Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Making Pasta

I went thrift shopping today and found a pasta maker at the ABCCM for $5. I've never made pasta before, so I thought 'what the heck' and bought it. I've seen a couple of interesting pasta flavors on TasteSpotting lately (like squid ink and stinging nettle) so I thought I'd try something more adventurous for my first try, rather than plain. However, I didn't have any squid ink lying around so I picked some of the massive leaves that grow on my Valentino basil plant and a few sprigs of dill. My little garden has been doing really well lately, and I'm sure it's glad to finally be put to some use.
I was really surprised at how simple homemade pasta is. It takes a lot of time and work, but the ingredients and process is relatively fool-proof. Here's what I used:

2 c. of all-purpose flour
2 c. semolina flour
pinch of salt
6 eggs
2 tbsp. olive oil
handful of basil and dill, each

First, mix the flours and salt together and make a pile on your nice, clean counter. Then make a hole in the center so the whole thing looks like a powdery volcano. Crack the eggs into the hole and add the olive oil.
I chopped the basil and dill and added it with the olive oil into a food processor and chopped it up really fine (kind of like making pesto). This is what I used instead of straight-up olive oil. (I also added a smidgen more to the volcano in addition to my herb paste.)
Then take a fork and whisk the eggs slowly into the flour that creates the well. At some point it gets thick and then I had to start mashing it up with my hands. It was so messy and so fun.
The part that isn't too much fun is kneading it for about 10 minutes. I don't think I did it for that long, but I made sure it was all smooth and supple before I stopped. Then I wrapped it up tightly in plastic wrap and let it rest for 30 minutes.

After the dough and I were done resting, I took a handful at a time and fed it through the pasta roller at the largest setting. Then it needs to be folded into the thirds and fed through again. The setting is lowered to a thinner setting for thinner pasta. It gets cut in the appropriate slot (one for wide noodles and one for thin noodles). I made the fettuccine on the third largest setting, and the spaghetti 'bird nests' on the fourth (which is pretty thin...and it goes all the way to 6 or something!). That way I got to play around with the entire machine to see how it all did.

Most of the pasta I hung over a conveniently shaped photo holder...but we'll call it a pasta drying rack in this instance. The spaghetti I twirled into nest shapes and put on a cloth placemat to dry.
The rest of the pasta (the scraps, that is...) I threw into a pot of boiling water with some salt. Freshly made pasta takes almost no time at all to be 'done'. It only took a minute for mine, but it's finished when it floats.
As you can see, the results were fantastic! I sprinkled a dash of olive oil on top, grated some of that really nice hard Parmesan cheese, and then topped it with my own mix of dried herbs, and some more of that wonderful Valentino basil.