Friday, January 28, 2011

Pasta Pasta!

Freshly cut buckwheat pasta for pizzoccheri

Finished pizzoccheri (more about that in another post)
Diving into a plate of pasta, pasta I've taken from flour and eggs to noodles to full-on pasta dinner, is something everyone should experience. Fresh pasta is so delicious. It's just right in the al dente category. It seems to hold the sauce better. Oh, okay. Fresh pasta does everything better...

The other night I taught a pasta making class to about 14 people (give or take--some decided to just drink, some decided to direct pasta rolling, some decided to get into it), and we had a blast.
One of our youngest pasta chefs
I definitely like a class to be hands-on, although after looking at the space and declaring it looked like a flour bomb had gone off, I may have to rethink that.  Either way, I had people mixing pasta by hand, a messy process, but everyone ended up with a ball of pasta dough. The trick then is to knead it eight minutes until it is smooth and not sticky.

I love a hand-cranked pasta machine. It's got these steel rollers that start wide (ish) and narrow down--you feed the dough through the widest setting (Number 1) a few times. That kneads it a few more times. Then you pass it through progressively narrower settings until the dough is as thin as you want it (I went to 7 for the dough in this post about homemade lasagne). You can cut it into fettucini or into ...it's almost angel hair if you use the narrower set of cutting rollers. I love the fettucini because it gives you so much bang for the pasta buck. You can leave it in sheets and fill it for ravioli (we made squash ravioli with brown butter sage sauce the other night. Yum.) You can let it dry and break it into rough pieces for soup (exactly what I'm planning on doing with the couple of sheets I have left over).

The hand mixing is fun, but the processor mixing is FAST. It's so smooth so quickly....mix, knead a little, run it through the machine. I made two batches of spinach dough this way because it distributed the spinach throughout the dough so well. I may be cooking it off tonight....

Apparently you can make it ALL by hand, but that sounds like WORK...you stretch, you roll, you stretch, you roll, you roll, you cut.

Me? I like my Atlas pasta machine...
Ready to roll...quite literally


Here's the pasta recipe:
2 cups all-purpose flour (Italians use 00 flour; you can find it at Italian markets, and I like to use it)
3 large eggs

That is all. If you're mixing by hand, make a well in your mound of flour--make it wide...crack the eggs into the well, and mix starting by breaking up the eggs and stirring, stirring, stirring, picking up a bit of flour at a time until most of the flour is incorporated. (If you don't do this that neatly, don't worry: just keep mixing and gathering the flour until you get a ball of dough.) This is the point where you have to knead the dough for 8 minutes...knead it like bread dough. It gets smoother and smoother...it is done when you poke your finger into the dough and no dough sticks to your finger when you pull it out.

If you're doing it ALL by hand, you can let the dough rest. If not, divide it into four pieces and run all four through the machine on number 1. Run them through at least three times. Turn setting on machine to 2. Run each piece through once. Turn to 3. Run each piece through again. Proceed until you like the thickness (no less than 3--that makes a thick noodle great for soups...)

As you are running the pieces through, don't let the sheets touch each other on the counter. Have some dish towels spread out, lightly dusted with flour.

Once you get your sheets to the desired thickness, let the dry a bit before cutting into noodles. Ten minutes makes it easy to handle. You can let it dry even more, til it is harder, but still not brittle--it still has to be pliable enough to go through the noodle cutting stage.

Cook the noodles immediately (it will take about 3 minutes) or let them dry and cook them later. They will STILL be better than store-bought dried pasta.

And finally, I want to add this youtube video of Jamie Oliver making pasta--he's done so fast (the whole video is just over six minutes long) with fresh pasta and a simple sauce...wish I'd thought of this...

4 comments:

WizzyTheStick said...

pasta machine has been on my wish list for a long time now and your post only makes me want one more...

Anonymous said...

OMG that Jamie Oliver video is just ridiculously amazing! Can anyone who owns a pasta machine be like that?! ;-)

Babette said...

I will tell you this, Anonymous: Just the other day, I pulled out the processor and the roller and I would say it was FAST! maybe not six minutes fast, but 10? And only because I can't handle all that dough as one piece--cut it into 4 and then rolled it, cut it, boiled it and ate it...

charmaine said...

have you ever made pasta using semolina flour? reading this made me want homemade pasta but my atlas machine has been ruined by polymer clay.