The Easiest Pasta Recipe of All Time

Jenn Louis explores the hidden world of Italian dumplings—and unearths a seriously simple version.

By Benjamin Tepler March 2, 2015 Published in the March 2015 issue of Portland Monthly

Frascarelli, Italian pasta.

Image: Michael Novak

There’s more to Italian pasta than spaghetti. Lincoln Restaurant’s Jenn Louis spent the better part of five years researching Italy’s lesser-known family of pasta dumplings, including gnocchi, for her new recipe collection, Pasta by Hand, the first American-penned cookbook devoted entirely to the little dough nubs. Louis traveled through Italy’s 20 distinct regions, scouring each village for its own secret nonna-approved formula. The easiest dumplings she found in the entire Mediterranean boot are frascarelli, toothsome, spätzle-like pebbles formed by dropping water over semolina flour, like dripping ocean water over sand. It requires little more than five nimble fingers and a lazy afternoon to make this tasty, kid-friendly tomato sauce delivery service—no pasta machine required. 

Semolina Frascarelli

(Serves 6)

  • 1 big bowl of ice water
  • 5 cups semolina flour 

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside. Pour half of the flour on a second baking sheet and spread it out evenly. Dip one hand into ice water and drip several large droplets from your fingers onto flour-covered baking sheet. Use a metal bench scraper* to turn flour over itself, creating small dough frascarelli bits, about ¼ inch in diameter (above).

*This rectangular kitchen tool is a jack-of-all-trades, capable of cutting, shaping dough, and cleaning.

Using the bench scraper, transfer the flour with frascarelli bits to a medium-mesh sieve or strainer. Gently shake sieve, allowing unmoistened flour to fall back onto baking sheet. Put frascarelli on the other, parchment-lined baking sheet, careful not to overcrowd them. Repeat the process until very little flour remains (this will take some time), and then dump remaining half of the flour on the baking sheet and continue making frascarelli. (If not cooking it right away, the frascarelli can be covered with plastic wrap and refrigerated for up to 3 days.)

Bring a large pot filled with very salty water to a simmer over medium-high heat. Add frascarelli and simmer until they float to the surface, 1 to 3 minutes. Remove immediately with a slotted spoon and serve with a sauce of your choosing (traditionally, tomato).

Recipe adapted from Jenn Louis’s Pasta by Hand

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