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Connecting to Rome from Home

Are you preparing to study abroad in Italy, looking to reconnect with the foods you ate abroad, or just feel like making a delicious meal? Below are my tried-and-true recipes that I learned abroad for some staples of Italian cooking: fresh pasta and homemade ricotta. So, set aside a few hours, dust the entire kitchen with flour, and get ready to reconnect with Italian culture through food!

Fresh pasta

If you studied abroad in Italy, you know how intrinsic pasta is to most Italian meals. But what you probably don’t know is how much time, effort, care, and science goes into making a really good batch of fresh pasta. To make your own pasta, you’ll first want to understand how all of the ingredients play into one another. Pasta can be tricky to perfect, so understanding how the flour, eggs, water, and oil all combine to form dough will help you master your own recipe and learn how to problem solve if your dough becomes flaky or tough. 

The first ingredient you’ll use to make pasta is flour. The type of flour that you use and its protein count will determine the structure of your dough and how soft or chewy your pasta will be. To simplify things, I’ve included my recipe for a pasta dough that’s halfway between soft and chewy. This pasta dough uses both all-purpose flour and durum flour, which are both high in protein, and will allow you to make many different types of pastas. Once you master this recipe, have fun experimenting with other types of flour depending on the type of dish you want to make, like tipo 00 for chewy pasta or tipo 2 for silky pasta.  

The second most important ingredient used to make pasta dough is water. Without water, the gluten in the flour would never form into dough and you’d have dry, crumbly pasta. So, don’t forget to add water to your dough, and if you’re having trouble getting your dough to form, try adding more water. 

The final ingredients you’ll use are olive oil and eggs. Both of these will help make your pasta dough more tender and flavorful. The protein from the egg yolks will also make the dough firmer and improve its elasticity. And that’s it! With just four main ingredients and some elbow grease, you can make pasta so delicious that you’ll forget you’re not actually in Italy.  


  • 1 ¼ cups and 2 tbsp all-purpose flour 
  • 7 tbsp durum or semolina flour 
  • 9 egg yolks 
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil  
  • 3 tbsp cold water 

Start with a clean, dry, and large work surface. Pour both flours on to the surface, and form a mound. Loosely combine with a fork. Make a well in the center of the mound, and add the egg yolks, oil, and water. Using a fork, slowly incorporate the dry and wet ingredients being careful not to break the well. As the ingredients become more incorporated, use your hands, and slowly begin to knead the dough. Knead until all the ingredients are combined and the dough forms a shiny, bouncy, round ball. Make sure to not overwork the dough. Stop kneading when you can press a finger into the dough and it bounces back into place. If the dough does not bounce back, you have overworked it. Wrap dough tightly in plastic wrap, and let rest at room temperature for at least 30 minutes. 

After the dough has rested, dust your work surface with flour. Separate your dough  ball into smaller sections, and place one of the sections on your work surface. Using a rolling pin, roll the dough out into long sheets. When the dough first begins to form an oval, fold it in half widthwise, and begin rolling it again. If you are planning on making a noodle pasta, roll the dough into a long rectangle. If you are looking to make tortellini or ravioli, roll the dough into a large circle. Periodically pick the dough up, flour your work surface, flip the dough onto the other side, and continue rolling it out. If the dough begins sticking to your rolling pin, dust the rolling pin with flour. Roll the dough out until it’s thin enough that you can see your hand through it. Even if you have an electric or hand-crank pasta roller, use a rolling pin at least once! Using a rolling pin makes you appreciate the hard work that went into your pasta. If you don’t have a rolling pin, you can always use a wine bottle instead.  

To cut pasta noodles, fold the dough in thirds like a letter, and, using a sharp knife or pasta cutter, cut out the desired noodle shape and width. To make tortellini or ravioli rounds, press the mouth of a glass into the dough to cut out small circles. 

Bring water and a lot of salt to a boil. Instead of using olive oil to keep the pasta from sticking to the pot like most Americans do, Italians use a boat load of salt. Not only does adding salt keep the pasta from sticking, but it also helps the water boil faster, and it cooks out of the water so you can’t taste it in your pasta. Adding olive oil can also prevent your sauce from sticking to the pasta, so salt is definitely the better option. Typically, I add 2-3 tbsp of salt to my pasta water. Once the water is at a steady boil, cook fresh pasta for roughly 3 minutes. Reserve roughly ½ cup of the starchy pasta water for cooking your sauce. 

And there you have it! You just made homemade fresh pasta, and you’re ready to jazz it up with a simple but delicious sauce. But, before we dive into sauces, here are some flour alternatives that you can use if you can’t find durum or semolina flour in your local grocery store. 

  • Bread flour: Use 1 ⅔ cups bread flour in place of the all-purpose and durum flours. 
  • Whole wheat: Use 4 cups and 2 tbsp whole wheat flour, 4 whole eggs, 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, and 2 tbsp water. This recipe makes a chewier dough as well. 

Ditch the jar of premade pasta sauce, and pair your fresh pasta with an easy-to-make homemade tomato basil sauce. This sauce is a staple for many dishes, so it’s good to know how to make it from scratch. And, once you try it and see how simple, delicious, and inexpensive it can be, I guarantee you’ll never want to buy the premade stuff again. 


