Saturday, March 2, 2013

Fresh Egg Pasta

Are you thinking what I'm thinking? That this plate of pasta looks strangely misshapen? That the strands are neither round like spaghetti or flat like fettuccine? 

Well, here's what happened. I decided to make my own pasta even though I don't have a pasta machine to roll the dough and cut it into shape AND knowing full well that I lack the patience needed to cut the dough, with a knife, into equal sized strips. It started out well, actually, but rolling and cutting pasta by hand takes some time and after about 30 minutes, my attention to detail was a little slack and my hands were getting tired. 

Since the pasta was an experiment and I wasn't cooking for anyone but me and R (well, hopefully), I wasn't too concerned about appearances. I was, however, worried that the pasta would not cook evenly. Still, I didn't think too much about it: I'd divide the strips according to size and cook the thin ones for shorter time and the thicker ones for a few minutes longer, I figured. Yeah, more work but what was I to do?

Buy a pasta machine, maybe? Well, maybe.

Making the dough was the easiest bit. There are different recipes for making pasta. I based mine on Mark Bittman's recipe which he included in The Minimalist, his column in The New York Times some time back. Here's a link to an article in The Guardian by Felicity Cloake who samples a few different recipes.  

What you need

250g Italian "00" flour: very finely sieved flour typically used to make pasta. 

3 eggs + 2 yolks

1/2 tsp salt

Water (only optional)

And here's what you do:
Whisk the flour and salt together in a bowl.

Make a well in the middle  of the flour mixture and add the eggs +yolks.

Using a fork, lightly beat the egg bringing in the flour from the sides into the egg as you go along.

Once the flour and the egg start to clump together, use your hands to bring the mixture together into a soft ball of dough. If the dough seems dry, add a tbsp or so of water.

Flour the surface of your work top and tip the dough onto the work space. Knead the dough: begin by folding the dough on itself, flattening it out and folding it again (top to bottom, flatten, turn, top to bottom). Once the dough starts to firm up, start kneading the dough. Add more flour onto the work surface if the dough starts to stick. Wetting your hands with cold water also helps, amazingly.

Knead until the dough forms a smooth elastic ball and, when cut down the middle does not show any or many air bubbles and when poked, gently, springs back easily (about 10 mins).

Place the kneaded dough back in the bowl, cover and let it rest for at least 30 mins. The dough can also be refrigerated and used later although, it has to be at room temperature before you roll.

Ready to roll

Once the dough has rested, divide it into 4 portions. Place one on a cutting board and leave the remaining three in the bowl, covered (pasta dough dries out pretty fast).

Roll the though as thin as possible. Turning, smoothing it as you go so as not to create any creases. Roll it paper thin, if possible and using a sharp, sharp knife, trim the edges until you have straight sides.

Again, make sure your knife is sharp. Cut strips, about 1mm thick (or slightly more) lengthwise. Try to be more uniformed than mine!

If you are planning on cooking your pasta immediately, just toss the cut pasta in flour and set them aside as you work on the remaining dough. If you plan on keeping the pasta for another day, you'll need to dry the strips. Hang them carefully on a hanger and hand the pasta to dry outdoors until completely dry and brittle. Store in an airtight container. Homemade pasta doesn't take all that long to dry.

Cooking time
Once you are done with the pasta and are ready to cook, boil a pot of salted water.  

When the water comes to a boil, place your pasta in. (If your pasta is evenly cut, add them together. If yours is as uneven as me, add the thicker pieces in first and 3-4 minutes later, the thinner ones). Add a tablespoon of olive oil in the water as the pasta cooks.

The pasta should take about 6 minutes to cook, al dente. Toss the pasta in a little olive oil. 

I decided to make my favourite pasta: with garlic, chilli and breadcrumbs that have been sauteed in butter. 

The end result was great. I like dried pasta quite a bit but I also love the flavour that egg brings to fresh pasta. And every once in a while, it's perhaps I'll got the extra mile and make my own pasta  .... After I but that darn pasta machine! :)

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