Thursday, July 26, 2012

In praise of pasta

My friends Ali and Lynn have joint July birthdays, so we always get together to do something special. This year we made pasta. Lynn had done a course at La Bella Italia, so she was our guide, and Ali provided the pasta machine.   It was one of the best cooking and eating days I've ever had.
               The basic pasta dough recipe is here, together with the two ravioli fillings we used (Lynn had made these in advance): ricotta with spinach, and pumpkin with parmesan.

Egg pasta dough (La Bella Italia)

2 cups of “00” flour (Lynn was told she could also use high grade flour - we did, and it was fine)
½ cup of durum wheat fine semolina flour (grana dura)
4 medium eggs
2 more eggs, well beaten, to brush the dough with

(The olives and bread were to nibble while we worked.)
Thoroughly sift together flour, semolina flour, and a pinch of salt. On a clean surface, make a mountain out of the flour mixture and make a deep well in the centre. Break the eggs into the well. (In Italian this is called the nest, for obvious reasons.)

Whisk eggs very gently with a fork, gradually incorporating flour from the sides of the well. When mixture becomes too thick to mix with a fork, begin kneading with your hands.

 Dust dough and work surface with semolina as needed to keep dough from becoming sticky. Knead dough until it is smooth and supple (this took us at least 15 minutes). Wrap dough tightly in cling wrap and allow it to rest at room temperature for 30 minutes.

And here it is, just as it should be, after all three of us took turns at kneading - the amazing gluten-busting transformation has taken place.

Next comes the fun part (which isn't described on the recipe site). Set up the pasta machine - what a gorgeous piece of machinery! It should be clamped to the table, but if you can't do this (we couldn't, as the table edge was the wrong shape), one of you will have to hold it down (this is why it works much better to have at least two people). 

Divide the dough into four pieces. Take one piece and flatten it out a bit. Feed it through the machine on the thickest (first) setting, then double it over and put it through several times more.

Keep raising the setting and feeding the pasta strip through so that it gets thinner and thinner. You will end up with an immensely long strip of almost translucent dough. 
        Lay this out on the bench or table (over a light dusting of semolina flour) and brush it with beaten egg.

Put a big pot of water on to boil. Arrange spoonfuls of filling along half the strip. Fold the other half over and press down around each spoonful.

Lynn had a little shot glass that was just the right size to define each spoonful neatly - the idea is to get out as much air as possible. 

Then we cut each one into a square and cooked them in the water for a few minutes until they were done, draining them carefully in a colander.

Next week I'll write about the whole Long Italian Lunch we had, with antipasto, the two kinds of ravioli as the star turn, and a recipe for the tiramisu we had for dessert.  
         We made the fourth piece of dough into fettucine, and I got to take it home. It took three minutes to cook, and I had it with the simplest possible sauce of good olive oil, garlic and herbs.


Anonymous said...

Your pasta looks gorgeous! I've never got around to trying fresh pasta at home but have been thinking about it - your photos are very helpful!

Lucy Hoffman said...

Great photos Anne - looking forward to hearing about the long Italian lunch- very dolche vita!

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Anonymous said...

You make it look so easy! Thanks for explaining your way right through it - sounds like a fun night!