Thursday, July 10, 2008

Hands On Pasta

There's nothing quite like cleaning all the dust bunnies and skeletons from your closet to make you realize just what kind of person you are. As I'm tossing my superfluous material positions in the every growing mound marked for Goodwill, I'm unearthing eras of my hobby life. There was the handmade paper phase, the hand-bound journal phase, the acyclic paint phase, the scrap booking phase, the Fimo clay phase, the beading phase, the homemade head band phase, the hemp jewelry phase, ACK! All of that crafting equipment adds up, but I will never toss the pasta maker my mom handed down to me.

I am torn between believing I'm either a dilettante of the worst kind or else I'm just a person who gets immeasurable pleasure from making things with my hands. While I'm not sure which way the scales tips for me, I do know one of the most tactile, most thrilling things to do with your hands in the kitchen is make hand-rolled pasta. Home-made pasta delights all the senses from its golden eye-popping hue, to its earthy, egg and wheat pungency, to its Play Doh-like squish, to the small squeaks of the rolling pin or pasta machine. If you make your own pasta, your rewards are more than in taste alone. It's a relaxing, meditative process.

After mixing the dough, you roll it out thin. Here's a sheet of pasta dough after being rolled through the pasta machine 7 or 8 times. You can do the rolling by hand with a rolling pin, and your pasta will still turn out great, it will be more heartily rustic, and it will take a bit more time.

This time, I decide to make spaghetti. I also have an attachment that will cut fettuccine. If you don't have a pasta machine, you'll want to fold your rolled-out dough over itself until it's a roll of about four inches, then you cut through all layers at once, and when unrolled you have single, long strips of pasta.

Even though some recipes will tell you to dry your pasta for several hours before cooking, I've found that it's fine to toss in a pot of boiling water immediately. Do not refrigerate unless it is completely dry, or the spaghetti will turn into a gray, mush when cooked.

I've played around with several different pasta recipes. I've found that recipes that call for all semolina flour have a too course of textures. Recipes that demand a combination of all purpose and semolina flours with a dash of olive oil produce the results closest to store bought, dried pasta. But what's the fun in that?

The hands down, best pasta recipe is also the simplest. My mom gave it to me years ago, and it goes like this:

Hand-Made Pasta Dough

2 eggs, beaten (organic, free-range eggs are preferred)
generous dash of salt
enough AP flour to form a dough the consistency of Play-Doh

Beat eggs and salt together. Gradually add flour until desired consistency is reached. (If you wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for about 30 minutes, the dough will be slightly easier to work with, but it's not necessary.) Roll out by hand or with pasta machine and cut into desired pasta, or drop into soup by teaspoonfuls to make egg dumplings. May take slightly longer than store-bought pasta to cook. But it's worth every extra minute.


holly said...

i believe the pasta maker is yours and the mom's oak table is mine, correct? jake got a pasta maker for christmas and we put oregano in the dough before rolling and cutting it. it was pretty good.

Sarah said...

Actually, I believe I am to inherit all things culinary, but you'll have to talk to "the mom" about that. Pasta maker = Antique dining table? Hmm?

The oregano sounds good. Was it fresh or dried? I bet fresh minced rosemary would also be fabulous.

What do you use for a dough recipe?

holly said...

it was fresh oregano we used. we bought this lovely herb mincer with a cushioned neon green handle too. the dough we used was just like mom's i think. jake's mom told him what to do. we made the little flour well on the table and added eggs and mixed it on the table. . . isn't that how mom does it?

and duh, the mom is the correct reference regarding carollee.

Anonymous said...

These pictures of the pasta maker were great. Pasta is fun to make and so tasty. Makes me hungry for the egg drop dumplings in chicken. I am so glad you are using the pasta maker. Mom