Saturday, April 23, 2011

Homemade Pasta....a picture says a thousand words

On our way home this morning we stopped to visit some neighbors and before we left they gave us a precious gift; five freshly laid eggs. So I decided to use two of them to make fettuccine for our lunch.

The recipe for pasta is simple: 100 grams of flour + 1 egg = 1 portion of pasta. Pasta recipes tell you to mix the egg into the flour, knead until smooth & elastic, roll out into a sfoglia or sheet and then cut into the desired shape. Basically very simple, and indeed it is once you have the "feel" for it.
I'm always being asked in cooking classes how the pasta should "look" and how it should "feel", so herein lies a detailed pictoral explanation of both.

After you make a well in the flour, crack your eggs into the center of the well.

Whisking with a fork, gradually incorporate the flour into the eggs.

Gradually the flour will be absorbed into the flour. Keep using the fork to mix; it's still way too wet to knead.

When the flour and eggs look like this it's time to begin using your hands. Make sure you flour your hands first...

Pasta dough is not delicate so don't worry about roughing it around a bit. Knead whatever way works best for you: squeeze it, or fold over & press with the heel of your hand. Keep kneading until the egg and flour get fully amalgamated, about five minutes total.
As you get started it will look like this:

Here is what your finished product should look like. It's a smooth & elastic, fully incorporated ball of dough. All the flour from the work surface has been absorbed into the dough.

Now you pass onto the next kneading phase: within the pasta machine.
You don't have to use a pasta machine by any means; the whole process can be done with a rolling pin (use a 1 1/2 foot long dowel about two inches thick).
I use a manual pasta machine. They are readily available just about anywhere, but make sure you purchase a quality Italian machine.
Smash down your ball of dough so that it's thin enough to pass through the widest setting of the pasta machine. Roll it through repeatedly (about ten to twenty times), folding in half before you pass the dough through each successive time.
At first the dough will look like this:
It's uneven and has a porous look to it...

Here, it's smoothed out a lot, but still has a porous appearance and the edges are uneven. It doesn't yet have a smooth & elastic feel to it.

Getting much smoother, yet the dough still has a slightly lumpy un-smooth look to it...

Much smoother, almost where you want it to be....

And now, finally, you are rolling through a smooth, elastic sheet:

At this point begin passing the dough through the pasta machine at successively smaller settings. For filled pasta (ravioli, tortellini) roll the dough through until you reach the smallest setting. For unfilled pasta (spaghetti, fettuccine) you're best off using the next to the last setting as your final thickness.
Here is the final product: it's smooth, has no bumps, no porousness whatsoever and the edges are also smooth and even.

Next, cut the pasta into the desired shape. I made fettuccine today. Once I cut the pasta into fettuccine I lightly dusted them in flour.

Then place the fettuccine on a floured dishtowel, twirled into little round mounds to dry. Don't pile too much together; just a bit per mound otherwise the pasta won't dry and will begin to stick together.

I made the fettuccine today for immediate consumption, therefore as I was finishing up the pasta I was also boiling some water.
Salt the water with a handful or two of rock salt. Be sure to boil a large enough pan of water so that when you add the pasta to the water it can immediately return to boiling temperature.
Super fresh pasta only needs two to three minutes cooking, and it should be al dente. When the pasta is done it has a certain look to it: it becomes a paler yellow, almost creamy looking. If you compare the pasta in the boiling water below to the picture above you can see the difference in color.

Drain the pasta gently in a colander; remember: it's fresh and therefore delicate. Toss with a pasta sauce of your choice. I used a simple tomato sauce made with fresh tomatoes, olive oil, garlic & salt. As the sauce was cooking I made, and then cooked, the pasta. The entire process for everything took twenty minutes....and worth every minute for the resulting delicate, fresh flavor of both pasta & sauce!

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