Fresh Pasta…should I bother?

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You might have a crank pasta machine stuck in the cabinet, or thought about getting one in the home goods section of a discount store.  (I would recommend that as you can usually find one at half price.)  Well, yes, if you have an extra 20 minutes or so and enough eggs in the fridge, it’s definitely worth it.  There is a world of difference in the taste and consistency from the standard box of dried pasta.  I am a strong believer in the energetics of food.  You might be consuming calories when you eat something processed, but it just doesn’t seem to sustain you for long.  It’s kind of like eating food at a buffet…which has always made me feel like a farm animal at feeding time.  It is usually food prepared in mass quantity with vats of pre-made sauces, and not much of the cook’s energy.

So do yourself, family and friends a favor and break out the machine for an incredible meal.  When I was growing up, we would often make fresh pasta when we had dinner guests.  Keeping traditions is a good idea.  A simple fresh tomato sauce will be enough but anything will do.  It cooks very fast (just a few minutes in boiling water.)

The traditional way is to put the flour on the counter, crack some eggs into a well and knead away…but, I like doing things a little easier and with less mess.  Put about 2.5 cups of flour into the food processor.  Add four eggs.  I like to add a few spices like garlic powder and paprika.  Let it process and the dough will come together in a ball.  Account for the fact that all flours are not created equal and eggs come in various sizes.  So if you find it is too sticky or too dry, adjust accordingly.  Unlike pastry dough, it won’t be overworked.  When the ball feels like it has give but doesn’t cling to your finger like a string of melted cheese,  take it out of the processor, wrap it in plastic and let it sit on the counter for about 20 minutes.  You have to let the gluten relax so it’s easy to work with.

DSC_8943 DSC_8969 flat pasta

Keep the flour handy.  Cut that ball of dough into about six parts and flatten them out a bit into rectangle shapes.  Get a drying rack for your pasta if you don’t have one.  Yes, you can use a floured towel, but that is something of a messy business and you are likely to get some strands stuck together.  The drying rack is a simple affair of dowels projecting from a center piece.

Pasta machines have two sides.  One is for rolling out sheets in progressively thinner strips.  Usually, I go up to 5, which I find to be the perfect thickness for the fettucine i like to make.  Lightly dust each side of the pasta with flour if you find it at all sticky or it will get stuck and distorted or tear when you run it through.  When the thickness of the sheet is right, put the crank on the other side and run it through and watch your pasta get sliced into perfectly sized strips.  Support with your opposing hand as you crank it through, and then drape it over one of the dowel rods as you move onto your next rectangle.

When it’s all cranked out and draped and your sauce is ready, slip it all from the dowels into your boiling water and dinner will be ready in 2-3 minutes.

The only problem with this is that you and your dinner mates will now ALWAYS want fresh pasta instead of the stuff in a bag or a box.

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