Tuesday, 11 September 2007

Making Pasta

Yes, my partner Paul, has managed to teach me the mysterious Italian art of pasta making.
Having attempted this Italian art in times gone by, and failing miserably, I was wary when Paul decided to break me in. Having learnt from his grandmother, Paul decided to pass on the secret to me. And I responded to the challenge!
I was eased into this mysterious art by learning the basic formula:
Italian Tipo 00 flour
Free range eggs at room temperature
100g flour = 1 egg
Sounds simple? Yes. The trick is making it all work together.
Italian Tipo 00 flour is a finely ground flour that is ideal for making pastas. I have tried the Australian Tipo 00 but while it was easier to work the texture, once cooked, wasn’t as good as the Italian flour. (actually, it was horrible- Paul)
I usually use 200g of flour in which I then gently combine 2 eggs. This is done on the bench. As the eggs and flour combine; you start working it eventually kneading the formed dough. This is a very tactile exercise where the feel of the dough is very important. I’ve found the dough should be ever so slightly tacky, just so you can barely feel it sticking to you fingers. Add some flour a little at a time if you feel that the dough is too tacky. You don’t want the dough to be too dry either, as it will become difficult to knead. Keep kneading the dough till it looks and feels completely smooth, “as smooth as babies skin” I’m told….
Once you have reached this point, wrap the dough tightly in cling film and let it rest for 15-20 minutes.
Now the fun starts.
Set up your pasta machine. If you don’t have one I guess you could use the rolling pin (or use the rolling pin on your partner & get them to buy a pasta machine).
Divide the dough into 3 roughly equal portions. Keep 2 of the portions wrapped in cling wrap so they don’t dry out. Press out the portion on a floured bench top. Make sure both sides of the flattened dough are dusted with flour. While the dough was kneaded, the tackiness was important. Tackiness here is the enemy of the pasta machine (trust me or you will be cleaning the insides of the machine). Pass the dough through the largest setting on the machine. Then fold the dough in half. Dust the outsides if it’s feeling tacky, and pass through the machine again. Repeat this 10 (yes 10) times- this is important as it helps work the dough to an ultra smooth consistency.
Now we start winding up the settings, dusting the dough if needed between each pass through the machine. If at some stage you feel the length of the dough is getting unwieldy, cut it in half.
I’ve found from experience that any higher than the 3rd last setting, makes the pasta too thin, leading to it disintegrating rather than being coated in sauce.
Once you have reached this stage, place the rolled out dough on a floured surface & dust with additional flour.
Repeat this with the remaining portions.

Leave the pasta sheets to dry for about 15-20minute. You can trim these sheets & use them for lasagna, or you can pass them through the cutters on the machine making tagliatelle or tagliarini. After each sheet of pasta is cut, wrap the pasta around your hand & then slide it off to form a little nest. Dust the cut pasta with flour & set aside till you are ready to use.

To cook your pasta, have a large pot of salted water boiling (use the biggest pot you have). Test the cooking time with a few strands of pasta. It should only take seconds, a minute at most, to cook, depending on how long you have let it dry. With fresh pasta it’s pretty much, in then straight out. It should be strong enough to be able to be picked up with a fork without breaking. It will be delicate and silky in texture, poles apart from commercial pasta. They are different products and should not be compared.
Drain the cooked pasta & toss with some butter (or oil if need be) before combining with the sauce.
You will find that homemade pasta has a different texture to commercial dry pasta. Once you have tried & mastered the process, you’ll be amazed & addicted. A 2 egg pasta makes enough for 3 decent serves.

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