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Tuesday, September 15, 2009

going all martha on you

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There are a number of things that I have always found super duper intimidating. They are things that other people do....not things that I could ever (generally) contemplate doing. Things like pickling, preserving, growing and such. And scariest in this list of things that other people do is pasta making.

Why would anyone endeavour to make their own pasta? It brings together all sorts of things that cause me no end of trouble...WHY in the world would I want to roll my own dough. And really, why would I want to expose myself to more dough frustrations than are strictly necessary?

But there were a few pasta making incursions into the edge of my consciousness, leading me to believe that maaaaaybe, just maaaaybe, pasta wasn't going to be this impossible thing I would never be able to achieve. Most specifically, I'm utterly addicted to Iron Chef America. I love this show for so many reasons (not so much the battle: offal that I'm watching right now...yuck!!! YUCK YUCK YUCK. What I love about this show is not just the crazy intense pace, but the fact that you see real chefs at work in the kitchen with real food. There's no magic going on - lots of knives, boards, bowls and grills. They use the same ingredients, and even the same equipment I do. I was entranced when I saw someone (sorry, can't remember who!) just piling flour on the counter and deftly nestling eggs right in the middle to create a perfect pasta. And of course, I saw them using the same mixer I have (actually, mine's nicer than theirs...) to make pasta. And they're doing this AND four other dishes in an hour. It almost seems like I'd imagined that real chefs had some sort of alchemy they were working in the kitchen; like it wouldn't ever be possible for me to cook the same types of things they were cooking. Besides, I adore eating out, so why would I want to imitate the snazzy eats I so enjoy.

Of course, then I started paying for day care. And paying for bus passes again. And all of those myriad expenses that go with returning to work. Net result is a temporary moratorium on meals out. And lots and lots of home cooking.

So....about making pasta.

Normally, I wouldn't. Make pasta, that is. And for this reason, I'd resisted picking up the pasta maker attachment for my beloved kitchenaid. I wasn't sure I would ever use it, and given my dough phobia, I thought it perhaps not the wisest investment for me (I've got the meat grinder already and it's FABULOUS and I've been eyeing the ice cream maker, but until I have more than two pairs of pants that zip...that's also on hold).

Buuuut....the nice people at kitchenaid were kind enough to send a pasta maker attachment to me (full disclosure here, peeps!), so I'll let you know what I thought. Though I can't say that I'll be making pasta all the time now, my pasta actually turned out much better than I thought and I will, in fact, be using it again. Many times. :) Hopefully for a looooong time to come.

I was actually sent not just the pasta maker, but a complete kit (view below):
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It includes a roller and a cutter (for fettucine), a couple of utensils, two pasta mixes and an instruction manual/recipe book. It's an attractive package, though a bit of a beeeotch to get out of the packaging. The very first time I used it, I do confess to making one of the mixes. It turned out perfectly. But really, if you're going to go to the trouble of making your own pasta, why the heck would you make it from a just-add-water mix? Pasta is NOT that complicated - flour, eggs, salt, water. So don't use a mix. It's like making a perfect, beautifully decorated wedding cake and then the cake underneath is from cake mix. Why labour for hours and give Duncan Hines (or someone else) all the credit????? Weakness.
Anyway, yeah, the mix turned out perfect and was easy to make and tasted great. Not knocking the mix at all. Just the idea of the mix, hehe.

So I've got pictures of my second go at making my own pasta. Step by step. Witness my transition from dough phobic to mistress (dominatrix?) of all things starchy.

I'm going to talk you through the process of actually making the pasta, and I"ll include the recipe at the end. Because I wanted to be as authentic as possible (come on, I was making my OWN PASTA!), I decided to use semolina flour, rather than all-purpose. Semolina is a high protein flour made from durum wheat. Apparently, it's better than regular flour for pasta because it creates a stronger gluten structure. Since I haven't actually made all-purpose flour pasta, I couldn't really tell you the difference.

Anyway....you start by mixing the eggs, water, oil, semolina flour and salt (speed 2 with regular beater).

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Then you use the dough hook for a couple of minutes. Then you need it by hand a couple of times too. Then you divide it into eight (aw crap, I read the wheat directions, which have you dividing it in four...that explains why my pasta sheets were like four feet long, lol).

Then the fun begins. With each small piece of dough, roll it out a bit. The instructions said to flatten slightly, but I didn't have a lot of luck with that. I rolled it out to about 1/2" thick. You have to set the roller at the widest setting (number one) and then stick your dough there, turn the speed to 2 and hope something works.

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Mine worked not bad (witness, below):
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For this first pass through, obviously the dough looks like poop. Ragged, uneven, etc. So you fold it in half and put it through again. You do this a few times until it looks somewhat squarish.

Mine's still a little uneven, but I was impatient, hehe.
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After this, you change the roller setting (one at a time) and keep rolling your pasta until it hits the desired thickness. For fettucine, I like thickness four - something substantial. Plus, it's easier to work with.
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I confess to being transfixed at the watching the sheets stretch and pass through the roller. It was cool.

