Monday, March 14, 2011

Homemade Pasta

What do you do when you have eggs, flour, olive oil and salt on hand? Make homemade pasta, of course.

Alright, that is not exactly what most people will think of making. Alas, knowing me, I will strive to make homemade anything that I can think of. Honestly, can you tell me anything else which say "special" more than homemade pasta does?

Whenever my family is looking for a special meal to celebrate an occasion, we have never failed to try making a long elaborate meal to mark the special day. Fresh homemade pasta is one of them. I first started making homemade pasta last year when my sister bought me a pasta maker for my birthday. I am really lucky to have such a nice sister!

For those of you who have never attempt to make homemade pasta, first of all, let me just say this. It is really simple with enough practice. Our first attempt in making homemade pasta was a long elaborate process. I received a Mario Batali's cookbook from my mom two years ago as part of my Christmas gift. Thanks, mom! With Italian cooking, homemade pasta just come with the territory. The first attempt was the first attempt with kinks here and there. The dough came out too stiff and it was almost impossible to incorporate all the flour into the egg dough.

Well, when at first you do not succeed, try and try again!  I chance upon the website academia barilla which has a step-by-step video on how to make homemade pasta. Even though the recipe says 4 eggs to 1lb of pasta, in the video itself, the chef did mention to use 3 oz of flour to 1 egg. Using this ratio, I find the dough to be a lot easier to work with and I manage to incorporate all flour into the pasta dough.

When rolling the pasta dough, I find that Batali's method of rolling the dough with the pasta machine works the best. The pasta came out smooth with a nice chew, which is exactly what you want. As I prefer rustic homemade pasta, I only used regular all purpose flour to make the pasta. If you feel like splurging, you can go ahead and buy semolina flour for this purpose. Trust me, using the regular all purpose flour is just as good.

Homemade Pasta
(Adapted from Academia Barilla and Molto Italiano by Mario Batali)

4 large eggs
12 oz flour (about 1 1/2 cups or 340gm)
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/4 tsp salt
More flour for dusting

Step 1: Place eggs on counter to come to room temperature. Measure out flour on kneading board.
Step 2: Working with both hands, create a well in the center.
Step 3: Combine eggs, olive oil and salt in the middle of the well.

Step 4: Using a fork, beat the eggs, olive oil and salt till combined.

Step 5: Gradually, work flour into the egg mixture.
Step 6: When it starts to get difficult to work flour in with a fork, start using your hands to combine the flour with the egg mixture. A dough scraper will come in very handy at this point.
Step 7: Continue to work flour in by kneading the dough until all flour is used up. Dust dough with more flour if it gets too sticky. Use your dough scraper to scrape up any bits of dough that sticks to your kneading board.

Step 8: Knead dough till it is smooth and no longer stick to your hand, about 20 minutes.

Step 9: Wrap dough in plastic wrap and let sit on kitchen counter for 30 minutes to allow gluten to develop. Meanwhile, set up your pasta maker and work station. You will need a bowl of flour for dusting, clean kitchen towel, and a baking sheet or pan to rest the dough while you are working on other pieces of dough.

Step 10: Using your dough scraper, divide the dough into four even pieces. Work with the first piece of dough. Wrap the remaining pieces with plastic wrap to avoid dough from drying up.

Step 11: Dust dough with flour liberally. Flatten dough with your hand to fit into pasta maker.

Step 12: Set the pasta roller to its widest setting, number 1 for mine. The setting varies with different manufacturers. Roll dough to flatten.
Step 13: Dust with a little bit of flour on the wet spot of the dough. Fold in thirds.
Flatten one end of the dough with the palm of your hand to fit into the rollers.

Step 14: Roll dough through the machine in the widest setting number 1 for 3 more times, repeating the dusting of flour, folding and rolling.
Step 15: Once you are done, change the setting to number 2 (the second widest setting). Continue the rolling and folding in step 13 for 6 times. Be sure to sprinkle flour onto the dough to avoid dough from catching in between the rollers. When done, change the roller setting to number 3 and repeat the process 5 times. The folding and rolling of the dough will ensure a smooth, chewy texture of your pasta.
Step 16: Set the pasta maker to setting number 4. All you have to do from here onwards is roll the pasta once without any folding required.
Step 17: After rolling the dough in setting no. 5, you may have to cut the dough in half with your dough scraper to ease the rolling process. The pasta sheet will get too long at this point. Continue the rolling process to desired thickness. I usually stop after rolling it through setting no 6 as I prefer my pasta with a little bite to it. You can adjust the thickness of your pasta according to your preference. If you like thinner pasta, continue to roll the pasta to the smallest setting on your pasta maker.

Step 18: Once done, place your pasta onto a baking sheet lightly dusted with flour. Sprinkle more flour on top of pasta to avoid sticking.
Step 19: Cover with a clean kitchen towel. Repeat with remainder dough. At this point, the pasta sheets are ready to be used as lasagna or ravioli sheets. If you wish to make fettucine or angel hair pasta, use the attachment roller that comes with your pasta maker. Roll the pasta sheets in the cutter to get desired shapes.
Step 20: Cook pasta as usual in salted boiling water. As these pasta are fresh, the cooking time is significantly shorter than dried pasta. Ours is done within 5 minutes of boiling. Serve with your choice of sauces.

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