The Making of Pasta
Yesterday the weather was absolutely disgusting, and so while I was out shopping with M, we ducked into Broadway Panhandler. For those of you that don’t know, the Panhandler is the poor man’s Sur La Table. Anyways, we spent the better part of the hour browsing for kitchen appliances that we didn’t need, and then I spent the latter part of the hour calculating how much money was in my bank account, and how much of the unnecessary things I could actually afford to purchase. I ended up putting back the potato ricer (more on my brilliant ideas for that tool later) and the latex egg shells (for the perfect poach) and settled on the pasta maker. Now this I had been eying for a long time. A gorgeous, old-fashioned looking wooden handled metal box that makes fresh pasta. What more could one ask for?
I took it home immediately and got to work, after M assured me that making pasta is extremely easy (um, thanks for that tip).
First I just set up the little machine on my chop block and stared at it, cranking the handle, fitting on the fettuccine attachment, clamping it to the counter. (NOTE: I am not Italian and I will never spell any Italian pastas correctly. My apologies in advance, I know its horrendous). Then I got to work with the pasta. I ended up calling in Martha Stewart’s Cooking School on this one, because that method has pictures, and the little booklet that came with my pasta machine was all in Italian, except for one page in English that looked like it had been put through Babelfish and was nearly as unreadable as the rest of the instructions. So here we go:
Start by lightly combining 3 eggs with a fork in a small bowl. Then, on your counter, dump two cups of all purpose flour (or Italian 00 if you have it). Form the flour into a mound, and then make a little well in the middle. Into the well, pour the eggs. Now, not being an engineer, my well was slightly structurally unsound and much of my egg escaped out an unknown crack. So pour the egg in slowly and make sure your mound of flour is solid. I spent a good five minutes chasing egg back into the well and trying to unsuccessfully repair the crack. What a mess.
When the egg is safely in the well, start to stir it into the flour with a fork. When it gets too thick, use your hands until the flour and egg has formed into a dough. Then begin to knead the dough, just as you would bread or pie crust. Do this for about 10 minutes. According to Martha, this “develops the glutens in the flour.” When your hands are tired, form into a ball and wrap with seran wrap. Then let the dough ball sit on the counter for about an hour and a half (this helps the glutens “relax”).
Now the fun part!! When you’ve managed to distract yourself for an hour and a half (me and J were making ravioli, so we roasted the butternut squash and made the filling during this time), unwrap the dough ball and using a pasta cutter (or in our case, pizza cutter) to cut the dough ball into 8 sections. This makes it easier to feed into the pasta maker.
Start with the pasta maker on the lowest setting, so the rollers are as far apart as they go. Feed the dough into the pasta machine. When it comes out, you can reshape the dough and feed it through several more times. Reshaping the dough a little helps to make sure the pasta is even. Now tighten the settings and feed it through the machine 2 or 3 times on each setting. We went down to the lowest setting since we were making ravioli and wanted it really thin, but you can stop at whatever thickness you prefer. If you are making fettuccine, feed it through the attachment directly after pressing it through the pasta maker.
And voila! Fresh pasta! Now (if you’re not filling it), you just boil, sauce, and eat. If you want to dry it, take 8-10 strands of fettuccine and form them into loose nests. Then leave them out to dry for 24 hours before wrapping them or putting them in tupperware. The nest shape is so they don’t break when you store them, the 24 hour rule so that they are completely dry before you store them, or the moisture in them will mold. You can keep dried fresh pasta for two weeks.
More on the ravioli later – we’re off to the Promenade to watch a dog halloween parade. And no, I’m not joking.