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Sunday, March 18, 2012

Cooking Class: Pasta 101

Have you ever had fresh pasta in a restaurant? If you have, you know how light and delicate it is and just how perfect it is with the accompanying sauce. To be honest, this is one of those things that no one has to do - my husband walked in on me making this today and was certain I had completely lost my mind. There are terrific brands of dried pastas out there - no doubt - as well as some freshly made ones you can buy in Italian markets and the like.  But okay - so you don't have to make this but why not make it anyway?  It's far easier than it seems - just takes a little getting used to. It doesn't take a great deal of time if you know what to do. And the result is fantastic - soo worth the effort.  Here are several photos that show the steps taken. Right now sauce is cooking on the stove and this will be tomorrow night's dinner.

Fresh Rosemary Fettucini
makes about 1 1/5 lbs pasta

2 cups all purpose flour
4 eggs
1 teaspoon fresh rosemary
special equipment: pasta machine

On a clean counter or table mound the flour. Next, using your fingers, make a hole in the center - like a well.

Crack the eggs into the center of the well along with the rosemary and using a fork, mix well - folding the flour into the center of the well to create a ball.  You may need to add a bit more flour if it's too sticky - sometimes the humidity in the air can effect the ability to form a cohesive ball. But if you add flour, do so cautiously - a little at a time. Use your hands at some point - the fork will just be useless in formulating a ball. Let it rest (let it sit on the counter for 5 minutes).

Kneading dough is not difficult! Once your ball has finished resting, sprinkle your work space with a bit more flour. Grab the entire ball in one hand and push it away from you using the heel of your hand. Stop and turn it clockwise, fold the bottom up to the top and again, push it away and repeat process - for about 8 minutes. This ensures that your dough has been properly handled and stimulates the elasticity in the mixture. Once you're finished, the ball should be very smooth - like a baby's skin. Again, allow it to rest for about 10 minutes - this time, cover with plastic wrap.

Meanwhile set up your pasta machine. Use a C-clamp to hold it to the counter or the table. Place a clean dry cloth down on your work surface and begin.

Cut the ball into 6 equal parts and cover with wrap while not using. Take each piece when you're ready and using your hands - pummel it in your hands to spread it out and make it flat - about 12"x12".

Set the machine's smooth rollers on their largest opening and pass your first piece through. Fold the ends into the center and repeat. Then do the same with each of the remaining five pieces.

Next set the rollers on smaller openings and pass each piece through and lay them out - not touching - on the towels. They'll each begin to lengthen quite a bit. Repeat until they are all very thin and very long - about 2 feet in length.

Finally, it's time to slice the pieces! First you need to let these pieces dry for about 10 minutes.  Then run each piece through the pasta machine cutters - I used the one for fettucini.  Of course, if you're using this fresh pasta dough for other forms of pasta shapes, now is the time to do so. You can cut large wide pieces for pappardelle, or cut squares and make penne using a pencil to create the ridged shape, etc. This is also the time to use the dough for ravioli or other stuffed pasta.
Once you pass the sheets through the cutter, gather them and wrap them around your fist to create a little nest. Place the nests on a towel to dry. You can use right away or you can let them dry overnight and store them. Believe it or not, you do not have to refrigerate or dust with cornmeal, etc. Just dry well so there is no moisture left (overnight) and then place in a plastic container with paper towels separating the layers.
Once the pasta is dried, it can be stored for weeks in your pantry as long as you follow the aforementioned instructions for drying. To cook fresh pasta, add salt to boiling water for taste and cook till pasta is al dente - just firm to the bite.
Now, in full disclosure, one can do this all by using a rolling pin instead of a machine - but now, really, who the heck with do that??

1 comment:

Anna and Liz Recipes said...

Hey this looks so easy and I never made home-made pasta like this. Great recipes !!