Sunday, March 15, 2009

Fresh pasta

This past Chritmas, I got a pasta maker from my folks, but haven't found an excuse to use it yet. I would either procrastinate, or I would convince myself one way or another that I needed to get dried pasta for a dish, or that the task itself was too daunting. Either way, I hadn't made the stuff until today.

Turns out, it's a lot easier and more convenient than I imagined.

Here's what you'll use:

  • 1 1/2 cup either bread flour or semolina (I used the latter, but as long as you're high gluten, you'll be okay)
  • 2 large eggs, whisked
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp water
  • pinch of salt

Start by combining salt and flour, and make a well in the middle of that. Combine your eggs, olive oil, and water, and slowly add a little of the liquid to your dough at a time. Work it thoroughly, and add more again until you've absorbed it all. Once everything is combined, knead like mad for a good ten minutes. Really put your back into it, this stuff will be pretty stiff.

There you go. Oil that dough ball, and cover it up for 30 minutes to let the gluten in the dough rest and give you a little elasticity. From here, you could either roll it out with a rolling pin and cut pasta by hand either with a knife or pizza cutter or what have you. I don't have patience for that, so of course I'll use my pasta maker!

What I'm doing here is to set my basic rollers for the thickest setting. This will pull the pasta out into a roughly flat shape. Don't fret if you get holes, they'll shrink when you thin the pasta sheet out. Dust your work surface with flour, as well as each sheet when it goes through. After the widest setting, you want to adjust the rollers to probably the next-to-last setting. I'm not going to speak for your machine, so you should be familiar with it. All I know is that on most machines, the next-to-last setting is best for making spaghetti. Feed your sheet of dough through that to make a really thin sheet of dough. Flour it and keep it from sticking.

From here, move on to your cutting heads. Again, your machine may be different, but you will usually have a few cutting dies to use, and this is the most common one. Ease the thin sheets through, and have something to collect the pasta. Ideally you want to keep the pasta from touching, to prevent clumping. If you have something like a cooling rack, you can also drape the pasta from that if you want to dry it for later. I personally made mine direct from fresh.

From here, get your stock pot of water boiling with about a teaspoon or two of salt added. It'll take some time to boil this, so you can also get your accompaniments ready. If your sauce takes time, plan ahead, or you can add oil to a pan, and a few things like garlic, pine nuts, and so forth, and make a tasty mix to toss your pasta with. Whatever you choose, when your water boils, you want to add your pasta. Now with fresh, you're going to be able to cook with much greater quickness than without. Your pasta will be al dente and ready to eat between one to two minutes of hitting the water. You'll know for sure when the stuff floats. Drain in a collander, dish it up, and enjoy:

Mine was tossed in olive oil, toasted garlic and pine nuts, crushed peppercorns, and some fresh black truffle. I finished it with a grating from some Manchego cheese.

There were a few clumps in the pasta, but nothing substantial. The texture is much smoother than dried pasta, and its got a very pleasant chewiness to it that's hard to emulate. Considering how little time it takes to boil when compared to the store brands (a difference of ten minutes), it's not all that much more time to prepare. I'll most certainly be making more pasta now.

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