MATCHA SPAGHETTI W/ CHILI AND CHEESE

It’s probably a bad time to say this but…

Listen, if you were making fresh pastas/noodles for the first time, or the first few times for that matter, chances are, they will probably fall short.

Yeah, this may sound counter-inspirational or perhaps even discouraging from someone who is at this very moment, and repeatedly for a number of times in the past, trying to get you to make one.  But I hope I did, as a diligent practice for myself as well, stressed the key-point, perhaps the only key-point crucial to the success of making fresh pastas/noodles and that is – the only way to be good at making fresh pastas/noodles at home is to acknowledge that it isn’t, and shouldn’t be, a straightforward thing.  And whoever’s told you that it is, either sucks at it or…

Yeah, they suck.

WHOEVER TELLS YOU THAT MAKING FRESH PASTAS/NOODLES IS A STRAIGHT-FORWARD THING, EITHER SUCKS AT IT OR…

YEAH, THEY SUCK.

Hey that goes for me as well, as in if I had in the past in any way, made it sound like a failsafe dinner or advertised for any kind of one-dough-fits-all type of pasta-fantasy, like so many other recipe promoters out there, then let me tell you once and for all that – we were fucking lying.

No pastas/noodles are made equal.

Simple, yes maaaybe, if we were talking about the basic makeup of ingredients that doesn’t stray far from some kind of flour mixed with some kind of liquid, but the dummy section pretty much ends there.  What type of flour?  Typical wheat flours, yours or mine?  What type of liquid?  Eggs are largely made with water, too but yolks come with fat and flavor where whites come with proteins that strengthen the dough, and what is it that we want?  What shape is the pasta/noodle?  Thick fat boys may require a softer dough whereas thin, delicate ones may need a bit more build and in between them two, there are fifty shades of chew.

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So why is it that there are so many one-fits-all recipes out there that are being sold simply as “the pasta dough”?  Oh wait, I know, it’s because they don’t want to scare you.  Yeah you as in those seeking 30-minutes meals 15-minutes meal why-can’t-that-guy-just-cook-me-a meal type of ideas.

Listen, if you are scared instead of being excited by the complexity, not to mention the fun in tailor-making a specific type of pasta/noodle dough for a specific type of application, embracing the possibility that yes you might fail a few times before arriving at something satisfactory, then listen, hey, no offense, but you just don’t have any business in this area of cooking.  Go boil a chicken breast or somethin’ but guess what, even that, shouldn’t be brainless.  Of course, I’m not saying I’m there, far from it, and it’s a never-ending quest, but I hope you’ll find use for these few general rules of thumbs from the past that have served me quite deliciously.

First of all, what do you want?

For a chubby and fat type of fresh pasta like cacio e pepe or this hand-shaped needle point pasta, we want more “chew” and less “bite” and thus resulting in the use of semolina flours (a stronger flour that creates more chewiness) and the elimination of egg white (too much protein that makes the dough tougher) in a medium-soft dough.  Then for Xi’an style hand-pulled noodles like biang-biang noodles, we want delicate but elastic white wheat flours with about 11% protein plus the aid of salt (promotes gluten) in a very soft and stretchy dough in order to create the “pull”, but no eggs so that the noodles are soft and chewy but not “toothy”.

Each rationing supports a different purpose, which brings us to today’s matcha spaghetti.

I’m a chubby chewy noodle-kind of girl.  For anything else that requires more “bite” or “tooth”, I default back to dried pastas or noodles to scratch that itch, unless… we are talking about adding something more exciting to them such as, shall we say, the slightly bitter and almost grassy flavour of matcha/Japanese green tea powder.

Spaghetti.  The vanilla flavor of pasta, supposed to be basic and friendly for which we always refer to the packaged dried version for that “al dente-ness”, and there is no reason to change that.  But dried spaghetti and fresh spaghetti, are two wholly different beasts.  Instead of toothy with bites, fresh spaghetti is bouncy, springy and lively.  For it’s slenderness, it requires a relatively drier dough, with a softer flour at about 9~10% protein and egg white to provide more build.  Then, there’s the introduction of the matcha powder.  Naturally, as I did in my first trial, the matcha powder would be mixed into the flour followed by the addition of liquid just like any other noodles.  But as it turned out, the matcha powder, without being “woken up” first, only gave the spaghetti a very faint reminder of its potential.  I mean what’s the point of making matcha spaghetti that doesn’t taste like matcha?  As it turned out, it had to be “steeped” in the wet ingredient first as a grassy paste before it went on to spread its gospels in very matcha-packed water molecules.

