Thursday, June 14, 2012

Making Homemade Pasta

Last weekend I finally got a chance to try out my new pasta rolling attachment Matt bought me for Mother's Day a few weeks ago. I had been putting it off because I thought it might be complicated and take forever, but I was wrong! I went from flouring the board to putting a pasta dinner on the table in less than an hour. And if you've ever tasted the texture and flavor of homemade noodles, I'm sure you'd agree that an hour ain't nothin' for a plate of this. ;-)

There are quite a few differing opinions on the process for making homemade pasta dough, and many recipes call for lots of resting time in between each step. I simply don't have enough patience to wait 4-6 hours for fresh pasta, so I went with a much shorter version. And guess what - it was still as tender, delicate and delicious as if I'd gone the old fashioned way. So here's my quickie version!

Make a well with your flour and add two eggs in the center.

You could do this in the food processor, but I like the nostalgia of using my hands, and I think you get a better feel for the dough as well. Plus, one less thing to wash!

Using a fork, whisk the eggs and then start pulling the flour into them little by little. Once the eggs are combined with the flour, start using your hands to get everything fully combined.

It's ok if there is flour leftover. Once the dough comes together in a ball, remove excess flour and start kneading. Knead the dough for about 10 minutes. The dough will be quite stiff, so it's a workout! Once the dough has been kneaded, it should look uniform and a little shiny.

Wrap it in plastic wrap and let it sit at room temperature for about 20 minutes. This is a good time to start boiling the cooking water, have a glass of wine and daydream about the butter sauce you'll coat the noodles in. Because marinara sauce just won't do them justice.

Once the dough has rested, cut it into three even slices.

At this point you can use a rolling pin to roll out the dough (for fettucini, the dough should be about 1/8 inch thick), or you can use a KitchenAid pasta rolling attachment. The pasta roller really makes things so easy. Just feed it through on a #1 two or three times, folding it in half each time, until the dough is stretchy and is as wide as the attachment. Then go to a #2 (no need to fold in half at this point because you're aiming to get the dough nice and long for noodles), then a #3, #4 and finally #5. 

You'll end up with three quite long strips of pasta dough.

I don't have a pasta cutter, so I just used a knife to cut long strips.  The noodles may not be all exactly the same size, but it's homemade, so I think it should be a little rustic looking.

Let the noodles dry out for about 10 minutes, then drop them in salted boiling water. They only need 2-3 minutes to cook to perfection.

Drain and enjoy! I made a simple sauce of olive oil and spinach from the garden (okay, with a little butter too) for this batch of fettucini, which was the perfect complement. The noodles are tender and light with just enough texture to give it some bite, and the flavor is delicate and rich at the same time.

The dough is very basic so it can be used for any kind of noodle, macaroni or stuffed pasta you like. The sky's the limit!

Homemade Pasta Dough

Makes 8 oz. (2-3 servings). Can easily be doubled.

2 cups flour
2 eggs
1 tsp. salt (optional)
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper (optional)

Mix the flour, salt and pepper together and make a mound in the center of a large cutting board; make a well with the flour mixture and drop the eggs in the center. Using a fork, beat the eggs together and begin to incorporate the flour into the eggs. It may look messy. The dough will come together in a big mass when about half the flour is mixed in.

Start kneading the dough with your hands, adding more of the flour as necessary so the dough isn't sticky. Once the dough comes together in a ball, remove excess flour and knead for about 5-6 more minutes. Keep dusting the board as you go so the dough doesn't stick. After kneading, the dough should be elastic, shiny and a little sticky.

Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and set aside for about 20 minutes at room temperature.

Flatten the dough out and cut into thirds. Feed each third of the dough through a pasta roller up to a #5 (or use a rolling pin to roll it out to about 1/8 inch). Cut the dough into strips for fettucini or other noodles, or use as sheets for ravioli. If cutting into fettucini, let the cut noodles dry for about 10 minutes before cooking. 

Cook the noodles in salted, boiling water for 2-3 minutes. Serve immediately.

*Note: You can also freeze the dough after it's been rolled and cut into strips. Then just pull out of the freezer when desired and cook according to same directions above.

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