Friday, March 21, 2014

How to Make Fresh, Homemade Pasta

Ever since I read my first Amish cookbook when I was a young teenager, I have been fascinated with the idea of making my own pasta, and I've made several batches over the years that have been fairly - but not wildly - successful.

A couple of years ago, Charlie got me a beautiful pasta roller for Christmas.  The first batch I tried with the new pasta roller didn't turn out so well - but I figured if I practiced more the process would probably get easier.

When I made this latest batch of pasta a couple of days ago, it turned out beautifully - and the taste, flavor and texture was out of this world.  I am so excited to share what I've learned with you.

The wonderful thing about it is that pasta really is easy to make.  Unlike pastry, bread and other doughs, pasta dough isn't too fussy.  You can make good pasta with a rolling pin and a knife, though it is pretty handy to have a pasta roller.

The only ingredients you really need are flour and eggs.  I have tried making pasta with just all purpose flour, with whole wheat flour and with a mix of semolina and all purpose flours.  We seem to most enjoy the pasta made with the mix of semolina and AP flour - I thought it was easier to work with, and the cooked pasta has a great heartiness and texture.  

It wasn't hard to find the semolina flour; I just found it at a local grocery store in the baking aisle.  But you don't have to have the semolina flour - you can experiment with all purpose, whole wheat, spelt, durum, buckwheat or white wheat flour, ect... to find just the right pasta dough for you.

Lets get started!  You can make your pasta dough by hand on the table:

Or start with a stand mixer with a dough hook.  The basic object is to work the eggs into the flour and create a ball of dough.

The ball of dough before kneading - it is rough and lumpy looking.

Time to knead!  Knead for at least three minutes by hand;

until the dough forms a smooth ball.   If for some reason your dough feels a bit dry after you’ve been kneading it for a minute, wet your hands and add that small amount of water into it.  Or, if it is too wet, work in a tiny bit of flour. 

 A smooth ball of pasta dough. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest on the counter top for an hour.

 After the hour is up, remove the plastic wrap and flatten the dough into a disc. 

Using a knife or a dough cutter, cut the disc into 8 equal portions. 

Take one of the portions and flatten it into a rectangle-type shape (it doesn't have to be perfect).

Take that rectangularish piece of dough and run it through your pasta roller on the widest setting (on my pasta roller, it is setting #1).  Fold the dough in thirds, and run it through the roller, fold it into thirds, and repeat this process four or five times at this setting. 

Close the rollers a couple of clicks and continue running the piece of dough through the roller a couple of times (no folding now).  Close another click and repeat.

As you continue this process, you will see how the sheet of pasta gets longer and longer. 

This is about as long as I can handle without wrecking the sheet of pasta.  I also experimented by cutting this pasta sheet in half and rolling it through in half sections - it was a lot easier to handle.  Try it if you are having problems!  By the way, notice how you can see my fingers behind the dough at the top of the photo?  This is the perfect thickness: the dough isn't translucent but you can see outlines behind it.

A counter full of fresh pasta sheets.  I let them dry for 10 to 20 minutes before cutting them. 

To cut, you can either use a knife, or if you have a pasta roller with a cutter attachment, use that - it makes perfect pieces of pasta.  On the pasta roller, place handle in desired cutting attachment, and roll the pasta through.  This time I made fettuccine pasta. 

Lay the pasta out a wire rack.  Prepare pasta bringing a pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Once the water is rapidly boiling, place the pasta into the water and cook for 3-5 minutes or until al dente.

Drain pasta and toss with your favorite sauce, or serve as desired.

Though it isn't a great picture, I fixed up this pasta by: sauteing 2 tablespoons butter, 2 tablespoons olive oil, three pieces of bacon, chopped, 3 cloves of fresh garlic, minced, salt and pepper and a dash of red pepper flakes.  After the garlic was fragrant, I added the pasta and stirred it all together.  Top with fresh minced parsley (not pictured because I came up with the parsley idea after I took this photo) and enjoy!  It tasted delicious and was a great hit with Charlie, too

Fresh, Homemade Pasta

  • 7 ounces (or about 1 to 1 1/2 cups) all purpose flour
  • 7 ounces (or about 1 to 1 1/2 cups) semolina flour
  • 4 large eggs, room temperature
Note: instead of the semolina flour, you could use 14 ounces all purpose flour, or half AP flour and half whole wheat, ect... my directions will be for AP and semolina flours.

