Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Making Fresh Pasta

I think my husband and I consume more pasta annually than the combined population of an entire Italian village. Sauced, cheesed, baked; my husband even puts pasta in his stir-fry (if you can still call that mess stir-fry). So, it seemed only natural to give pastamaking a go. I looked over many recipes for fresh pasta, but eventually came up with a combination that seemed to be a happy medium of the recipes I read. Here it is:

Fresh Pasta
3 c. all purpose flour
3 eggs
3 Tbsp. water (or as much as necessary)
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 tsp. salt

I put the flour in the bowl of my food processor and mixed the remaining ingredients in a glass measuring cup. With the processor running, I steadily poured the egg mixture in and let the processor run until a ball began to form and pull away from the sides of the bowl. I dusted the inside of a glass bowl with a little flour, then emptied the contents of the food processor into the bowl. I gave the dough a few quick turns, kneading it several times with my hand. It should not be tacky enough to stick to the fingers; if it is, knead in more flour. The dough should rest, covered, in the bowl for an hour before rolling.

I had decided to make cheese ravioli, so while the dough rested I made the ricotta filling:

Ricotta Filling:
1 c. ricotta cheese
1 egg
1-2 Tbsp. fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped fine
Pinch salt
Pinch nutmeg (optional)

After the pasta and I had both rested for the appropriate amount of time, I divided the dough into two portions and began to roll the first half in my pasta machine. You could also roll the dough by hand, but I like mine really thin and, unfortunately, my arms are really weak. Using a pasta machine, you should start on the largest setting out, decreasing the size until the pasta is the thickness you like. Once the pasta is thin enough, you can make it into your desired shape. Cut it into wide strips for lasagna noodles, thin strips for fettucini, or thinner strings for spaghetti.

Using the ravioli roller on the pasta machine and my filling, I made about 65 ravioli, but with more thinly rolled pasta this recipe could make closer to 100 ravioli. I also used some of the dough to make tortellini. My husband had never tried it, so I made a dozen or so just so he could try them. Once the dough was rolled to my desired thickness, I cut it into squares. I put a SMALL bit of filling in the center of each square, then brushed the edges with water. I folded the dough into a triangle, then wrapped the long side (or hypotenuse for the mathematically inclined), around my index finger. I brought the two corners around my finger and pinched them together, then folded the top point down (see picture, showing each step).

When the pasta was ready to be cooked, I put a pot of salted water on to boil. Once the water came to a rolling boil, I placed the ravioli in, one-at-a-time. They only take a few minutes to cook and, conveniently, they float when they are done! Also, if you make more pasta than you are ready to cook, filed pastas could be frozen individuually on a cookie sheet, then put them into a Ziploc bag. String pastas could be air-dried over a piece of dowel with each end resting on the back of a chair and stored in airtight containers.

Needless to say, after all of this hard work, we engorged ourselves on ravioli. I had mine with butter and parmesan and my husband tossed his with a little marinara. Perfect.

Note: Homemade pasta is something of a blank slate for the creative cook. You could roll fresh herbs into your sheets of dough, or mix roasted garlic or sun-dried tomatoes (or both!) with your dough. Butternut squash puree filled tortellini with brown butter and sage? Sweetened ricotta filled ravioli sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar for dessert? Any flavors you love could be integrated into your pastamaking foray; that's the fun of it. Be creative and enjoy!

2 comments:

  1. Sounds wonderful...the closest to homemade for me will be dinner at Sorrento's!

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  2. Nothing wrong with that, Sorrento's has great fresh pasta made in-house. I especially love their lasagna noodles.

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