Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Fresh pasta

Fresh pasta is a dish that you can easily entertain with.  If you tell someone you're having spaghetti for a special supper, they may think you're copping out, just opening a box of spaghetti and pouring some sauce over it....really?  But, when they hear that you're making a fresh spaghetti from scratch, all of sudden you're doing something really special, because it must be difficult and time consuming, right??  Wrong!  Fresh pasta is very easy, and can be done in a relatively short amount of time!  And, its cheap!  Like, super cheap!  What could be better?  An impressive dish (that could feed an army) for less than $5??  Bring it!
Until a couple of years ago, I had never had fresh pasta.  I'd always heard it was better than the boxed kind you buy in a grocery store, but I never thought that there was anything wrong with the boxed kind.  Then, my parents gave me a pasta roller set for my birthday, and I learned the difference!  I still use the boxed kind, from time to time, but I make fresh pasta a few times a month now, and this is something that my daughter readily gobbles up for supper...or lunch....or, even sometimes for breakfast (hey, whatever she'll eat, right?).
Fresh pasta really has a texture that is different than what you'll get out of a box; a fresh pasta is soft, almost pillow like in texture, where as the boxed, dried pasta will give you a firmer texture.
It always fascinates me that there are thousands (hundreds of thousands?  Millions?) of recipes that start off with flour, water, and eggs.  Depending on how you treat these ingredients and and the few things you add into it, will decide if you get a cake, a bread, a muffin, an eclair, a cream puff or a pasta!
To make today's pasta, you don't need any special equipment, although some tools would make the process easier.  If you don't have a pasta roller, you can easily buy one online, for less than $25; however, you don't even need that.  If you're willing to put in some elbow grease, you can roll your dough out by hand, to the width of about a quarter!
However, I'm lazy, and I have the equipment, so I just hook it up to my mixer and this process takes about an hour and a half, start to finish!  This recipe makes 4 very generous servings, so I will occasionally cut it in half, and it works beautifully.

Ready to go?  

Here's your grocery list for today:
4 large eggs
1-5 TBS water
3 1/2 C all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp Kosher salt

In today's recipe, I added in roasted garlic; if you want to try it with roasted garlic, you'll need 4 cloves of garlic and a little olive oil!  If not, the recipe above is for a basic pasta dough.  I have added fresh parsley in the dough before, and that's really good, too!  One of the joys of making this at home, is you can experiment with what you add into the mix, or don't add in anything at all!  It's 100% up to you!  Look at all of that amazing, fresh pasta, with minimal effort, and a little time, you can share a plate with me!  Let's get started!
If you want to add roasted garlic to your dough, start off with preheating your oven to 350*, and separate 4 cloves of garlic from the head, keeping the paper skins on the cloves.  Put them on a large square of aluminum foil, and drizzle with 1-2 TBS of olive oil, and a sprinkle of Kosher salt.  Wrap it up like a little present, put it in the oven and roast it for about 35-40 minutes.  Pull the packet out, and let the garlic cool completely; you don't want to add hot or even warm garlic to your eggs when you start making your pasta dough.

After baking, the garlic will squeeze easily out of their skins, and be a soft golden brown.  And smell amazing!
Now that the garlic has roasted, and cooled, add it and the 4 large eggs to a mixing bowl.  You certainly could smash the garlic before adding it to the eggs, but I just tossed mine in whole.  I figured the mixer would smash them as the flour got worked in.  Mix the eggs lightly, then add in the salt and 1 TBS of water and mix again.  

Now, add in the flour and mix until it just comes together; depending on the humidity in the air, you may need to add more water, 1 TBS at a time, until the dough pulls together.  I usually have to add another 3-4 TBS in.
Once the mixture is crumbly, press it together to form a solid dough, and attach your dough hook.  Let the dough hook knead the dough for about 2 minutes, on a medium low speed.  While the dough hook is kneading the dough, sprinkle your counter top with flour.  Now, take your dough out of the bowl, and knead by hand for about 10 minutes.  This is a firm dough, so this can be a bit of a workout!  Don't worry if it is still a little crumbly when you take it out of the bowl, this is normal.  Once you are finished kneading, put the dough back into the bowl, drape a towel over the top, and let it rest for at least 30 minutes (I've gone up to 2 hours before, and everything has been fine).

Before and after hand kneading

After the dough has rested, divide the ball up into quarters; take one of the quarters, roll it in some the the sprinkled flour, and gently squish it with one hand.  It doesn't have to be pretty!

Now, assuming you have a pasta roller, you will noticed that on the side of the roller, you will see where you can set the roller to different widths; mine goes 1-8.  Always start your roller on the widest width, for me, that's 1.  I roll my dough through twice, on each setting, folding the dough over on itself between each pass, ending in 8, because we like a really thin spaghetti.  If you like it a little thicker, leave it on a smaller number, but 8 will give you a standard size spaghetti noodle you buy at the store.  I roll mine out with my machine on the speed setting 1 or 2, any faster than that and you may tear your dough as it rolls through.  If this happens, no problem, just fold it over on itself, and run it through again.  Once the roller catches the dough, it will feed itself through, no problem.

This is one of the quarters, all rolled out through the highest setting, 8.

When I say to fold the dough over on itself, this is what I mean, drape it back over on itself, until the two ends meet, like when you're folding a shirt, and you fold it in half so that the two sleeves meet!

Once all of the quarters are rolled out, I cut them down, to make whatever length of pasta I want.  I usually cut mine into 12 inch lengths, but feel free to go shorter (or longer!) if you want!  Or, you can leave them in sheets and make an amazing lasagna!  Or put a filling on them, and make a ravioli...this dough is really versatile!
Now, if you don't have the equipment to cut spaghetti noodles out of this, that is not a problem!  Instead of making spaghetti, you can make tagliatelle, which sounds super fancy!  Just roll some of the sheets up together, and cut noodles, about 1/2 inch to 1 inch in width.  And you have noodles!  

However, if you do have a spaghetti cutter, go on and use it, and cut your spaghetti noodles!  
These cook up very quickly, about 3 minutes, in boiling water.

Strain, and add your favorite spaghetti sauce!  Supper is served!