Caroline over at Cook It Grow It Can It had the perfect idea to tackle the things she wanted to learn in the kitchen and turned it into a challenge. Each month she presents a skill to try or improve on. Seems perfect for someone like me that has a ridiculously long list of kitchen-y things I want to learn, but could use a little focus.
January is homemade pasta, which I’ve been scared to try (still). I think I am actually more afraid of the mess than I am of turning out an inedible product. When I know how to do something comfortably, I am fairly neat about it. But when I am fumbling through? Complete flour bomb.
About this time last year I made some of the ugliest pasta you’ve ever seen. Ugly, but awesome! That is what happens when you a) don’t read directions for a new pasta maker and b) you chose the end-of-lunch-child-naptime as the ideal time to bust out the new pasta maker for the first time. I was a bit scarred from that experience and didn’t try it again until my Dad was up visiting a few months ago. Reading the directions helped tremendously, as did an assistant that has made pasta before. Thanks Dad!
I still needed a strong kick to give it another solo fling though. All I can say is thank goodness for food challenges! I’m a girl who needs deadlines! So deadline looming, I finally cracked open the directions and made a plan. I have learned I can’t do anything in the kitchen involving flour without the kiddo needing (and quite desperately) to help. So my ladies played a few riveting games of Go Fish while I got it all ready and then went for a walk while I rolled it out. (whew!)
I experimented in mixing flour types and I really liked how this turned out- both in taste and workability. I’m looking forward to mixing up different flour types next time. Local Kitchen makes hers with 100% whole wheat and it looks fantastic, so I’ll probably try that next time.
Basic No-Frills Pasta
- ~ ½ cup whole-wheat pastry flour
- ~ ½ cup semolina flour
- ~ 1 cup unbleached all-purpose white flour
- 3 fresh eggs
- 1 teaspoon of olive oil
- few pinches of kosher salt
- water as needed to mix
I mixed it in the food processor until it held together, adding water bit by bit until it held together in a ball. Not wet, but not crumbly either. Let it rest for 20 minutes or so before you begin to work it. If you have a pasta machine, follow the instructions!
The biggest thing I learned this go-around was to trust the instructions that have you run the sheets through the machine about 10 times before beginning to thin them. It seemed to me that all the folding, rolling, and running through machine would overwork the dough. But, like magic, the dough became increasing supple with each successive trip through the machine. Cool!
It recently came to my attention that the Ladyfriend only likes pasta cut spaghetti-thin. She isn’t a fan of fettuccine or linguine. She doesn’t really dislike it. It is more that she prefers spaghetti. However, she is having a lot of taste and appetite changes due to some medicine she is currently taking. It is difficult to find anything that tastes remotely edible to her…so I wasn’t chancing it. And I wasn’t sure that I was up for the challenge of cutting noodles that thin, machine or no machine. It seemed like it could go terribly wrong.
I went to lasagna. Most recipes for lasagna called for boiling the noodles for a few minutes before layering the lasagna to avoid gummy pasta. so I did that. I wish I could tell you about the lasagna but I made it up on the fly, so I can’t. But I will say that the noodles were the star. Tender, yet held up to the lasagna, and were flavorful in their own right.
Pasta recipes are pretty much the same- flour, water or oil, salt, eggs. But the type of flour you use, as well as an herbs or flavors you add in, make the combinations endless. Now that my confidence is up I can’t wait to start experimenting!
I might even let the Babylady help.
Next up? Cook It 2012: Bread. I’ll be telling you all about my sourdough troubles before then though.