Tuesday, June 10, 2008
I am so lucky. A dear friend gave me the pasta roller accessory for my Kitchenaid mixer.
I had been longing for a pasta machine for literally ten years. That's when I bought one as a wedding gift (at Broadway Panhandler... a wonderful shop in New York) for a work colleague.
I had no idea it was so easy* to make delicious pasta. I will never buy fresh pasta again! Really and truly. Just mix some eggs and flour, knead (with a little help from a machine or using strong arms), rest, then roll and cut.
This was my first batch. The only difficulty I had was when the pasta stuck together after cutting.
My first batch stuck together
However I have since learned how easy it is to avoid sticking. Either let the sheets of pasta dry for half an hour or more before cutting them into fettucine or spaghetti. The dough feels a little like leather at that stage, stiffer but still pliable. Or simple dust the sheets with lots of flour.
Hand-cranked vs. electrical pasta roller vs. hand rolling
The Kitchenaid accessory works exactly like a hand-cranked machine; the advantage is you have an extra free hand to catch the pasta with. If you own a stand mixer, I would recommend getting this attachment, as extra ease of use means you're more likely to use it. But I believe a hand-cranked machine works very well too.
Of course, if you want to be a purist, nothing less than hand rolling the pasta will do. The stretching motions, and the irregularity of the surface of the wooden rolling pin all apparently make for better texture than the compression by metal cylinders. I may never be able to judge for myself, as this is one challenge I'm not eager to pursue. And I believe many Italian households use a rolling machine, so that's good enough for me.
However do stay away from extrusion contraptions (the kind to squeeze out tubular pasta). These have overall bad reviews, from what I can tell. Even the Kitchenaid one.
I was surprised that ravioli weren't that time-consuming or difficult to make. Perhaps because I'm used to spending hours on desserts? All you have to do is mix a simple filling (I tried two: spinach & ricotta and asparagus & ricotta, both were good, but I still have to find the perfect recipe for the filling), roll out a sheet of pasta, plop little mounds of filling regularly along one edge, wet the dough around the mounds with a finger dipped in water, then fold over the other edge of the dough. Press around the dough to seal (avoid air bubbles if you can), and use a pastry cutter to cut into ravioli.
The different sources I've read so far about pasta (the Dean & Deluca cookbook, Marcella Hazan) indicate that fresh pasta and factory-made pasta are used with different sauces. Fresh pasta benefits from lighter flavored, butter or cream-based sauces, whereas factory-made pasta can withstand the stronger flavors of olive-oil based sauces better.
I tried a slap-dash version of carbonara with prosciutto and enjoyed it, though I have to confess I also like my homemade pasta with olive oil and herbs. But I must develop my sauces repertoire to showcase homemade pasta better.
Did you know homemade pasta dries very well, can be stored for several weeks, and still tastes better than most store-bought fresh pasta?
Dry fettucine or tagliatelle
As for ravioli, flash-freeze them in a single layer for half an hour to an hour, then you can move them to a plastic bag and store them for several weeks. Just drop them frozen into a big pot of boiling water, and they're as good as fresh-made.
Recipe: Homemade Pasta Dough
This is embarrassingly simple*:
Weigh four eggs. Add double the amount of flour and a pinch of salt. Knead until dough is neither crumbly nor sticky. You may have to add a few teaspoons of milk. Cut and form into four balls. Rest for half an hour well wrapped. Then roll as directed by your pasta machine maker.
Quantity: this makes two meals of tagliatelle for a family of five, three of whom are small children.
*Or at least pasta-making seems easy to me: I am a beginner, and if I have missed some of the finer subleties of pasta-making, feel free to let me know, I don't want to remain ignorant!