Fresh pasta is a labour of love and great pasta needs practice: these homemade cocoa tagliatelle are a wonderful way to step up your pasta game pairing a very basic shape with cocoa powder and its characteristic flavours and colour. Delicious when served with melted cheese and spices, this fresh pasta with cocoa will definitely surprise you with its special taste.
Making fresh pasta can be intimidating, I know. What most people are struggling with is the idea that you need special tools and fancy ingredients; truth is, the most important things required are some practice and dedication. Even if I won’t recommend this recipe with cocoa to somebody who wants to make fresh pasta for the first time, I don’t feel right to discourage a newbie to dive into a challenging preparation! So, which are the main differences with regular fresh pasta and how to deal with them?
My top tips to help you nail this recipe:
- Knead your dough by hand: I am used to handmade pasta and I think it’s the best way to learn how to make it. The process of kneading your dough by hand allows you to understand how the consistency changes, how the elasticity increases and if you need more flour or if you have already made the mistake of adding too much of it. Cocoa powder affects the consistency of your dough, so it’s better if you can check it step by step.
- Don’t add too much flour: it’s pretty common to assume that “more flour, the better” when it comes to rolling out your dough. Well, I disagree: you just need the right amount of flour to prevent your dough from sticking to the surface of your board and rolling pin; not more, not less. If you need a lot of flour in this step, this means you have likely made a mistake before; the reason is probably one of these two: too much liquid or not kneading well enough. When it comes to this specific recipe, you have some extra moisture and fat from the cocoa powder (although we are talking about relatively small quantities), so the dough tends to be a bit more sticky: just keep this in mind and move on.
- A bit of olive oil helps: when it comes to making fresh pasta, everyone has personal preferences and tricks. I found that a little bit of olive oil in this recipe with cocoa powder helps with the consistency and it also makes a difference when you have to roll out the dough.
A reminder: not all cocoa powders are created equal!
Among many other characteristics that make each powder unique, there are a couple of main factors that are of interest for this recipe.
- The fat content: during the processing of raw cocoa beans, the cocoa solids are separated from cocoa butter but the fat content of the resulting cocoa powder is not zero; indeed, it ranges between 8% and 26%.
- Dutching (or Dutch processing or alkalizing): cocoa beans are often treated with an alkaline compound (like potassium carbonate) and this affects the pH of cocoa powder that naturally is around 5 but, after this extra step, will be around 6.5-8 (for an overview of pH values: 7 = neutral, higher values = basic, lower values = acidic). The alkalization doesn’t just change the pH of cocoa powder but it also has an effect on the colour and taste: cocoa powder becomes darker and there is a reduction of the chemical compounds that make cocoa bitter and astringent.
Homemade cocoa tagliatelle
Ingredients (makes 2 small portions):
- 90 g unbleached all-purpose flour
- 5 g cocoa powder (you can use up to 7 g for a more intense colour)
- 1 egg
- 2 tsp extra virgin olive oil
- optional: 1 tsp coffee (cold)*
*use something concentrated like an espresso o a coffee made with a moka pot
Prepare the flour and the cocoa powder in a bowl or on a board, then create a well into the centre and add the egg inside it. Using a fork, beat well the egg and start mixing it with the flour. Keep combining everything together with your hands then add the oil and knead the dough for 5-10 minutes until it’s smooth and elastic: it may take some time but you’ll understand how the consistency changes and you’ll understand when it’s ready. Cover the dough with cling film or a reusable wrap and place it in a cold place for approx. 15-20 minutes.
Now it’s time to roll out your dough: divide it into 2 pieces and always keep covered the one that you are not using to prevent it from becoming too dry. You can totally do this without a pasta machine, using just a rolling pin: dust your work surface with some flour, then start to roll out your pasta into a large thin sheet. Using a rolling pin, you won’t get those perfect rectangular shapes that you get with the machine but you’ll be able to make long tagliatelle anyway (just pay attention to what you are doing and cut your dough accordingly).
When you use a pasta machine, usually you’ll start with the widest setting and then move on, rolling out the dough several times. This helps to create the surface of pasta (the one that makes the perfect pair with a creamy sauce!) and that’s why I like to do something similar even when I use the rolling pin: start creating a sheet, fold the dough into thirds, then roll it out again: this step is optional and you could do it just once or more.
Create the sheets of pasta with your desired level of thickness, dust them with flour and cut your pieces to make tagliatelle: you want to create a long section of dough and then gently roll it up. Use a knife to cut the roll cross-wise: before cooking your tagliatelle, allow them to set and dry for approx. 30 minutes on a floured surface or on a drying rack or form the classic “pasta nests”. If you don’t use them straight away, you can store the tagliatelle in the fridge for a couple of days (but they taste better when used within 24 hours).
How to serve them? These homemade cocoa tagliatelle are delicious paired with a simple pasta sauce made of melted cheese: try to use pecorino (or a similar sheep milk cheese) and black pepper or go for Camembert and fresh sage.
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