Sunday, I borrowed a pasta maker from a friend and all week long I’ve been researching recipes and watching youtube videos of Italian grandmas making pasta. I have yet to deviate from the basic recipe I’ve been using — everyone loves it, so why mess with it? — so mostly, I’ve been focusing on developing a feel for the process.
Pasta, it turns out, is wonderfully simple to make, and the flavor is leagues better than the store-bought stuff. I had no idea! It’s lighter, and the texture is magical: For the first time, I understand the term al dente— after only two minutes in boiling water, the pasta is cooked through, firm and toothsome, without a hint of gumminess.
Mostly, I’ve been making fettuccine, but I also sometimes hand-cut the dough into wider pieces for pappardelle. I never knew what pappardelle was until a couple weeks ago when I came across a recipe that called for it. I searched grocery stores high and low, but no luck. Then I found it online, for about seven freaking dollars a pound! So now I’m happily — gleefully — making highend pasta by hand in my own kitchen, for just pennies, toot-toot! (That’s the sound of me honking my horn.)
One night I made lasagna:
Instead of boiling the fresh noodles, I simply layered them with ricotta, both fresh and grated mozzarella, parmesan, and lots of sauce. I baked the lasagna, covered with foil, for the first 45 minutes or so, before removing the foil and baking for another 20-30 minutes. ‘Twas delish!
I’m still figuring out how to store the fresh pasta. So far, I’ve been shaping it into nests and then freezing them in plastic bags, using wax paper to keep the portions from sticking together.
The other day for lunch, I cooked a nest of pappardelle, plopping the frozen noodles directly into the boiling water. They took a couple extra minutes to cook, but tasted as good as when they were fresh. I drizzled the noodles with melted butter, added Parmesan and sliced ham, and gave them several good grinds of black pepper.
I’m eager to try some variations — different grains, adding spinach to the dough, messing around with the spaghetti setting, etc. Up next: ravioli. The ricotta and fresh parsley are a-waiting!
Have you ever made pasta? If so, fill me in on your favorite recipes, fresh pasta dishes, and pasta makers … because I will be buying one shortly.
Note: I gave my mom a sample of the cold, cooked noodles and she thought they tasted eggy. I, however, do not detect any eggyness. My cousin, who makes her own pasta, is sensitive to eggy flavors and just uses one egg, plus water, for her pasta. Do whatever you like!
1 cup semolina
1 cup all-purpose flour
Drizzle of olive oil, optional
Dump the semolina and flour on the table, and make a well in the center. Crack in the eggs. Add the olive oil, if using.
Gently beat the eggs with a fork, gradually incorporating more and more of the flour. Switch to a bench knife and, with a chopping motion, continue to mix. When it’s all a shaggy mess, use your hands to pull it together and knead it into a glossy ball. Wrap with plastic and set aside to rest at room temperature for about 30 minutes.
Cut the dough into two parts. Rewrap one of the parts in the pastic so it doesn’t dry out and begin rolling the other. (If you don’t have a pasta maker, whack off a broom handle and do it like this.) Roll the dough through the machine at level one about 10-15 times, lightly dusting the table and dough with semolina and each time folding the dough in half or thirds. Then, at each level up to five or six (which is all the higher I’ve gone so far), roll the dough through once or twice.
When the dough is the desired thickness, cut the pasta sheets into appropriate lengths (generally 8-12 inches) and then cut the lengths into fettuccine, lasagna, spaghetti, pappardelle, etc, dusting the final noodles with semolina or flour to keep them from sticking together.
To cook: Boil water with plenty of salt. Add the pasta and cook for 1-3 minutes. Drain, add toppings, and serve. Refrigerate any leftover cold, cooked pasta and reheat later. It’ll be just fine.
To freeze: Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or wax paper and mound the uncooked, fresh pasta into little nests and let air dry for 1-2 hours. Cut the paper and slip the nests, with their paper bottoms to keep the nests from sticking together, into a plastic bag. Freeze, taking care not to bump the bag as the frozen pasta is prone to breaking.
To cook frozen pasta: Dump frozen nest into salted, boiling water. As it cooks, use a fork to gently separate the pasta. Boil for an extra minute or two.
This same time, years previous: jelly toast, a love story, doppelganger, old-fashioned molasses cream sandwich cookies, lemon cheesecake morning buns, peanut butter and jelly bars, the quotidian (2.24.14), pan-fried tilapia, birds and bugs, ginger lemon tea, chicken pot pie.