Cooking Challenge: Homemade Pasta
At the beginning of 2009, one of the things I promised myself I would do is challenge myself to learn some new techniques. I haven't really worked very hard on that up to this point. So, I'm finally jumping in and doing it! I'm going to share my ups and downs with learning each technique as I go along. This time it's all about pasta!
Why would I choose to attempt homemade pasta? One reason is that I have been a pasta lover for as long as I can remember. My Mom will tell you, I could eat a whole bowl of spaghetti with just butter and Parmesan cheese (and it was the stuff in the green can back then, before I knew about the really good Parmesan!). Since it is one of my primary food groups (don't need to hear from the carb-phobic people today as you'll never get me to come over to the the carb-fearing side of the world), I thought it would be fun to learn how to make it myself.
As with any challenge, there must be a learning curve. Oh boy, does there need to be a learning curve! My first attempt was actually a few weeks ago. Not even worth taking pictures, it was THAT bad! I must tell you that choosing to make ravioli as the first attempt was probably not my smartest move. The second problem was that I had never used the pasta roller machine (sorry for not giving the exact name, but most of the words on the box are not in English - therefore, no actual instructions for use). The biggest problem from my first attempt was not being able to get the dough to go through the rollers and get it thin enough. Part of that was due to not using a bit more flour to ensure it would not stick. The dough that came out kept getting all gummed up and not really nice flat sheets that I needed. I ended up with about 3 or 4 ravioli that I cooked just to see how they would turn out. The were very thick and doughy, not the delicate and thin pockets of goodness I wanted.
This time, I used a pasta recipe that Judy from No Fear Entertaining suggested as her "go-to" recipe for pasta. Only 2 ingredients (eggs and flour) and using a food processor to combine and the dough was ready to hang out for a bit. Then, I set up my work area with the pasta machine and made my 2nd attempt. This time I opted to make a fettucine noodle rather than ravioli. Now that I had used the machine once before I had a better idea of how to maneuver getting the dough in and rolled out while having my other hand kind of catching it coming out the bottom. The machine I'm using requires you to turn the handle to roll the dough through. Doing this with only 2 hands is tricky, but it can be done. Just takes a bit of getting used to, and it seemed to work out ok once I got past the first piece of dough.
|From Family, Friends and Food|
After making a nice pile of pasta noodles, I tossed them into my large pot of boiling water. It only took a few minutes for them to "fluff up" to the point where they were cooked al dente. One thing I didn't realize was that they would be such big noodles when they were done.
|From Family, Friends and Food|
While these noodles were still a bit thicker than I wanted, the experience was much better this time. Next time, I am going to try the smallest noodle setting on the machine to see if I can get a light delicate type of noodle. I am feeling much better about this process this time because I managed to actually produce something that I could sit down and enjoy as part of dinner. I served them with meatballs and marinara sauce. Figured I'd keep the rest of dinner simple so that I could focus on the pasta making!
I'll be trying my hand at pasta making again, as well as some other techniques that I'll share as I work on them. I'm planning to use Martha Stewart's Cooking School: Lessons and Recipes for the Home Cook as my primary resource for many of the techniques I want to learn. Since going to culinary school is not in my immediate future, I'm going to learn what I can on my own. I'm going to strive to post my progress once a week to every other week depending on how busy the sports schedules are each week.
I'm also submitting this post to Presto Pasta Nights, which really is being hosted by Tigerfish of Teczcape (last week Ruth hosted it!). I'll be hosting PPN next week, so I hope many of you will join us by sharing your favorite Pasta dish!