It puts the pasta in the pressAugust 29, 2006
That pasta machine is the gift that keeps on giving. As I mentioned in an earlier post, my husband’s much-asked for birthday toy was an Atlas pasta press. But let’s face it, I’m getting as much use and enjoyment out of it as he is — which is the exact way all gifts should work, if they possibly can.
It isn’t all joy here in MHC-ville, though, fans. I did have to suffer some chewy pasta (one time) and the more odious duty of mopping up flour from our kitchen floor and vacuuming crushed pieces of noodle from our dining room carpet. Ah, what I suffer for my stomach. But all that experimenting and cleaning has paid off: K seems to have mastered the art of fresh pasta.
So to read about his success, and my satisfied belly, continue reading, baby…
I think we have it. The MHC test kitchen has nailed down a recipe for fresh pasta that seems almost idiot proof. Unfortunately, we can’t take credit for it. (Though we’d love to take credit for it.) Instead, after much fiddling and dissatisfaction, we broke out old reliable — America’s Test Kitchen’s book, The New Best Recipe. We love this book. It has a ton of technical information and a number of very useful recipes. The only catch with this pasta recipe is that it takes a food processor to make it quick and extremely easy. Otherwise, you’ll need to do it by hand.
But, fear not, food-processor-less readers. Even if you roll your own dough and cut it, the whole meal can be done in under an hour while working at a very leisurely pace (that includes making a sauce).
Technique for hand-rolled pasta…
Indeed, I made fresh egg pasta the first time by hand. It just takes a bit more elbow grease and desire. To make the dough by hand, put the flour on a clean flat surface, make a little mound in the middle and put a little volcano-like indentation in the center of your mound. Break your eggs into that crevice (i.e. they’re the lava). Slowly work the flour and eggs together, kneading and then letting the dough rest. Once they’re incorporated, get out a rolling pin, flour the dough and the counter and roll it out. This is the longest stage, as you need to monitor the dough.
Here’s the only trick I have for hand rolling: Look for how often it springs back to a smaller shape. The dough will pull back to be a smaller size after you roll it. If it’s doing this so much that you aren’t getting much return for your rolling, the dough needs a brief rest. Cover it with a moist cloth and let it sit for a few minutes, then continue to roll it until it’s thinner then you think it should be. Trust me. I say that because my tendency was absolutely to make it too thick; I’d look at the dough and think, “Surely, this is thin enough.” (Wife: Did the dough respond, “I’m not thin enough, and stop calling me Shirley”?)
I was always wrong until I made the dough too thin, and then it was perfect.
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
Making the dough:
Put the flour into a food processor fitted with a regular blade. Add eggs. Pulse until the mixture comes together as dough. Really, you’ve done it. You have made fresh pasta dough. It took about 30 seconds.
The key here is how sticky the dough is. If the dough is a bit tacky to the touch, or at any point appears to stick to the pasta press, flour the dough and the machine before you roll it out. This should quickly solve the problem.
Rolling the dough:
We roll the dough through on setting 1 four to six times, folding it in half on itself each time, before we begin making the dough thinner. Once the dough appears to move well and quickly through the press, we begin to roll it again on higher settings each time. We roll sheet pastas for ravioli all the way to 7 while thicker pasta like fettuccine we stop at 6. We also use the pasta-cutting attachments on our machine to make reginette or other ribbon pastas.
Finally, here are three lessons we’ve learned:
First, don’t be afraid to flour the dough and the machine if your dough is sticking (and thereby really fouling up the machine). It just means the dough is a bit too moist; the flour will settle it when it’s integrated in.
Second, you’ll likely need to work in batches. The dough gets very long. Therefore, we roll out until the dough gets unmanageable, then we slice it in half and work with parts of it at a time.
Third, don’t forget your dining room chairs! (Or expensive pasta hangers, as we like to call them). The sheets or noodles are going to need a place to rest before cooking. If you plan ahead, though, you may not need to improvise with your dining room chairs.
Cooking the Pasta:
The easiest part of this whole affair is the cooking. Two to three minutes in salty boiling water. You are looking to see whether the pasta is floating and has turned a tad whiter. But, of course, take a piece and taste it for doneness. Finally, don’t be overly hastily in dumpling that pasta water (or at least, save a cup of it if you do dump it.) Pasta water is used in many pasta sauces as a thickener.
So, I hope you make your own fresh pasta now. I actually enjoy the results infinitely more now then I ever though I would. In Heat, Bill Buford says one of the differences between Italian food and Italian-American food is the emphasis on sauce. Italian-Americans adapted to the amount of meat and available goods and made sauces king in their dishes. In Italian food, the emphasis is on the noodle — the sauce is second. Adopting that mentality when working through this testing couldn’t have made a bigger difference. But there are sauce recipes to come and we hope you enjoy them equally.