While we usually bring you quick and effortless cooking ideas and tips, sometimes there's a special occasion to go the extra mile. Maybe you're looking to impress for a birthday, gathering or date, perhaps. Experimenting with making your own fresh pasta, with local flour, will do just that. Or if nothing else, it's a fun afternoon in the kitchen this time of year, when it's not quite warm enough to spend all of your days out in the sun and ski season is nearing an end. Thanks to intern Lily Bradburn for contributing this informative pasta making post and process photos. When you get a chance, check out her blog A Taste of Real Food. As I prepare to acquire all my own tools for cooking when I graduate, I have been given several culinary inspired gifts this year. Along with the cookbook Essential Pasta by Bay Books and some other assorted pasta-related gifts, I was given a hand-crank pasta machine.
So over the course of the last three months I experimented with different pastas. Here’s what I learned so far:
Do not rush it. Like with any new culinary skills it takes time, so set aside an afternoon to allow for mistakes and to assure you are not feeding everyone late at night (trust me, your family, friends, and/or dinner guests will thank you).
- Make just the pasta. As simple as fresh spaghetti may seem, it requires your full focus and attention. Which is why with this recipe I choose a simple garlic sauce, but a jar of store-bought or pre-made sauce works just as well.
- Most important, have fun. After making pasta a handful of times, I realize why so many chefs and home cooks make fresh pasta. Pasta can easily be a dish you make with multiple people, so invite friends and children to help and you’ll appreciate the extra pair of hands.
With those tips in mind, on to the ingredients. Keeping with the local, tan-oriented theme for March, simple options are just what are needed when making homemade pasta. While added flavor is important, you want a simple sauce so you can taste the pasta, even something as simple as olive oil will suffice.
So in shopping around for ingredients I purchased Nitty Gritty Grains whole-wheat flour (which unlike bleached as a tan hue to it), organic semolina wheat flour (the former and the latter purchased at the Rutland Area Co-op), and garlic from Evening Song Farm. While the base ingredients are more white than tan, their cooked products are both delicious and great colors for the month of March.
The following recipe was adapted from Essential Pasta for their homemade pasta dough recipe.
Ingredients (Serves ~5)
Homemade Pasta Dough:
- 1 ½ cups flour (or when working with semolina, ¾ cups semolina flour and ¾ cups flour)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 3 large eggs
- pinch of salt
- 4 cloves of garlic*
- ¼ cup oil
- salt and pepper to taste
- ricotta cheese for garnish (or any other herbs and cheese you prefer)
*Be sure to not use too much garlic, judge how much you will get from each clove as size can vary and too much can overpower the dish
Once you’ve got your ingredients for the pasta dough, mix the semolina wheat and flour into a bowl. Then make a well in the center of the flour and add your eggs, salt, and oil.
Next you want to beat the eggs, oil, and salt in the well using a fork. Try not to have too much spill over into the flour, but do not panic if you do, it’s not an exact science.
After the eggs are beat, use your fork to slowly mix the eggs into the flour, beginning in the center of the bowl and slowly working your way out as you mix the dry and wet ingredients together.
Once mixed, knead the dough. This you can do on a floured surface and not in the bowl.
Tip: If you notice that your dough is too dry add small drops of water and if too wet, a pinch of flour.
When just making the dough with flour you will knead for about 6 minutes, but with the semolina wheat it takes about 10 minutes.
After kneading, check that you have a pliable, dry to the touch, and shiny dough. Then form the dough into a ball and place it back in the bowl and cover it up with a wet towel, or place the ball onto a flour surface and cover with your bowl, letting it sit for thirty minutes.
After the thirty minutes check for the characteristics mentioned before. Now you will begin the process of making the actual pasta. Like I mentioned before, I used a pasta machine for my fettuccine. However, there are plenty of recipes available on to make homemade pasta that does not require a machine (which can be on the more expensive side).
For the hand crank machine there are several parts to the process of making the fettuccine. First you should take only about 1/4 of your pasta dough to begin with, keeping the rest covered so it does not dry out. Then roll out the dough into a somewhat rectangular shape.
Next place your machine on the highest setting (for mine it was 7). This is the largest width to feed the dough through. You’ll want to run the dough through about three times on this width to make sure it is thin enough for the next setting. If after the third time you find the section of dough you have is too long (I made a section of dough that ran the length of my arm), then cut it in half and cover one half.
Then you will run your dough through almost each setting.. From my research, on most machines you can only go from 7-3 before the width is too small and the dough can tear. For fettuccine you want about a 1/16 inch thickness.
Once the sheet is made thin enough, if you have an attachment for the pasta machine to make fettuccine (which most do), you can run the sheet through that, cranking slowly to ensure no tearing. This will give you a section of fettuccine, which you then slowly pull apart each individual strand. Because rolling out all the dough takings time, you need to leave the ready-to-cook fettuccine to dry.
While you can buy a small pasta drying rack, I went with my clothes drying rack instead, though a dry cutting board or even coat hangers will suffice. If you plan on saving the pasta for later at this point you can let it dry till it feels like store bought pasta and then it is ready for storing. Once in a sealed bag, it can be refrigerator for about three days, or, if stored in the freezer, for several months.
But for cooking immediately, drying the pasta slightly ensures it does not stick together again before cooking. Essentially, what you are looking for is pasta that will not turn into one giant ball of dough again when cooking it (while edible, as I learned, it’s not the most pleasing dish to look at).
Repeat the process for the rest of the dough.
Before beginning to cook the pasta, throw your garlic, oil, and any seasoning you prefer into a skillet to cook until slightly tan.
After all the pasta is rolled out and cut, and your pieces have dried slightly you can begin to cook. This is the simple part, throw the fresh pasta into a pot of boiling water and give it about 5 minutes to cook (depending on the thickness and preference). Because the pasta is fresh it takes only minutes to cook thoroughly.
When cooked you can ladle the pasta right out of the water, serve on a plate with the garlic sauce, garnishes and enjoy your homemade pasta!