Fresh Pasta With The Farmer’s Hands
By Jen Nathan Orris | Photos by Erin Adams
Chef Sebastiaan Zijp plunges his hands into a mound of flour on the countertop of his kitchen. Light shines through the windows of his historic home, which serves as the hub of his seasonal cooking classes and the supper club he hosts with his wife, Ariel, under the name The Farmer’s Hands.
Today he is making magic—transforming flour, eggs, and salt into silky sheets of pasta. His fingers are a blur, first creating an indentation in the flour to cradle the eggs, and then whisking them together with a fork. In mere minutes, he’s kneading the dough into a shiny ball which he will soon turn into raviolo al uovo.
These pillowy ravioli are filled with seasoned goat cheese and a whole egg yolk that flows like lava with each forkful. The dish is a showstopper at his pasta classes, both for its decadent flavor and presentation.
Zijp says students are captivated when they see “the egg yolk running out when you cut into it, the surprise inside, and the incredible amount of flavor held together by two sheets of fine pasta.”
He first learned about the dish in New York City where he was a chef for eight years. He was friends with the chef at Maialino, an Italian trattoria overlooking Gramercy Park, who made raviolo al uovo with suckling pig served in broth. Since then, Zijp has scaled back the recipe to its simpler form to let the main ingredients shine.
He sources many of these ingredients from the small farm behind his home in Madison County where he grows an array of produce and raises chickens, rabbits, and ducks. The duck eggs in his raviolo al uovo are fresh from his farm, and almost everything that isn’t grown on site comes from nearby farmers and artisan producers.
“We aim to build a strong connection between the love of cooking and the abundance of amazing farms in our area,” he says.
This bounty overflows at the seasonal supper clubs he and Ariel host outside during the warmer months and in their kitchen during the winter. His dedication to quality shines through at cooking classes as well, which run the gamut from Japanese ramen to Spanish tapas and, of course, pasta.
The experience is like eating at the chef ’s counter of a high-end restaurant while the chef whispers secrets in your ear. His advice for newcomers and experienced home cooks is the same: “Don’t give up if it doesn’t work the first time. Make it fun and don’t worry about the mess.”
Making pasta is indeed a beautiful mess, as you can see in the stunning recipe Zijp shares below. Try your hand at making fresh pasta at home and watch the magic unfold in your own kitchen.
RAVIOLO AL UOVO
Basic Egg Pasta Dough:
This simple pasta dough recipe is perfect for raviolo al uovo, but that’s just the beginning. Feed the dough through a pasta roller and use the cutter attachment or a sharp knife to make fettuccine, linguine, or pappardelle. Mix the dough by hand or in a machine, and you’ll have fresh pasta in about an hour.
Yields 6–8 servings of pasta
4 ounces egg
2.5 ounces egg yolk
1 teaspoon salt
10 ounces all-purpose flour
To mix by hand: In a small bowl, beat together eggs, egg yolk, and salt. Weigh the flour and pour it onto your work surface. Make a well in the middle, and pour the eggs into the well. Using a fork, slowly whisk the flour into the egg, incorporating the eggs and flour little by little from the edges of the well.
Once the egg mixture gets too thick for the fork, knead by hand. Once you have a cohesive dough, knead until it’s shiny and elastic, about 10 minutes. Wrap in plastic wrap and let rest in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
~ Or ~
To mix with stand mixer: Put salt and flour into the bowl of a stand mixer with dough hook attachment.
In a separate bowl, whisk the egg and yolks together and then add to the flour. Turn the mixer to low and gently let it incorporate the flour into the eggs. Keep the mixer going until the dough comes together and then knead in the machine for five minutes. Wrap in plastic wrap and let rest in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
Yields 6 entrée-sized ravioli
Fresh egg pasta dough (see above)
6 tablespoons goat cheese, room temperature
1 pinch chili flakes
1 tablespoon fresh herbs such as sage or basil, finely chopped
1 tablespoon black pepper
1 egg, beaten for egg wash
6 egg yolks
2 tablespoon butter
Salt and cracked pepper, to taste
Small handful of sage leaves, torn
¼ cup chicken stock
1 tablespoon high-quality balsamic vinegar (local artisan Highland Gourmet recommended)
Fresh-shaved Parmesan cheese, to taste
Allow goat cheese come to room temperature and mix in chili flakes, fresh herbs, and black pepper. Set aside.
Adjust the pasta roller (hand-cranked or mixer attachment) to its widest setting (on most machines, it’s labeled either 0 or 1). Gently feed the pasta through roller, using the flat of your hand to support the dough as it comes out the other side. Fold dough in half and feed through the roller multiple times until it passes easily. Turn the dial to the next setting and repeat until it passes easily through setting 5. The dough will become longer and thinner with each pass.
Place the long sheet of dough on your work surface and cut it in half to make two equally sized sheets. Set one sheet aside. Using the screw top of a large mason jar, lightly mark circles on one sheet of dough so you can just see the outline of the ring; don’t push through. Brush the dough with the egg wash, then place a spoonful of the goat cheese in the middle of each circle and make an indentation.
Separate one egg yolk per raviolo and place the yolk in the indentation in the goat cheese. Gently place the other sheet of pasta over the filling and press in-between each raviolo. Use the mason jar lid to cut the ravioli out of the pasta sheet. Lift each raviolo off of the work surface and gently press the edges together with your hands while also removing any air bubbles.
Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Melt the butter in a shallow pan and add cracked pepper and sage leaves. Once fragrant, add the chicken stock and stir over low heat to make a glaze. Add a pinch of salt. Cook the ravioli in the boiling water for 2 minutes; no more, or the yolk will start to cook.
Remove ravioli from water and place in the shallow glaze pan. Add some pasta water if needed. Glaze well, transfer to a plate, and grate fresh Parmesan over top. Drizzle a little balsamic glaze and enjoy!
The Farmer’s Hands offers year-round cooking classes at their home in Mars Hill, North Carolina. Winter 2018 offerings include Thai, Indian, and Japanese cuisines, as well two pasta classes. Supper clubs are held inside January through April and begin outdoors in May. thefarmershands.com
Chef Sebastiaan Zijp of The Farmer’s Hands.