Sunday, March 28, 2010
Homemade Pasta (!!!)
Wikipedia makes pasta sound far more complex and mysterious than perhaps necessary:
"Pasta's origin continues to evoke speculation. While many different cultures ate some sort of noodle-like food, composed mostly of grain, the key characteristics of pasta are durum wheat semolina, with a high gluten content. Furthermore, it is made with a technique that allows the resultant dough to be highly malleable, thus resulting in the many different shapes (i.e., ziti, spaghetti, ravioli) that characterize 'pasta.' ... Historians have noted several lexical milestones relevant to pasta, none which change these basic characteristics."
Lexical milestones? Um, ok. Moving on.
Nathan and I anticipated this weekend's activities and ordered this pasta maker from Amazon.com. Pasta recipes abound on the internet, so I had a general idea of how to combine my flour and eggs (from free range, organically fed chickens). Saturday night, we cleared the kitchen counters, poured glasses of wine, and dug in.
Saturday night Nathan and I made about 6 servings of egg linguini and spaghetti noodles, and ate nearly all of it for dinner. Sunday morning I woke up, guiltily glanced at my pile of reading, and headed into the kitchen where I may or may not have made pasta for 5 hours straight. I used up a dozen eggs, countless cups of flour, and experimented with multiple flavors. I think I may be on the way to perfecting my technique. I definitely have a new hobby. (Anyone in New Haven- let me know if you'd like some homemade pasta. It's taken over our house.)
Pasta and I get along really well, in part because the recipe is so open ended! Add about 1 cup of flour to a bowl, toss in one egg, maybe some salt, and a small kersplash of olive oil, and mix. (Want more pasta? Add one egg per cup of flour.) Add a tiny splash of water if needed. Knead until your stress is relieved (maybe 5-8 minutes?) and set the dough aside to rest for about half an hour.
Once the dough has rested, follow the instructions on your pasta maker (supposedly you can make pasta without a machine but let's face it: the machine is the fun part!!). Basically, I took about a egg sized lump of dough, made a plump worm shape, and started running it through the machine, starting at the widest setting and working my way down to the skinniest setting, finally running the lasagne-shaped giant noodle through the spaghetti cutter (see the picture above.) The key, I discovered, is to flour the dough liberally all the way through the process so that the noodles don't stick to each other or to the machine. It took about 5 sets of spaghetti to really get the hang of it- luckily, flour and eggs are inexpensive so you can afford to experiment a little until you get the technique right.
Advanced Pasta Recipe: I got bored fast with the egg dough. It's delicious, for sure, but why stick with egg when you can add flavor! color! texture! I played around all day and found three flavor combinations that provide ample excitement to our pasta:
1. Whole wheat-flax seed: about 2/3 c white flour, 1/3 c whole wheat flour, 1-2 T roughly ground flax seeds, with about 1.5 eggs. This was delicious, chewy, hearty and addictive.
2. Tomato-5 pepper: 1 c flour (a little of this was whole wheat), 1 big tablespoon tomato paste, and a proprietary mixture of spices (a sampling of the many dried peppers we have around the kitchen), plus an egg.
3. Spinach-basil: 1 c flour (a little whole wheat),
1/2 c spinach, 1 egg, sprinkling dried basil. I used the Trader Joe's frozen spinach because it comes pretty finely chopped. This dough was more moist, so I added more flour as I went, and had to knead it a lot more to mix in the spinach.
The Results: I made SO. MUCH. PASTA. Our house is covered in flour and pasta is hanging from every available chair/clothesline. We ate pasta for dinner last night, and pasta for lunch (see below) and are having a friend over for pasta for dinner. It's amazing. Seriously. I can't wait for next weekend to make more pasta!
As a side note, I have to mention my absolute favorite sauce: one large can (28 oz.) tomatoes (diced/whole), one half onion, garlic cloves (optional) and (this is the important part) 2-4 T butter. Put all this in a pot, and simmer for about an hour. When you can't handle the tantalizing scent any more, puree (if you are like me and don't like lumpy tomatoes) and pile in great heaping spoonfuls on top of noodles. Apply parmesan cheese liberally.
Posted by Jordan at 3:22 PM