Homemade pasta has always been my nemesis. Not because it does something nasty to my digestive system, not because it tastes bad, and certainly not because it’s something I won’t eat. No, despite all my attempts to make fresh pasta, the dough has always laughed in the face of my efforts, refusing to evolve from separate ingredients into something edible.
Yes, I can report now that yours truly has conquered the pasta demons that have haunted me lo these many years.
We begin by making a ball of dough, made of just all purpose flour and egg. In my case, because this was a test batch, this means a small ball of dough, suitable for making enough to feed two hungry people. I won’t bore you with the kneading and passing of the dough through the ever-smaller roller settings on the pasta machine, nor with the passing of the cut sheets of dough through the attachment. But I will say that making pasta is a sort of messy business.
I cut two types of pasta: fettuccine and spaghettini (angel hair). This was for no particular reason other than that these are the two types that can be cut with this machine’s attachment.
This is where I’ve generally run into trouble in the past. The pasta is supposed to sit for 10 minutes or so – and in some cases, must sit while you cut the rest of the dough – and during this time, it dries a bit. With previous batches, the pasta has been dry when it was cut and then turned into brittle sticks that snapped in half. In those previous attempts, even a damp paper towel over the already cut strands wasn’t a lot of help. When one of those strands was placed in boiling water, it instantly disintegrated. That might be useful for getting rid of water-soluble trash, but it isn’t conducive to good pasta.
Not this time, though. A lot of people will make fresh pasta, dump it into boiling water, and then walk away for eight to ten minutes, as if it’s the same as dried pasta. It isn’t. Don’t leave your pasta unattended! Check it after about a minute and a half for doneness, and if it isn’t done, keep checking it every 10-20 seconds or so. You’d be surprised how quickly it will go from too firm to mush, with the al dente stage passing you right by.
Since I am rather gun-shy about fresh pasta, I obsessed over my little batches while they were cooking. The fettuccine took about two and a half minutes.
The angel hair took about a minute and a half.
Oh, and did I mention that I finally got a loaf of bread made? I’ll need to make more, as a friend of mine is heading out of town for about ten days or so, and I expect people on the road can always use a little home-cooked goodness, eh?
Both samples of pasta were dressed very simply, with a dash of olive oil and a little shredded parm-reg, and my mom was the taster of about a quarter of the total of each type. Now that I know that I can indeed make fresh pasta correctly, the next step will be to make some fresh tomato sauce and some meatballs (when I was younger, in junior high, I made all the meatballs for the sandwiches we sold in our family’s convenience store down in the Ft. Lauderdale area). If I can find my baguette pan in the midst of the remaining boxes that are still packed, Wednesday’s planned menu of spaghetti and meatballs with garlic bread will be entirely homemade except for the salad that will be served alongside.
Next pasta experiment: ravioli.
What do you do with fresh multigrain bread (whole wheat flour, sunflower seeds, walnuts, and almonds)? Why, you make a sandwich, of course. My sister did just that. Boar’s Head Salsalito turkey, a slice of cheddar, mustard, mayo, salt, and pepper between a couple slices of bread that was made just hours ago.