchen that an amateur doesn’t?
He says: ‘Reserve your Parmesan rinds and add them to the pasta boiling water or make a Parmesan stock by boiling the rinds in water for three hours and use that to add to your sauces or to cook the pasta in.
‘To finish, we add a touch of garlic oil – fresh garlic grated into olive oil – right at the end, which lifts the whole dish.’
And what are the go-to brands home cooks should be buying at the supermarket for pasta dishes?
Luke says: ‘The key is to make sure your pasta water is well seasoned – tasting like seawater. Seasoning is a state of being and not an action’
Luke says: ‘For me, it’s always worth spending money on good quality aged Parmesan, great quality tinned tomato and wonderful anchovies – all of these three items will transform your pasta dishes and take a lot of the hard work out of it.
‘They will also sit in your store cupboard until you need them.
‘Avoid cheap-quality anchovies. These are the reason why people don’t like anchovies! And never substitute Parmesan for other cheeses. There is nothing to replace Parmigiano Reggiano!
‘Best-value-for-money Parmesan on the market today, without doubt, is Lidl’s three-year aged. At £14.50 per kg it’s a real bargain. Aged Parmesan is such a treat and will add the undeniable joy of umami paired with Ortiz anchovies and with those Rega San Marzano DOP tinned tomatoes, it would be hard to make something not taste absolutely delicious.’
Hartnett Holder & Co at Lime Wood celebrates its 10th anniversary this year. In celebration of the landmark, Angela and Luke will host a guest chef series with some of HH&Co’s oldest chef friends throughout the year. The first dinner of the series will take place on May 16 with acclaimed chefs Nathan Outlaw, Valentine Warner and Neil Borthwick. The following dinner will take place on September 13 with headline chefs of a similar calibre yet to be announced alongside Angela and Luke.
HH&Co will also be launching a partnership with DishPatch to create a limited edition HH&Co menu box, which will be available on an exclusive basis nationwide this summer.