Saturday, May 16, 2009

Make Some Homemade Pasta Today

A year after Avram and I were married, we discovered a fifty dollar gift card tucked away in his wallet - the last remnant of our wedding money and gifts. What good is an unspent gift? So away we headed to Sears to find something to buy. Among the final wedding loot, we came away with a pasta machine, for under $25. We used the pasta machine several times in the next year, but never enough in my mind to justify it being the last of our free wedding money. A friend of mine from college, Kevin, had a pasta machine, and every New Year's he would have an Italian Pasta feast, which he would make all day with friends, and then eat in the evening on his cobalt blue beautiful dinnerware. Kevin was an amazing cook, and taught me many secrets to good bread, among other foods. Kevin married my very good friend and roommate Carol, and shortly after their marriage they had us old single roommates over for some homemade spaghetti pasta. I felt inspired by Kevin to make my own homemade pasta.

Making homemade pasta can be quite a chore, although a worth it one. The dough is usually just a blend of eggs and flour, with nothing else added. Avram always had to knead the dough because I simply am not strong enough - or more specifically, my wrists cannot handle it. I broke my wrist when I was seventeen, while twirling down a hill, celebrating the return of spring and warmth (hey, this was in Wisconsin, it's a big thing there). I reached the bottom of the hill and stopped my skipping, but the momentum of my turning made me continue to twist, and I fell, with my right wrist catching my twisted weight. Six weeks later the pin finally came out and the wrappings came off. Spring and I have never felt the same about each other again.

My wrist has never felt quite the same again either, and I simply cannot exert enough pressure to knead the tough Pasta dough, hence limiting our Pasta sessions to weekend exertions when Avram can knead. We loved the homemade pasta taste, and even making it is a fun cooking experience, but it never felt convenient enought to justify for more than special occasions.

Then in an effort to expand our eating habits from plain old spaghetti, and because I've been wanting to pull out our pasta machine, which hasn't been used since Provo, I got The New Complete Book of Pasta, by Maria Luisa and Jack Denton Scott, out of the library. We followed their "Pasta Fresca All'Uovo" recipe, and fell in love. The addition of olive oil and warm water, plus the handy kneading power of a kitchen aid, made all the difference in our homemade pasta experience.

Since Pasta dough has certain characteristics I didn't want to mess with by using all whole wheat, I only used half whole white wheat for the dough (you are supposed to use semolina flour, but we didn't have any). Here's the recipe. You can make it without either a Pasta Machine nor a Kitchen Aid, although both do make the operation easier.

2 Cups Whole White Wheat Flour (or white flour)
2 Cups white flour (preferably unbleached)
4 eggs, slightly beaten
1 1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp olive oil
2 tsp warm water.

Pile the flour on a well floured table top or in a Kitchen Aid mixing bowl. Make a well in the center, and place the four lightly beaten eggs, salt, olive oil and warm water in this. Add the liquid slowly to make the dough soft enough to handle. Mix together (it will not look as if it will mix together at first. Keep at it.) Avram first mixed together the dough by hand a little, and then we put the mixing bowl in the Kitchen Aid, and using the dough hook mixed on one for several minutes. Knead it by hand or machine until it is smooth. By hand this will be about ten minutes.

Let the dough rest for 10-20 minutes, under a towel (VERY important step). Divide the ball into four pieces. If you have a pasta machine, run the piece through the machine several times on the widest setting, until it forms a uniform shape. Lydia had to run the machine - she would push down the handle one way, and I would bring it back up to the top for her, since she couldn't make it all the way around.

Otherwise roll out one piece with a rolling pin (make sure to flour the table and pin) until very thin. With a machine, put the dough through each setting once, until it goes through the thinnest setting (we had to cut cut the strip in half in the middle, to make it more workable, as otherwise it grew too long). At this point cut the thinnest dough in half, width wise, and then run the strip of thin dough through either the fettuccine or spaghetti setting, and then lay on cloth or some other place to dry. If making the pasta by hand, cut the rolled out pasta into strips 3/4 of an inch wide, or whatever size and shape you desire. You can also lightly roll up the dough, and then cut the roll into thin strips, unroll, and you have fettuccine.

The longest part of this whole process is the rolling out parts - but it's a fun kitchen job, and once you get the hang of it (which really doesn't take very long), not stressful at all.

The Florenzo School of Highly Official Drying Racks. (Notice the sheet of pasta waiting its turn for being cut. This is half of a quarter of the ball - ie, the half that was laid aside when we had to cut the dough in half because it grew too long while being thinned out).

For immediate use, let dry about an hour. To store without refrigeration, let dry a while longer, and then store in a ziplock bag.

To cook the pasta have a large pot of water on the stove rapidly boiling. Right before adding the pasta, put a couple of tablespoons of salt and a little olive oil (if desired - it can help the pasta not stick to itself) in the water. Add the pasta all at once, and boil until Al Dente. For homemade pasta, this is only three minutes, at the most. Start testing at two minutes. If making a pasta that will be baked afterwards, only cook for one to one and a half minutes.
Ta-da! You have half whole grain, yummy and delicious homemade pasta! (Bet you can't tell it's whole grain, either).
We made a recipe I may post later from this same cookbook, with lots of yummy spinach and bacon. Even Elisheva was scarfing it down.

This recipe makes 1 1/2 pounds of pasta, so unless you have a larger family, there should be lots (we saved half the recipe) to dry and use again.

I would say "Happy Eating!" in Italian here, but the only Italian I know is "Principessa" from It's a Beautiful Life, so; Principessa!


Mary said...

YUMMY!!! Makes me want a Pasta maker....Oh well I can get one far in the future. but it would be worth it we have Pasta like 3 times a week. (do they make Penne pasta makers?) That looks so yummy with the bacon and Spiniage and fresh grated Parmesan. That is another thing that I want a Parmesan grater...Ah to have all the cool gadgets in my dream kitchen
Love you Thora!

Mary said...

Oh I ment to add, you look quite lovely Bork! You hair is so long and shiny. You must be in good health! :)

Valerie said...

That pasta looks so good! I'm going to have to try this! (By the way, I'm a friend of Carolyn's. Just so you don't think I'm a freaky stalker...)

woolspinner said...

I have a pasta machine and love it. I made (all white wheat) noodles for chicken noodle soup for a ward activity recently and lots of people, including kids and husbands, were wanting seconds. Great stuff.

Heidi Davies said...

You've insired me. I've had some money sitting in my paypal account waiting for the right impulse purchase to come along, so last night I bought a pasta machne. I'm so excited.

Camilla said...

i have made egg noodles for soup before but never tried spagetti. I suppose i should though! it looks yummy!!

Amelia said...

I only make chicken noodle soup with a left over chicken carcass from a rotisserie chicken, and home made noodles. I've never tried fettuccine though. I'll have to give it a try. All the Italian cooking shows rave about fresh pasta, and yours looks spectacularly yummy!