The result is beautifully moss-green spaghetti that is firm but not doughy, springy but not tough, with a pleasantly grassy and faintly bitter aroma that lingers in the background.  When you have something as delicate as is, you don’t want to distract yourself from it.  Simple olive oil, a bit of sparks of chili and black pepper, a simple emulsion of pasta-water and Pecorino Romano.  A dash of fish sauce?  Yes, yes my friend, it works.  And if not, a sauté with spring vegetables and ponzu accompanied by a good glass of cold water should suffice.

Don’t be scared.  Be excited!  Precisely because it isn’t simple, and therefore, much more interesting.

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MATCHA SPAGHETTI CACIO E PEPE

Serving Size: 2

Ingredients

    MATCHA SPAGHETTI:
  • 1 large egg
  • 4 tbsp water, plus more to adjust
  • 2 tbsp (11 grams) matcha/green tea powder
  • 1 1/2 cup (210 grams) all-purpose flour (about 9~10% protein)
  • TO COOK:
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 small red chili, diced
  • 3/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 small dashes of fish sauce
  • 50 grams grated pecorino romano cheese or Parmigiano, plus more to serve
  • 1 clove garlic, grated (see note)

Instructions

  1. MAKE MATCHA SPAGHETTI: For the first trial, I mixed matcha powder and flour together before adding the liquid, but I found "steeping" the tea powder first give the pasta more matcha flavor. So, whisk egg and 4 tbsp of water together until even, then whisk in the matcha powder. Let sit for 5 min. Add the matcha-mixture into the flour in a large bowl, then start kneading the mixture together with your hand until it comes into a very dry and shaggy dough. Transfer onto a surface and continue to knead for 6~8 min. In the end, the dough will still feel hard, a bit chalky and crumbly and crackly, but try to resist adding more water. Only add a small splash unless the dough has difficulty coming together, and if the dough seems too smooth and soft, add a bit more flour and knead again. Wrap the dough in plastic-wrap and let rest for at least 1 hour at room-temperature (by then, the dough would have hydrated further and appear smoother).
  2. Divide the dough in half. With rolling-pin or pasta-machine, roll the dough out into a rectangle, fold it, then roll it out again. Do this a few times until the dough appears relatively smooth. Now, you can either pass the dough through a spaghetti cutter, or roll it into a thin sheet (2 mm) and fold it and cut it with a knife. Toss with some flour so the noodles don't stick together. You can freeze them until needed.
  3. MAKE CACIO E PEPE: Bring a large pot of generously salted water to a full boil (must wait for the water to come into full boil before adding the noodles otherwise the noodles will break easily). Meanwhile, heat extra virgin olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat, then add diced chili and freshly ground black pepper, and cook until fragrant.
  4. Cook the matcha spaghetti in the boiling water for just a min until al dente, then transfer into the skillet along with about 2 tbsp of the pasta cooking-water. Continue on medium-high heat, add 2 small splashes of fish sauce and grated cheese, and toss until the cheese has fully melted and coats the noodles as a light sauce. If you are using garlic, add the grated garlic at this point and toss together.
  5. Serve immediately with more grated pecorino romano.

Notes

The matcha flavour is subtle and delicate in this noodle, so as much as I love garlic, it does overrun the matcha quite a bit. Therefore I'm going to leave the garlic as "optional". Add all, none, or add a bit, it's up to your mood of the day if you wanted something robust or delicate.

Fish sauce may sound weird in this application but trust me, it just brings everything together.

If your fresh spaghetti tastes to doughy, it's probably beause it's too thick.

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19 Comments

  • Go boil a chicken breast or somethin’ – LOL

    Super interesting how the first try of blending the matcha turned out. Makes sense, though, that the flavors would mesh better with the dough if the matcha was doughy as well, instead of throwing dry powder on it. You should have known better! Just kidding…

    Pictures looks gorge though, I bet the taste was even better :)

  • Wow your blog is gorgeous! Love the photography. And matcha pasta? I love cooking with matcha but NEVER thought to use it in pasta. Thank you for the inspiration!

  • Must admit, your write up on this one is basically a put down for those who may need to practice. I’m quite sure you are not “all that” and may require practice now and then in many things. The same as my young daughter and her cousins who used to follow you regularly. Also the unnecessary snidey remarks are surprising. Are you inspiring or demeaning those interested in cooking? I for one, and several future young cooks am saying adios, to your posts. Also please do us the honor of “not” responding.