First of all, decide if you are going to make the dough entirely by hand or if you will use a stand mixer to bring together the dough initially.

If using a stand mixer, mix together the AP flour and semolina flour in the bowl of a stand mixer.  Using a dough hook, stir on low speed until the dough is well mixed.  I ran the mixer on medium speed for a couple of minutes, or until all of the dough came together into a ball. 

If you are making the dough entirely by hand, on your counter top, place the flours in a mound shape, make a well in the center, and crack the eggs into the well.  Use your fingers to gradually draw the dry ingredients into the center, mixing them with the eggs.  Use a bowl scraper or dough scraper to help you draw it all together.  The dough will be hard to mix at first, but keep working with it and eventually it will come together and be relatively smooth.

Now, for both stand mixer and by hand directions; here they both come together into one set of directions.

Place your ball of dough on the counter.  Knead the dough with the heel of your hand for at least three minutes until the dough is very smooth. The dough should not feel sticky.  If it sticks to your fingers, knead in a small amount of flour, just enough so your fingers come away clean when you pull them away.  The dough should also not feel too dry; if it feels bit dry after you’ve been kneading it for a minute, wet your hands and add that small amount of water into it.  After the dough is kneaded into a smooth ball, wrap the dough in plastic wrap and let it sit at room temperature for an hour.  A handy thing to know is that you can keep the dough for several hours at room temperature if need be - but don't make it the night before or it will turn an icky gray color, even if refrigerated.

Now, it is time to roll out the pasta!  On a lightly floured surface, cut the dough into eight pieces.  Cover these pieces of dough with plastic wrap or a towel.  Working one piece at a time, fashion each piece into a rectangular shape, then pass it through your pasta machine on the widest setting (usually #1).  Fold the dough in thirds (do this by folding one side of the piece of dough toward the middle, then fold the other side over that to form three layers).  Press lightly on the top of the piece of dough to seal it.

Feed the dough through the roller, starting with one of the open sides.  Repeat the folding and rolling through the roller technique on the widest setting for four or five times.

Now it is time to start rolling the dough thinner.  Without folding now, continue passing the pasta through the machine, turning the dial of the rollers down a couple of notches with each pass (dust them very lightly with flour or semolina if the dough is sticking) until you’ve reached the desired thickness. As I said earlier, if the sheet of pasta gets too long, you can cut it in half with a knife or a dough scraper.

To roll out the pasta dough by hand, use a floured surface and a rolling pin and roll out to desired thickness.  This is tough, but keep with it!  The dough will eventually get thinner. 

Then, if you wish to make fettuccine or spaghetti, use the pasta cutter attachment to cut the sheets into the desired thickness (my pasta roller came with a fettuccine and spaghetti cutter attachment, there are a host of others available to purchase as well), or cut the pasta by hand on the counter top with a long sharp knife to whatever size strands or shapes you want. A trick I learned about cutting the pasta dough by hand is to roll the sheet of pasta into a tight tube, and cut it that way (think of rolling and making cinnamon rolls - this will give you pretty perfect strands of pasta). 

Once rolled and cut, fresh pasta can be laid it on a semolina- or flour-dusted baking sheet or linen kitchen towel, until ready to boil. Or drape it over something, such as a wire rack or pasta drying rack until ready to use.

Prepare pasta bringing a pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Once the water is rapidly boiling, place the pasta into the water and cook for 3-5 minutes or until al dente.

The great thing about fresh homemade pasta is that you can experiment to your heart's delight. How about a flavored pasta dough?  Maybe some chopped fresh herbs, or fresh minced garlic, or freshly ground black pepper, or different flours, or some cooked spinach, or.....hmmm, what else?

What will you do with your fresh homemade pasta? And what will you top it with??

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