Pasta Kerchiefs with Poached Egg, French Ham, and Brown Butter

Makes 3 or 4 main course or about 6 first course servings
Time: 20 minutes, with premade pasta

This is Gabrielle's take on a "lazy raviolo" -fresh pasta with the "stuffing" on top-though with all the last-minute work, it's not exactly a dish I'd classify as lazy. However, once the pasta is made and your eggs are poached (both of which are steps you can take care of hours in advance), it's a pretty quick dish to assemble. It's also enormously appealing, a lovely square of pasta with ham and egg on top. Most people will salivate when they see it.

Salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter
4 (5-inch) square sheets Egg Pasta Dough (see below)
1 cup loosely packed arugula, watercress, or other bitter greens, chopped
4 slices smoked cured jambon de Bayonne or other lightly smoked, dry-cured ham
4 poached eggs (recipe follows)
1/4 cup shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
Best-quality balsamic vinegar
3 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted

1. Bring a large pot of water to boil and salt it. Turn the oven on to its lowest setting; warm 4 pasta bowls in it. Cook the butter over medium heat in a medium saucepan until it browns and has a nutty aroma; keep warm.

2. When the water is again at a rolling boil, drop in the pasta sheets and cook for about 90 seconds. Use tongs to fish out the pasta sheets and transfer one to each of the bowls, laying each handkerchief flat across the bowls. Leave the water on the heat.

3. Roll about 1/4 cup greens in a slice of ham, grab the little bundle with your tongs, and hold in the boiling pasta water for a few seconds, until the greens wilt a bit. Drain momentarily, then place in the center of one of the sheets of pasta. Repeat, making a bundle for each serving.

4. Put a poached egg on top of each ham and greens bundle, fold one corner of the pasta over the filling, brush the edges with water and seal two corners at the top. Pour a little of the warm brown butter over each. Garnish with a little Parmigiano-Reggiano, a tiny drizzle of balsamic vinegar, and a sprinkle of pine nuts and serve.



Egg Pasta Dough

Makes: About 1 pound, enough for 3 to 4 main course servings, about 6 first course servings, or 25 to 30 raviolis
Time: 20 minutes, plus time for the dough to rest

The best pasta contains just three ingredients: flour, eggs,and salt. It varies only in the ratio of flour to eggs and the technique. This recipe, a combination of my own experience and that of Gabrielle Hamilton of Prune and Anna Klinger of Al di La, can be used for [recipe_link slug="pasta-kerchiefs-with-poached-egg-french-ham-and-brown-butter"]Gabrielle's Pasta Kerchiefs[/recipe_link], [recipe_link slug="beet-ravioli-with-butter-and-poppy-seeds-casunziei"]Anna's Beet Ravioli[/recipe_link], or any other recipe calling for freshly made pasta.

Cook the finished pasta as soon as it's done, or allow the sheets to dry for
a few hours (or even a few days) and cook them later.

2 cups (about 10 ounces) all-purpose flour, plus more as needed
3 eggs
1/2 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
A few drops of water, if needed
1 teaspoon salt

1. Combine the flour and salt in the container of a food processor fitted with the plastic blade and pulse once or twice. Add the eggs and olive oil and turn the machine on. Process until a ball begins to form, about 30 seconds. Add a few drops of water if the dough is dry and grainy; add a little flour if dough sticks to the side of the bowl.

2. Turn the dough out onto a dry, lightly floured work surface and knead until it is smooth, just 1 or 2 minutes. Add water by the half teaspoonful if the mixture is dry; add flour if it is sticky. This should be an easy dough to work. Cut the dough into 6 pieces; wrap 5 pieces in plastic. (If time allows, wrap it all in plastic and refrigerate for 1 to 24 hours.)

3. Clamp a pasta rolling machine to a counter, and sprinkle the counter lightly with flour; have more flour ready. Put a piece of dough through the widest setting (usually #1). Decrease the distance between the two rollers, making the strip of dough progressively thinner. Note that as the dough becomes longer, it will become more fragile. If at any point the dough sticks or tears, bunch it together and start again. You will quickly get the hang of it. Use as much flour as you need to keep the dough from sticking, but no more than necessary or the dough will become too dry.

4. When you pass the dough through setting #6 (on most machines; in any case, thin enough to see your hand through a sheet of it), set it aside on a lightly floured towel and cover it. (The rolled-out pieces will be about 5 inches wide.) Repeat the process with the remaining pieces of dough.

5. To make kerchiefs: Cut the dough into the largest squares you can (about 5 inches); you'll need 4 for 4 servings of Gabrielle's pasta.