Thursday, February 12, 2009

CSA week 10 - Homemade pasta with fresh tomato sauce

Earlier this week La Diva ventured into the realm of homemade pasta with trepidation, difficulty and mixed results. This may have been at my instigation so I feel honor-bound to follow her example and make some pasta myself. This is not only my first time making pasta, I think it'll actually be my first time cooking or eating fresh pasta too.

I started with a cup and a third of flour--half semolina and half white bread flour--a third of a teaspoon of kosher salt and, into the well, cracked two large eggs. I beat the eggs with a fork and gradually mixed in the flour.

Here's where I decided using the fork was getting tricky and switched to bare hands. The dough was still wet, but there was a good bit of flour left so every time it stuck to my hands I'd just roll it in flour and go on kneading it. It only took around five minutes before there was enough gluten formation for it to form a tight ball at which point I let it rest for a half hour.

Meanwhile, I set a big pot of water on the heat and started the sauce. I browned a Tablespoon of butter, added fresh sage and oregano and some chopped pancetta, dipped one of the CSA tomatoes into the boiling water to loosen the peel, peeled and chopped it and added it to the pan along with a spoonful of water to give it a chance to cook down and form a sauce.

Once the dough had rested came the hard part. I cut it in two and attempted to start rolling one half out using my pasta maker. It jammed up just like my earlier attempt at making gyoza wrappers a while back and the result was ragged and uneven. I rolled it back up into a ball, cursed the machine and took out my perfectly good rolling pin to roll out the dough.

I was able to make a good start, but the gluten was too tight to let it roll out to the thinness I was looking for. I did notice that the dough was incidentally getting much better coated in flour than my earlier attempts managed so I figured that may well have been my problem. The dough had gotten too wide so I sliced it in two again and fed half into machine.

I had the rollers set at the widest setting but the dough was too thin for it to get a good grip on it so I had to go down a couple notches. That did it, but it took a few tries before I managed to get it through. This is a process that really requires three hands: one to feed in the dough, one to feed it out and a third to crank the machine. I managed as best I could.

I had better luck with one half than the other. I think just a little bit less flour is causing problems. Also, a bit of metal on the machine is bent out of shape on one side catching the pasta as it comes out the bottom of the rollers so I have to be careful not to get too close to that side.

Long story short, I eventually figured out to keep the dough strip narrow and well-coated in flour and how to feed it in straight. That latter is very important as hitting the sides immediately wads everything up. Next time I'm going to start by cutting the dough into a rectangle to keep everything nice and even.

I managed to get the dough down to roller setting four which was about the thickness of the paperadelli I get dried so I figured that was what I was aiming at. I put on the cutting attachment and made noodles without any further drama.

I brought the water back up to a boil, salted it and added the noodles. I let them cook for just two minutes before taking them out and adding them to the pan of sauce (which had cooked dry and had to be rehydrated a couple times as I struggled with the pasta). I let the noodles cook another couple of minutes in the pan to finish up and absorb the flavors, drizzled some balsamic vinegar, grated on some Parmesan and it was ready to eat.

The cooked pasta is pretty chewy, but I don't think it's undercooked just overthick. They swelled a bit and I forgot to account for that. Next time, at least one notch thinner. As for flavor: they taste like egg noodles. Less distinctly so than dried as they absorbed the flavor of the sauce just as advertised.

That wasn't so hard, considering. And I got enough of a feel for it that next time should go more smoothly. Once I'm comfortable rolling out noodles I'll move on to stuffed pasta but I think that may take a while.


ashok said...

Looks great but as you said it needs to be thinner. We make a similar kind without a machine using much less flour. The recipe is in the link to this post

LaDivaCucina said...

Very good! I like the chewy thick pasta b and a bit heavy! Cheers to the both of us for trying something new! We can only get better with practice.

Melissa said...

You must have hundreds of women interested in marriage contacting you. A man who cooks!!!!! I wish mine did!!!!

billjac said...

You'd think so, but it hasn't worked out that way. And here I thought sitting home alone at my computer was the perfect way to meet women! I may have to rethink my approach.