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.
I looked at a bunch of recipes, like this and this. For a look at the science behind pasta making, check out this post by Serious Eats.
This grandma is fun to watch. (Here she is again.)
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.
Well now I’m catching up on the old blog!
My favorite ravioli filling is ricotta, browned sausage (broken up in fairly tiny bits), cheddar, and caramelized onions (again, chopped fine). Herbs and seasonings as desired. Come to think of it, this is my favorite quiche filling too….
Now I want to make pasta! But alas, le ol spaghetti squash is standing in for noodles this evening as it’s cooked and needs eaten.
Oh yeah, one other tip. I find that it's very easy to mix the dough in a large food processor using the blade. Just dump all the ingredients in the bowl and pulse until it forms a ball. Dribble in a little water if needed just until a ball forms.
I occasionally enjoy making pasta from scratch too and have recently been getting my young 4 & 6 year old nieces involved. They love cranking the machine and making noodles! 🙂 I picked up my pasta rolling machine at a thrift store and it came with a motor but the motor is very loud so I usually just hand crank it. Here's one favorite recipe:
Black Pepper Pasta
2.5 cups flour
2 tblsp black pepper
1 tblsp oil
1 tsp salt
I like it best with a thin white sauce or just garlic butter so that the black pepper flavor is more prominent. I grind pepper corms fresh in a coffee grinder and then sift through a fine sieve to remove any big pepper chunks because they will tear the pasta sheet when the rollers get very close together.
By the way I have a ravioli press/grid if you want to borrow it. It makes it a little bit easier to make ravioli but not a lot easier. It's like this one:
My German grandmother made the most divine, simple pasta recipe. It was just onions caramelized in lots of butter over homemade noodles. My mouth is watering just thinking about it. I have never been able to replicate the perfection of that simple dish. I'm thinking there was some secret ingredient she never 'fessed up to.
My great aunt never shared recipes and now that she is gone they are lost. What a shame.
Have you tried adding some Worcestershire sauce? I find it is often the thing that is needed in a dish.
Thanks, Jennifer! I have never made homemade pasta, so I don't have a recipe to share.
I use a pasta machine that seems to be much like the one in your post. I would jump up for a brand name but I am under a quilt, chai tea in mug reading your post in front of the fire.
I have been making my own pasta for about 20 years recipe courtesy of a dear friend who was a pastry chief and the recipe is family from her Nana who was Italian.
I started with ravioli as I also make my own filling fresh goat cheese from my dairy goats. Well it does start in the form of milk but you get the drift.
I love doing this and would happily share the recipe and brand name in a short post tomorrow. Enjoy and your pasta's all look wonderful and delicious!
I like the roller attachment for the Kitchen Aid but I don't think the ravioli roller is helpful or worth it. It's not a power attachment but meant for convenience which I thought not.
I grew up with a pasta making Mom and I have done quite a bit myself but these days the pasta machine is in the back of the cupboard. I tried to get our 28 yr old son to take it home at Christmas and just get it out of here but he said no. I hate, hate, hate cleaning that thing! We just do all purpose flour and eggs, a rolling pin and a knife. Mom always dried her pasta on towels on the ironing board. So the question is how to easily clean that machine? No one has ever been able to tell me that. Maybe why I frequently see them in thrift stores. Any input? Maybe you could get me to haul it out and use it again. 🙂
We just wipe it down with a damp rag every time—it doesn't get hardly dirty at all.
Maybe I just want it too clean. I always picture it attracting bugs in the cupboard. My daughter's in laws are Sicilian and they say to crank a slice of bread through it but that did not clean it well either.
One of the first meals my husband ever cooked for me was butternut ravioli in a sage brown butter sauce. An all-semolina egg dough, filled with roast butternut, ricotta, and a little egg, maybe some nutmeg and parmigiano? I like the freezing idea. I've often just let noodles hang till they dried and stored them on the countertop looking pretty in a jar, but of course then they're not fresh (but still better than storebought).
That ravioli sounds divine!