After that, I switched attachments and put the cutter on. Because I was a tool and only divided my dough into 4, my sheets were crazy long. Like longer than Lil Z. I cut them in half before putting them through the cutter. I used speed 2 again. I also had a lot of fun getting this pic (holding pasta in one hand, camera in the other, and just crossing my fingers that my freakishly long arms were long enough for my lens to focus):
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Looks like this coming out:
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I toss in LOTS and LOTS of flour. I couldn't quite figure out how to get my pasta stretched back out, so the flour kept it from becoming a gooey gluey mess before I had a chance to cook it.

Miles and miles of pasta....
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The pasta itself cooks in a snap (about 3 mins - start checking at 2 mins and drain when it hits your desired firmness. After all the work of making my own pasta, I didn't want to drown it in a heavy tomato sauce, so I decided to have a simple pesto cream sauce with grilled chicken. Recipe below.

Pesto Cream Fettucine with Chicken
1 recipe semolina egg pasta, cut into fettucine (below)
1 cup pesto (my recipe: bunch of basil, 1/3 c pine nuts [i had pecans], 4 cloves garlic, 1 cup parmesan, 1/3 c olive oil, process in food processor. season to taste)

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1 cup creamy stuff (I used evaporated skim milk..no, it's not as good as heavy cream, but it's not bad and high in calcium...light sour cream might work
4 chicken breasts (I brine mine in a mixture of salt, steak spice and sugar for about an hour, then grill)

1. Cook pasta 2-5 minutes.
2. While pasta is cooking, heat pesto and creamy stuff together.
3. Grill chicken, let rest 10 minutes, then slice. Hubs and I are divided on slicing style.
His:
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Hers:
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4. Mix sauce with pasta, serve and top with chicken.

Semolina Egg Pasta
4 eggs (7/8 cup)
2 T water
1 T oil
3 1/3 c. semolina flour
1/2 t salt

1. Place eggs, water, oil, flour and salt in mixer bowl. Attach bowl and flat beater. Mix 30 seconds on speed 2.

2. Change to dough hook. Knead 2 mins on speed 2. Remove from bowl and hand knead for 1-2 mins. Divide into 8 pieces and roll as I explained above.

3. Cook 2-5 minutes in boiling salted water.

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(PS - If you have no machine, you could still make your own pasta. It can definitely be mixed by hand. Check out this link for more instructions: http://recipes.variousstuff.net/technique/Pasta%20by%20Making%20Pasta%20by%20Hand.html ) It certainly wouldn't be my cup of tea, but it is possible. You could also mix by hand and then get a hand-powered pasta roller to roll out your pasta. Labourious, but substantially cheaper than investing in a mixer and pasta roller attachment (they ain't cheap!).

Overall, I would totally recommend this to someone who is looking to add a little more cachet to their cooking arsenal. It was surprisingly easy to use, much less disastrous than I anticipated it would be and the pasta was really good! You do have to be careful not to overcook it as it gets a little too glutinous and soft rather quickly (my first batch was perfect, but I actually overcooked this by a bit). You can find the pasta kit for sale in a few spots, should you be interested (nope, I don't get kickbacks...I already got my kickback, hehe) -
Americans - kit is $149.99 here. Canadians - you can find it here for $199.99.

And as I said, I did receive it as a gift, but hopefully you guys have been reading long enough that you know I'd only give you an honest account of this...bs and pr ramble free. :)

Thanks for reading! My next little project is to use the sheets to make a lasagna and to find rennet tablets somewhere so I can make my own homemade mozzarella....any ideas Ottawa peeps?


8 comments:

J. said...

What a fun post!

I have a regular (non-kitchenaid!) pasta maker that allows me to roll out the dough and that slices it into two different sizes of noodles. I love it! But even before I had it, I made my own ravioli by just mixing the dough and rolling it out super thin with my rolling pin. I don't think people know how easy it is! And it is certainly delicious.

J.

http://itaintmeatbabe.blogspot.com/2009/08/spinach-basil-pesto.html

Politicrack Junkie said...

Pasta looks awesome! Is there anything you CAN'T do?

Then again, with a KitchenAid, I'm feeling pretty invincible these days myself ;)

I loved reading this; thanks for posting!

Anonymous said...

not sure how to handle it coming out from the pasta maker itself, but the trick to keep them separated is a pasta drying rack.
http://ruralroot-store.stores.yahoo.net/pasdryinrac.html

Anonymous said...

The pasta looks delicious - great job on tackling a daunting project. As for rennet tablets...try Nicastro's???

Martha said...

Fresh pasta is amazing! Thanks for the post. I'm now inspired to try making my own pasta!

Jamie said...

I think is funny your hubs is like mine about the chicken. We always end up with a pile of diced chicken and a pile of sliced chicken, or beef.

wenderella said...

Did you figure out where to find cheese-making gear? My husband announced recently that he'd like to try making his own cheese and asked if I knew of an attachment for my kitchenaid that would assist him with that (he's already got the meat grinder and the sausage making attachements - I don't touch them!).

I do make my own pasta though and thought I'd pass on that if you lay it out pretty flat you can freeze it, store it in bags (I roll it around my hand or make nests so it takes up less space) and then later cook it from frozen and it's tastes pretty much the same as if you'd cooked it right away.

Thanks for the post, as always your pics are amazing :)

Anonymous said...

I've seen rennet at Nicastro on merivale, by the cash I believe.

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