How to Make That Two-Toned Pasta You've Seen All Over Instagram
I blame “Mustache Joe.” See, just as I thought I was getting my fresh-pasta-making obsession moderately under control, this Top Chef finalist and facial hair icon (Joe Sasto is his name) started busting out stunning two-toned pastas episode after episode; egg-yellow doughs with striking streaks of green or black. While I’d seen plenty of exactingly striped ravioli in red sauce joints or lining the freezer shelves of Italian markets, multicolored sheets of pasta never particularly struck me as something a home cook might dare attempt. That is until Joe and his exquisitely twisted handlebar swooped into my life.
Soon enough, I was in my kitchen clunkily splicing strips of egg and spinach doughs into broad lasagna noodles that I—like a total idiot—proceeded to entomb so thoroughly in béchamel and cheese as to render them entirely invisible to everyone at the table. Oops.
Needless to say, the whole point of making two-toned pasta is to show it off, and it’s hard to imagine a more arresting version than the one currently being served by husband-and-wife chefs Scott Tacinelli and Angie Rito at Don Angie in New York.
It’s an irregularly swirled sheet of pale yellow and jet black, cut into tidy rectangles and rolled into a little-known but increasingly buzzy stuffed pasta shape called caramelle (it looks like a candy in its wrapper; think Tootsie Rolls). This dish is a DIY two-for-one: the multicolored dough, which would earn you major kitchen cred no matter whether you turn it into ravioli, tortellini, pappardelle, or a fucking decorative wall hanging; and the caramelle, which will readily cement your status as a goddam dinner party legend.
Tacinelli and Rito recently walked me through the whole process in Don Angie’s subterranean West Village kitchen. The two of them are infectiously sweet together; never saccharine, but always exchanging the contented glances of a couple that once worked an entire year with only two days off together (it’s not hard to picture these two rolling lasagna side-by-side when they’re 90). Here’s what I learned:
For the dough, Tacinelli and Rito (and Don Angie’s pasta-maker extraordinaire, Carmen Guaman) use a mix of double-zero flour, durum, semolina (for some chew), egg yolks, and whole eggs, but this two-toned pasta magic will work with whatever your go-to dough recipe is. Regardless, Tacinelli insists that that making pasta is largely about feel (exact quantities can vary depending on the humidity). So add in the eggs slowly—even one at a time—to ensure that the dough doesn’t get too wet —“pasta dough should never feel wet or sticky,” says Tacinelli.
To create the multicolored effect, you use two separate doughs, one of which is tinged shockingly black by the addition of activated charcoal (available online) and some ground black sesame seeds. In general, Tacinelli and Rito use powders—charcoal, tomato powder, smoked paprika—to color their pasta rather than purées, because they don’t mess with the moisture as much. If you’d rather use a vegetable purée—like carrots, beets, or spinach—just keep in mind that you’ll likely have to use fewer eggs.
This is the fun part. You’ll need a pasta roller for it; Don Angie’s costs $5,000 and spits out perfectly smooth sheets faster than a newspaper printing press, but a hand crank or stand mixer attachment works totally fine. The first step is to roll out both doughs into roughly 1/8- to 1/4-inch sheets (whatever the thickest setting on your machine is), always keeping the dough you’re not using wrapped in plastic. From here you have two options. If you want straight stripes (more or less), cut equal-sized rectangles of dough (you’ll want at least four pieces of each color), and press them on top of each other into a tight stack, alternating colors, and spritzing each piece with water to help them stick. Carefully cut the stack into long, thin slices (chilling the stack down in the freezer for a bit can help with the slicing), and feed each of those through the pasta roller.
Alternatively, you can do it the Don Angie way, which is more whimsically beautiful (personal opinion) and way easier (fact). This entails cutting thin strips of the black dough, pressing them onto the yellow dough in tightly spaced, random squiggles (spritz with some water if they’re not sticking), and passing the whole thing through the roller; as the dough gets thinner and longer, feel free to cut it into more manageable lengths. Once you start rolling the patterned dough, make sure not to fold it or else you’ll lose the design. No matter which path you choose (I’m all in on #2), be sure Dean Martin’s Mambo Italiano is blasting in the background, as it was at Don Angie. Trust me, it helps.
Once you have the two-toned sheets of dough (congratulations, you’re a boss!), you can make any shape you like, bearing in mind that stuffed pastas or wide noodles will convey the visual effect much better than something skinny like spaghetti or linguini. But caramelle is totally doable; Tacinelli and Rito learned how to make it from watching YouTube videos of Italian grandmas—an activity that I can’t recommend highly enough, even if you have no intention of making pasta. Bring some wine. First, make sure the more strikingly black slide of the dough is facing down (so it ends up on the outside). Then cut the dough into little rectangles (a pizza wheel works nicely), pipe a small finger of whipped ricotta filling towards the long edge of each rectangle (leaving some room at each end), and roll into a tight tube. Press on each end just beyond the filling with the tips of your fingers, then tightly pinch the sealed ends together. Finally, fan out the end of each piece so they look like the edges of a candy wrapper.
Either cook these right away, or better yet, dust them with a little semolina or rice flour and freeze them—first on a sheet tray, then, once they’re rock hard, transfer them to plastic bags. Boiling the caramelle straight from frozen prevents the silky cheese filling from cooking and curdling; just make sure the water is truly at a rolling boil, since the cold pasta will drop the temperature. Don Angie serves these with a sweet and acidic sauce of brown butter, pickled melon, and sesame oil; crazy good and totally surprising. But Tacinelli and Rito say you also can’t go wrong with the classic: brown butter and sage with a squeeze of lemon—maybe some pine nuts or hazelnuts swirled in if you want a little crunch.
Keep it simple or do it up—it doesn’t really matter. Either way, you’re gonna be obsessed. Damn you, Mustache Joe.