    • Ms N, I won’t do you the honor and will respond by saying that there is nowhere in the post where I say I am “all that”, which I’m not, and practice is exactly what I’m promoting. If not articulately expressed here, that’s my fault. But if you were interested in cooking or anything for that matter, and feels discouraged or not inspired “enough” simply because of what I wrote in this insignificant blog, then maybe you weren’t that interested to begin with. I trust my readers that they don’t need someone to hold their hands through explorations. (Only and last response)

  • Of course, the response. Did not say you wrote that your “all that”. (read again) True, your fault. True, interested in many things (bad call on your part) True, interested in cooking and published author of many cookbooks. You? True, to me this is an insignificant blog. However somehow a group of young girls, stumbled upon your chit chat. True, you discouraged them. True young aspiring cooks DO need their hands held now and then, to guide them when dealing with amateur authors and online bloggers with “All That” attitudes. And sooo true that your hand is not an option when these future cooks are exploring and promoting their interest in food preparation. Something you appear to be proud of. Perhaps you should implement a disclaimer that your “blog” is inappropriate for aspiring young cooks who are sensitive to your style of story telling. True, no honor from your blog… Jesus loves you anyways.

    • These responses are the kind that make me ashamed to also call myself a Christian. Please cast out the plank in your own eye; you are not worthy of judging what others say, period. Leave that to Jesus, who loves you despite YOUR unnecessary judgmental and snide remarks. I hope he gives you the grace to reflect on yourself and learn to spread love instead of negativity.

      Lady and Pups is an immense joy for myself and many others to read. If you don’t pay attention to disclaimers (“an angry food blog – homecooking with extreme prejudice”), don’t blame others. That’s like complaining about buying a brown dress because you wanted a black dress… but the dress was brown when you bought it. If you don’t have a sense of humor or understand sarcasm and latent humility, don’t blame others. The vast majority of food blogs and recipe sites are humorless, bland and inoffensive – you may take your “business” there, as no one is forcing you or anyone else to be here (and I can safely say you won’t be missed; unlike Mandy, there’s no value-add to anything you’ve posted on this site). Who are you to expect the internet to cater only to the needs of you and your group of young girls? You haven’t given anything- it’s certainly not your place to taketh away.

      Mandy- sorry to take up any more space with this nonsense! You’re amazing and I LOVE your blog – it makes me laugh out loud (and occasionally cry.. xoDumpling), drool over the gooooorgeous photos, inspire me to make an utter (but tasty!) mess in the kitchen on a regular basis, and wish that you lived in NYC so I could at least have that 0.00002% chance of running into you somewhere and maybe becoming your friend :). Please keep doing what you’re doing!!

  • Pasta is the one cooking area I have never dabbled in (well, beyond your gnocchi recipe which was fantastic) but I think it is about time to try! Your blog always cracks me up, and I personally appreciate the disclaimers about the complexity/failure potential of the recipe :)

    Keep being awesome!

  • Update..as I read your past blogs, they are indeed inappropriate for our young cooks. My fault, though the kids assured me your angry nastiness and foul mouth was mostly ignored because the end result, the food, they liked. However to your credit even your title or header makes it clear this is not a nice girl cooking blog. Too bad, we really did enjoy the recipe parts. I shall do a better job of reviewing these blogs…

  • I really appreciate this post for encouraging us to practice cooking the more difficult things like pasta. Living abroad sometimes makes it difficult to find these things and I sometimes get discouraged at my first attempts to make substitutes like pasta noodles. I love your photography and enjoy laughing at the sarcasm. Thanks for all your hard work on this blog!

  • I intended to comment (which I do not do often) even before I saw the unfortunate snow squall in the comments. I think this is one of your best posts, pointing out as it does that cooking is an art and science and takes some effort, just like most of the better things in life. As a child, I would watch my grandfather and mom spend 2 whole days preparing homemade ravioli for the family. That’s crazy, my 11-year-old self thought. I’d never do that. Today I still don’t make homemade pasta, but I definitely appreciate it, and I do other crazy hands-on trial and error things that give me some of the greatest pleasure in my life. Rock on Mandy! Look forward to hearing more about the HK food scene!

  • This looks so so good, Mandy!!!! I actually happen to appreciate your honesty in regards to the challenges that noodle-making entails. I’ve been meaning to make my own noodles, since the only ones I know are really basic (mom’s korean knife-noodles), but can’t seem to shake off that “fear”. Now I’ll know what to expect thanks to you ;)

  • My first few results were disappointing when making pasta. So were my first few results at many things, yet I continue until it pays off. It’s okay to suck at things that are difficult or new . . . and thank you for saying so.

  • Thanks so much for this blog post Mandy! I’m just beginning to realize how much time and practice it does take to cook and bake really well and you really inspire me to do just that.

  • thanks for yet another awesome post and for continuing to inspire me in the kitchen!! I just bought a pasta machine so will definitely be trying this out tonight :)

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