Thursday, January 20, 2011

FRESH HOMEMADE PASTA

Homemade pasta is an art and sometimes art takes practice.


Making homemade pasta takes time and effort but it is an inexpensive way of providing you with a fresh, delicious tasting, delicate textured pasta. The basic ingredients involved are flour, eggs, salt, and water. Other ingredients, such as milk and oil are also used in some recipes. 


In my opinion, there is no better family meal than fresh homemade pasta with a simple sauce. Your sauce should not be heavy or over seasoned; it will take away from the taste of fresh pasta.  If you have never tasted fresh homemade pasta, you are missing something good. 
Really good. 


While I have to admit I eat dry store bought pasta 99% of the time, and I do really like the 
«al dente» 
state characteristic of properly cooked, superior quality, dry pasta, I occasionally love a taste of ravioli just recently made, or a lasagna with superbly thin noodles (not wet cardboard like sheets), or a special shape of noodle «orecchiette» or pasta that is the perfect foil to cuddle with a particular pasta sauce. 


To make the dough, place about 4 cups (you can start with 3.5 cups if you like, add more later if needed) unbleached all-purpose flour on a clean large wooden chopping board. Make a crater in the mountain of flour into which you should add 4 extra large organic eggs; or since I didn’t have extra large, I tried five regular eggs. 



Add a teaspoon or two of olive oil. Now you would have something that looks like "taal lake" with eggs in it. With a fork, gently mix up the eggs, drawing a little flour from the sides of the “volcano” to incorporate into the liquid. Don’t worry if it looks lumpy, it comes together nicely a little later in the process. Keep doing this mixing gently until about 2/3 of the flour is incorporated into the eggs and oil…


Once most of the flour is incorporated into the egg, knead the dough with the palms of your hands until it comes together. This will take a few minutes. Form the dough into a ball, place in a small bowl, cover with some plastic wrap and let it “rest”. The next key is to give the kneaded dough a decent rest, wrapped or covered with a towel. Most recipes call for anywhere from a 10- to 30-minute rest; 30 is better than 10. Resting allows the flour particles to absorb the water and the gluten network to develop . . . With time the dough becomes noticeably easier to work, and the finished noodles end up with a cohesive consistency rather than a crumbly one. Then it’s time to roll. A little flour in the pasta-machine works should prevent the dough from sticking as you advance through the settings. Once you’re at the thickness you want (or as thin as you can stand to go, if you’re using a rolling pin), it’s time to cut the sheets into noodles. Fettuccine and angel hair are classic and easy, but when I’m making pasta, I like to bust out the cookie cutters and make fun shapes.


Next, hang any noodles to dry out a bit; they are ready to cook almost immediately. Recognize that fresh noodles cook in less than half the time of other dry pastas, and they have a different cooked texture.
Yum, Yum...


Manicotti
Sheets of fresh homemade pasta are rolled and filled with our imported 
Ricotta and Parmigiano Reggiano
cheese blend, and then topped with our homemade pomodoro sauce.

BON APPÉTIT...