Saturday, February 13, 2016

Home Made Pasta!

I’m generally an adventurous cook, willing to take a stab at most any new recipe and, if I fail, simply serve it to my guests with an apologetic laugh. But there are a few things I’ve long been leery of attempting: pizza, duck confit, and home-made pasta.

I tried making pasta several years ago, but it was pretty much a disaster—tough and almost inedible. My problem, I now realize, was that I tried to roll it out by hand, a technique probably best left to Tuscan nonnas and their progeny.

Our friends Nancy and Steve here in Hilo, however, have a pasta machine, and after watching Steve mix, knead, roll out, and cut a batch of tagliatelle one evening (which was scrumptious!), I decided to borrow their machine and give home-made pasta another try.

my finished product—fettuccine!

Steve recommended the recipe and technique in Giuliano Hazan’s book The Classic Pasta Cookbook (yes, he is the son of the renowned cookbook author, Marcella Hazan), which I followed. (This recipe serves six, easily.)

Pour 2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour (at room-temperature) onto a kneading surface (not marble—you want the dough to be warm, not cold). Make a well big enough for 3 large eggs (also room-temperature), and crack the eggs into the flour:

Using a fork, beat the egg whites and yolks together gently, as if for scrambled eggs. Then, still using the fork, slowly begin to incorporate the flour into the eggs, being careful not to break the wall of flour (else the eggs will escape!).

Once the egg/flour mixture has become a thick batter, carefully bring the flour walls over and on top of the eggs with your hands:

Then quickly incorporate the flour and eggs together. It will be a ragged, sticky mess:

Bring it all together in a ball and wrap with plastic while you scrape clean the kneading surface and wash your hands. Then begin to knead the dough, holding it in one hand and folding it over with the other (as you would knead bread):

Continue kneading for 5-10 minutes (yes, it’s a good workout, as the dough is stiff), until the dough is smooth and silky (like a baby’s butt, I was once told in cooking school). Then wrap it again in plastic and let it sit on the counter for 20 minutes to rest. You can use this time to set up the pasta-machine.

Cut the dough into 6 pieces, wrap 5 back up in plastic, and roll the first one in the machine. You start on the widest setting (1), and roll it four or five times on this same setting, folding the piece in three (like an envelope) after each roll.

Once this step is done, roll it through each of the other settings once, reducing the size each time till you reach the smallest. (For some kinds of pasta, e.g., tonnarelli, you skip the thinnest setting.) Then lay the sheet of pasta on a cloth on the counter and repeat this step with the other five pieces of dough:

The last step is to run the sheets through the cutter attachment of the machine. Let the sheets dry enough first to feel leathery (so they don’t stick to the machine), but not so dry that they crack when put through the cutter. (Mine were ready to go by the time I finished rolling the last sheet.) I sliced my sheets in two parts, to make them easier to handle. Here I’m putting them through the fettuccine part of the cutter:

Then lay the cut pasta on the cloth to dry, making sure the strands don’t stick together (see photo at top of post). It will be ready to cook as soon as it’s cut, but you can also store the pasta at room temperature for several days before use. (If you’re not going to cook it that day, you might want to dry it in curls or nests, so it doesn’t take up so much room.)

The home-made pasta won’t take as long to cook a commercial dried pasta, so taste it frequently as it boils to make sure you don’t overcook it. It should be tender, but still have a slight bite (al dente) to it.

I tossed my cooked and drained fettuccine with a black truffle and olive oil sauce a friend had brought me from Italy, as well as about a quarter pound of butter (yum!), and served it with sliced rib-eye steak that had been seasoned with garlic, sea salt, and black pepper and grilled on the BBQ:

Yep, way better than my last effort. Now, on to that pizza and duck confit!

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