Herb Pasta

Pâtes aux Herbes

Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Servings:

    3 or 4

Appears in

Simple French Food

By Richard Olney

Published 1974

  • About

This dough should not be rolled out on a machine—the uncompromising rollers force it into an amalgam in which the singleness of the savors is lost and flour is absorbed to excess. Also, it is better to pound the herbs in a mortar rather than purée them with the liquids in a blender—they remain, pounded, distinct and multiflavored fragments.

The herbs mentioned should be considered as among the many possibilities—any wild salad greens may be used and other herbs, depending on personal taste; strongly flavored herbs such as rosemary, common thyme, sage, savory, etc., should be avoided or used with a fine discretion. If you can gather together but three or four elements, don’t hesitate to try them; the spirit of the thing is just that—you put into it what you can find.

Lightness and delicacy are not among its attributes, so don’t try it on difficult guests. It is delicious—perhaps better—leftover and transformed into a gratin: The squares stick together hopelessly, so they should be taken en masse and sliced thinly, noodle-like, then “crumbled”—to loosen as well as possible the little noodles one from the other—directly into a buttered gratin dish, the bottom of which has been sprinkled with grated cheese. If the quantity of pasta is large, sprinkle cheese also over an intermediate layer. Pour over heavy cream, sprinkle the surface with cheese, and bake at 400° to 450° for about 20 minutes; the exhilarating wild green flavors are thrown into even cleaner relief this way, thanks no doubt to the cream’s sweet presence.


  • cups flour
  • Salt
  • 1 egg
  • 4 ounces green things, in approximately equal quantities, pounded to a paste in a mortar (about 1 cup, pounded): sorrel, wild chicory, dandelion, rocket (or arugula), basil leaves and flowers, etc.—plus a leaf or two of lovage, purslane, leaf thyme, hyssop, fresh marjoram, burnet, young fuzzy borage leaves (before they become prickly) . . .
  • About 2 tablespoons warm water
  • Flour (for rolling out)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil (for the cooking water)


Add all the ingredients (except the water and the last two listed) to the flour, work together with a fork, adding a bit more flour if necessary, until fairly consistent—a slightly lumpy but single mass. Throw a bit of water in to bring it all together, work well with the fork, and turn it out onto a heavily floured board or marble. Roll in the flour to coat it and knead with the palm of your hand, turning it around and over and folding often. Work for some time as the herbs continue to bleed moisture into the mixture, which, finally, during the kneading, will absorb easily another ½ cup of flour from the board. As the paste becomes elastic, difficult to work, and stops sticking, flour it well, cover with a towel, and leave to rest for about an hour. It should remain quite supple—less firm than normal noodle paste.

Roll it out to about ⅛ inch, cut the sheet into 1½-inch ribbons, cut each ribbon into squares, and drop them loosely into a large quantity of salted boiling water to which has been added the spoonful of olive oil (to discourage their sticking together). Move them with a wooden fork to make certain that none are sticking together and boil for about 6 minutes from the time the water returns to a boil. Drain and serve onto hot plates, sprinkled generously with grated Parmesan and bubbling brown butter.