Recipe of the Week- Pasta Again???
This Week is Fresh Pasta
Our home equipment includes an electric machine. Now if I were to rethink this thing, I’d probably pass on it and just stick with the hand cranked, Atlas style, counter top pasta cranker … they work just fine.
There is nothing that compares to home-made fresh pasta that you’ve created with your own hands. Don’t argue, don’t wonder and don’t debate … this is an absolute.
Our List of Ingredients
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 cups semolina flour
- 1 pinch salt
- 6 large eggs
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
And the recommendations for the ingredients are also based on my preferences. Buy your flour and semolina from a store that either has a mill in the store or sells the flour in bulk. Try to avoid packaged and processed flour – for one, you don’t know how old it might be and for two, you don’t know where it has been – or has added.
Next is the salt; buy a box of Kosher salt, I like Diamond Crystal and you can always find Morton in the box in most markets. Ahh, I heard that question from the back row … what difference does the salt make and why can’t I just use my thing of table salt? Well, you could, or you could choose better stuff to put inside you. I’ll refer to my authority on many food things Alton Brown on salt.
On to the eggs. Given the choice and an unlimited budget I would always buy AA Organic, Vegetarian Feed, Jumbo, Brown Free Range eggs – and I even like the Omega added ones. BUT, most of the time I go to Trader Joe’s and buy their Jumbos – almost always fresh and good quality.
Olive oil is or could be the subject of endless writing and discussion. We’ve gotten in the habit of buying at Trader Joe’s and we get the dark green liter bottle that comes with the pour spout.
The Making of the Mess
- Sift the flour onto a clean work surface and make a well in the center with your fist.
- Break the eggs into the well and add the oil and a pinch of salt to the well.
- Gradually mix the egg mixture into the flour using the fingers of one hand, bringing the ingredients together into a firm dough. If the dough feels too dry, add a few drops of water; if it’s too wet, add a little more flour. (You will soon grow accustomed to how the dough should feel after you’ve made it a few times.)
- Knead the pasta until smooth, 2 to 5 minutes. Lightly massage it with a hint of olive oil, pop the dough into a plastic food bag or sheet of plastic wrap, and allow it to rest at room temperature for at least 30 minutes. This is a critical step.
First, the pasta will be much more elastic after resting. Second, this resting step allows the flour to absorb the egg and oil (and/or water) you have added to the well and will eliminate the gritty feeling from raw dough. I’ve also seen recipes where the dough ball is put in the refrigerator for up to overnight.
Let’s Get Cranking
- Start to feed the blob of pasta dough through the widest setting of a pasta machine. As the sheet of dough comes out of the machine, fold it into thirds and then feed it through the rollers again, still on the widest setting. Pass the dough through this setting a total of 4 or 5 times. This effectively kneads the dough, ensuring the resulting pasta is silky smooth.
- Pass the pasta through the machine again, starting at the widest setting and gradually reducing the settings, one pass at a time, until the pasta achieves the required thickness. The pasta sheet will become very long—if you are having trouble keeping the dough from folding onto itself or are making ravioli, cut the sheet of dough in half and feed each half through separately. Generally the second-from-last setting is best for tagliatelle and the last setting is best for ravioli and any other shapes that are to be filled.
- After the pasta has reached the requisite thickness, hang it over a broom handle or the back of a chair to dry a little—this will make cutting it easier in humid weather, as it will not be so sticky. Or, if you’re in a hurry, you can dust the pasta with a little flour and place it on clean kitchen towels and let it rest for just a short spell.
- Shape the pasta by hand (see instructions below) or pass the pasta through the chosen cutters (tagliolini, tagliatelle, etc.) and then drape the cut pasta over the broom handle or chair back again to dry just a little, until ready to cook. You can, of course, again toss the cut pasta lightly in flour (preferably semolina flour) and lay out in loose bundles on a tray lined with a clean kitchen towel. Use as soon as possible before it sticks together.
Cook the pasta
Note: Cooking times for fresh and dried pasta vary according to the size and quality of the pasta. The only way to check is to taste it. However, the basic method of cooking remains the same.
- Throw the pasta into a large saucepan of boiling, salted water (remember that Kosher salt thing? use 2 tablespoons or more per quart of water). You will need about 4 quarts water and 5-6 tablespoons of salt for every 13 to 18 ounces of fresh or dried pasta. It is the large volume of water that will prevent the pasta from sticking together.
- Stir the pasta only once or twice—if you have enough water in the pan and you stir the pasta as it goes in, it shouldn’t stick.
- DO NOT COVER the pot or the water will boil over. Quickly bring the pasta back to a rolling boil, stir, and boil until al dente, or firm to the bite, about 2 minutes. The pasta should not have a hard center or be soggy and floppy. If following a specified cooking time, calculate it from the moment the pasta starts to boil again and have a colander ready for draining.
- Drain the pasta, holding back 2 to 3 tablespoons of the cooking water. Return the pasta to the pan (the dissolved starch in the water helps the sauce cling to the pasta). Dress the pasta straight away with the sauce directly in the pan. (The Italian way is ALWAYS to toss the cooked, hot pasta with the sauce before serving.) Serve the hot pasta immediately with your favorite sauce. Even a copious drizzle of olive oil or melted butter—cooked just to the point of taking on a slightly nutty, toasty brown tinge—and a smattering of fresh herbs constitutes a sauce when the pasta is as tender and tasty as this.