Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Homemade pasta

I admit to being a carboholic. I would not do well on a strict low-carb diet. Good bread and especially pasta are amongst my comfort foods. Mac & cheese. Carbonara. Almost anything with pappardelle....you get the idea.

Throughout my foodie education, I have learned why some pastas are cheap and some are expensive, comparatively. Your nice dried artisan pastas are exuded through brass dyes, which give the pasta dough its shape, and often its rough, craggy texture. Look at your linguine next time! If it's a good quality one, you'll see
and feel the roughness on what in inexpensive brands would be a smooth surface. The shaped pasta is then left to air dry -- and herein lies the key. All dried pasta really is is durum semolina flour and water. Through in an egg if you're making egg noodles. When pasta air dries, that semolina is left to ferment just a tiny bit, giving your cooked pasta a fuller-bodied flavor. The Italian brand Rustichella d'Abruzzo is a fantastic quality pasta, available in many different shapes, and found in places like CM & WF. Try for yourself!

So having experimented with various brands of dry pasta, I've now been trying to conquer making fresh pasta on my own. Getting there! The typical method is a mound of flour with a well made in the center; break an egg into it, and with a fork, start blending the flour and egg together until you get a dough. When I tried this last night, obviously my well wasn't big enough, as my egg promptly went running overboard, escaping its flour walls. Messy. It was a very stiff, unworkable dough with crunchy flour globs throughout. Yum. Not.

Then I remembered the adorable Jamie Oliver. On one of his shows from his "Jamie at Home" series, he literally made pasta in 3 minutes as the camera rolled the entire time. His trick -- the food processor! Flour, eggs, pinch of salt go in (maybe EVOO too, can't remember), and a nice malleable ball of dough comes out. He kneads it about 3 times, and then starts putting it through his hand-cranked pasta maker. The dough gets thinner and longer, and then he's cutting it by hand into fettucine or pappardelle strips. Into the salted, boiling water, and voila! Dinner.

My versions makes 2 decent servings of handcut noodles.

1 cup "00" flour (double zero flour.... regular AP is okay, but this has less gluten, making it a more tender dough)
1/4 tsp salt
1 egg
1 tsp olive oil

-- Put it all in the blender, and pulse a few times until dough begins to come together. (I used my mini-Cuisinart, and I think the motor is starting to go, so I didn't want to subject it to a big dough ball. Next time, I'd try it in the regular Cuisinart, though the motor on that one has also been a little wonky lately....)
-- Turn out onto countertop, and knead 3 - 5 minutes until dough is smooth and elastic.
-- Form ball, cover in plastic wrap, and let sit at room temp for 20 mintues. (Allows the glutens to rest, so it doesn't get tough.)
-- Get your pasta machine ready.... mine is "technically" for modeling clay, bought at Michael's with their 40% off coupons.... It was about $10. No pasta cutting attachment like for linguine or fettucine, but that's fine by me.
-- Start on the widest setting, and start cranking your dough through; I ususally do 2 - 3 passes on the wider settings.
-- Keep putting the dough through; as it stretches out, and if you are the only one making it, it's probably best to cut your long sheet in half.
-- Once you get it down to the lowest setting (or sometimes the second lowest), you're ready to cut it. I folded it in quarters, and trimmed my scraggily edges, and then into roughly half-inch wide strips. You may want to dust with cornmeal before you fold it, but immediately after cutting, you want to separate the strands so they don't stick.

-- Boil water, and salt it well (salt gives it flavor!). Add pasta -- it will be ready in about 2 minutes. Don't over cook it! Even just real simply, with good olive oil, salt, pepper, and real parmesan cheese -- it's worth the effort!

Next time, I will have to try the Jamie no-knead (relatively speaking), no resting time method and see how that compares. With my fresh pasta, I made a delicious and fairly easy dish with pancetta and fennel, from epicurious.com (click here for link).

1 comment:

  1. Hey, Z!

    I've been making pasta lately, too! When I was in Bologna my Italian cooking teacher taught me this formula: 1 egg for every 100 g flour (I had to buy a scale!) and if that dough's too stiff, just drip in a little water until you like it. Works great! He also taught me to make a pecorino pasta. Just mix some freshly grated pecorino into the flour. It's awesome.