  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil 
  • 1 clove garlic, smashed 
  • 1 cup whole canned San Marzano tomatoes 
  • ½ cup reserved pasta water 
  • ¼ tsp red pepper flakes 
  • 10 pieces of fresh basil leaves, torn into pieces 
  • Salt and pepper 
  • Parmigiano reggiano

For this recipe, I recommend cutting your pasta into broad, flat noodles, like fettuccine or pappardelle, so that the noodles can lap up a lot of sauce. 

Heat the oil in a pan over medium. Add garlic and begin to brown. Add tomatoes, crushing them with your hands. Lower the heat, and cook for 10 minutes or until the sauce loses its raw tomato taste. Add cooked pasta, pasta water, and red pepper flakes. Cook until the sauce reduces. Add salt and pepper to taste. Keep moving the pasta until the noodles and sauce become one in the pan. Add basil leaves and toss a few more times. Plate, and add parmigiano reggiano to taste.

Another variation of this sauce is all’arrabbiata. You’ll find this dish all throughout Rome, and it’s great for people with dietary restrictions, like vegetarians and vegans. 


  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil 
  • 1 clove garlic, smashed 
  • 1 cup whole canned San Marzano tomatoes 
  • ½ cup reserved pasta water 
  • ½ tsp red pepper flakes 
  • 3 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped 
  • Salt and pepper

Follow the same instructions as the tomato basil sauce recipe. As you add the cooked pasta, pasta water, and red pepper flakes to the sauce, add parsley as well. Cook until sauce reduces. Add salt and pepper to taste. Keep moving the pasta until the noodles and sauce become one in the pan. Plate.

If you’re looking to get more adventurous with your Italian cooking, you can also try making homemade ricotta! Even though it originated in Sicily and not Rome, ricotta is another staple of many Italian dishes. While studying abroad, I learned how to make ricotta during one of the Italian cultural labs arranged through Temple Rome and have since always opted to make it myself rather than buy it premade from a store. 

Homemade ricotta pairs well with stuffed pastas, like tortellini or ravioli, or you can just enjoy it spread on fresh bread. Ricotta is naturally low in fat, and by making it yourself, you ensure that you aren’t consuming any preservatives or additives that can often be found in store-bought ricotta. That being said, make a lot and eat as much as you want! And fun fact: ricotta is actually considered a creamy curd and not a cheese.

Italian for “twice cooked,” ricotta is traditionally made using the left-over whey from homemade mozzarella or hard cheeses. To form the curds, an acid is added to the whey. Traditional ricotta uses rennet as the acid, which is an enzyme extracted from cow, sheep, or goat intestines. Assuming that you aren’t already making your own mozzarella and that you don’t have access to some animal intestines, below is a recipe for ricotta using whole milk and vinegar. 


  • 7 cups whole milk 
  • 1 cup heavy cream 
  • 3 tsp salt 
  • 5 tbsp white vinegar

Combine the milk and cream in a large pot, and heat over medium. Stir occasionally to prevent the mixture from burning. Using a cooking thermometer, check the temperature often. Once the milk and cream reach 200 degrees Fahrenheit, remove from heat and immediately stir in salt and vinegar gently. Stir only 3-4 times until clumps begin to form. Let rest for 10 minutes. After the ricotta has rested and defined clumps have formed, drain the whey from the ricotta using a cheesecloth or a thin, clean dish towel and a colander. Do not squeeze out the excess whey, but rather let gravity do it’s trick. You can bounce the cheesecloth or towel up and down a few times to force extra liquid out. If spreading on bread, serve warm and top with sea salt and honey. If using for stuffed pastas, refrigerate until you’re ready to cook. 

Lemon spinach ravioli with a sage brown butter sauce

  • Ingredients for the filling: 
    • 1 ¼ cup homemade ricotta
    • 1 cup spinach, steamed
    • 2 tbsp parmesan cheese
    • Zest of 2 lemons
    • 1 egg yolk 
    • ½ tsp salt 
    • ½ tsp pepper 
  • Ingredients for the sauce: 
    • 8 leaves of fresh sage 
    • 6 tbsp butter
    • Zest and juice of 1 lemon 

Combine all of the filing ingredients and refrigerate. Roll out pasta dough into a large circle, and use the mouth of a glass to press out ravioli rounds. Fill the rounds with roughly a tablespoon of the filing mixture. Fold ravioli in half or place another circle of dough on top to seal. Dab a little bit of water on the corners, and press the pasta together with your fingers. Crimp with a fork. Boil for roughly 4 minutes. While the pasta cooks, melt butter in a pan over medium heat. Once melted, add the sage. Once the butter begins to brown, lower the heat and add the cooked ravioli. Saute ravioli for about 1 minute on each side. Turn off the heat, and add lemon juice. Plate, and garnish with lemon zest. 

With basics like this under your belt, you can make nearly any type of pasta dish or try tackling more complicated and authentically Roman recipes, like cacio e pepe or carbonara. If you end up making your own pasta, leave a comment below and let us know how it went! 

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