Putting Flavor and Color in Pasta

Freiman is a New York-based food writer

The idea that fresh pasta should have color but not flavor always has seemed a bit strange even though it is a generally accepted idea, particularly in Italian cooking. Why not have noodles that taste as good as they look?

One reason might be that pasta loses a great deal of flavor as it cooks, so even when flavorings are added they tend to fade in the cooking.

Perhaps that's why the idea for noodles flavored with curry powder seems so appealing. This ground mixture of spices is so powerful that the flavor survives better than many others.

Making homemade pasta dough takes only six seconds of processing in the food processor. It couldn't be easier and the only adjustment needed will be working out the exact amount of flour required for the recipe without overworking the dough.

These curry noodles begin with 2/3 cup bread flour which, as the side panel on the flour bag indicates, contains an average of 14 grams of protein per cup. This is relatively high-protein flour and as a result it is stronger, or more able to absorb liquid than most all-purpose flours, even the unbleached varieties.

Once the initial batch of dough is processed with one-second pulses, it is time to assess from the texture whether the dough requires more flour. Dough that will be perfect for rolling processes into moist, little beads that hold together when pinched.

If the 2/3 cup flour specified in the recipe forms a wet or mushy dough rather than the little beads (this also can be a result of variations in egg size) then it is necessary to add flour by tablespoons until the proper consistency is achieved.

Half-second pulses keep pasta dough most tender during this critical period of adjustment. While dough should bead up properly after 1 or 2 tablespoons of flour are added, up to 1/4 cup of flour may be required.

In addition to mixing pasta dough quickly, the machine mixes the sauce perfectly with no stove-top cooking. The result is a sophisticated appetizer for four which--for maximum effect--should be arranged on warm dinner plates.

The overall look of the dish is created by different flavorings. The bright-green sauce results from cilantro leaves and fresh chiles processed into the sauce base. The noodles are tinted yellow by the curry powder, and the pink-and-white shrimp halves provide a bright garnish.

While the combination may sound odd, the flavors work particularly well together as they are age-old partners in shrimp curry. Rethinking in this manner adds interest to a pasta appetizer, and restaurant techniques can be used for a higher style of home cooking.


1 egg

1 egg yolk

1/4 cup olive or vegetable oil

1 tablespoon curry powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

Several dashes hot pepper sauce

2/3 cup bread flour, plus additional flour as needed

4 quarts boiling salted water

6 ounces medium shrimp, shelled, deveined, split

Cilantro Sauce

Combine egg, egg yolk, 1 tablespoon oil, curry powder, salt and hot pepper sauce in processor container fitted with metal blade. Process 10 seconds. Add 2/3 cup bread flour and process with 1-second pulses until small beads form, about 4 to 6 seconds. (If dough is too soft, add additional flour by tablespoons, using 1/2-second pulses after each addition.) Press dough together, transfer to plastic wrap and set aside 15 minutes.

Divide dough into 3 equal pieces. Roll out each piece, lightly flouring both sides as necessary, to thinnest setting on pasta machine, according to manufacturer's directions. Cut into narrow tagliarini, or angel hair noodles. (Noodles can be covered with dry cloth towel, wrapped in plastic wrap and refrigerated 8 hours).

Boil water in large kettle. Add noodles, cook until water boils again. Drain.

Add remaining olive oil to kettle. Add shrimp and toss until cooked. Remove and keep warm. Add noodles and carefully toss with tongs or wooden spoons. Do not break noodle strands. Reheat sauce. Ladle 1/4 cup warm Cilantro Sauce onto warm dinner plates. Place desired amount of noodles in center of each plate of sauce and place shrimp halves around noodles and on sauce in pinwheel design. Serve immediately. Makes 4 appetizer servings.

Cilantro Sauce

1 medium clove garlic

6 medium shallots

1 1/2 cups dry white wine

1 1/2 tablespoons white wine vinegar

1/4 cup firmly packed cilantro

2 serrano chiles or 1 small jalapeno chile, stemmed, cored, quartered

1/4 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup hot melted butter

Insert metal blade in dry processor container. Mince garlic and shallots by dropping through food chute with machine running. Transfer to small non-aluminum saucepan. Add wine and simmer slowly until mixture reduces to 1/4 cup. Stir in vinegar. Strain.

Wipe container dry with paper towel. Process cilantro to mince. With machine running, drop chiles through food chute and process until minced. Add hot reduction and salt to processor container. With machine running, add hot melted butter in thin stream within 45 seconds. Process 5 seconds longer. Transfer to medium saucepan and keep warm no longer than 10 minutes on low heat. (Can set aside at room temperature 4 hours and reheat without simmering).

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