Pretty Dishes


Homemade Pasta
October 24, 2010, 11:20 pm
Filed under: City Arts, Recipes

After making homemade ravioli for the cooking party at Robin’s house, I semi-impulsively bought a pasta roller for myself (I had been thinking about it for a while, in fact). It turned out that a few weeks later the City Arts recipe spotlight was on homemade pasta. I was largely an observer for that creation as well, but I did so with intent to absorb technique and insight into the process so that I might recreate it at home with my new machinery.

Several weeks after that was my mother-in-law’s birthday. She has been interested in “experience” gifts rather than physical tokens, so we decided on an evening where she participated in the meal by helping roll and cut the pasta for dinner. She was thrilled, and both the experience and the resultant meal (which included amazing steamed clams from Pike Place and a garlic-added version of the simple tomato sauce) were a massive success.

Making pasta from scratch requires a time investment (really just in the rolling and cutting of the dough), there’s no doubt, but it is unbelievably rewarding. There are so many ways to make the noodles your own, and the glorious freshness cannot be replicated by even the refrigerated noodles at your local grocery or specialty store. Homemade pasta is the ultimate handcrafted contribution to your meal. (I consider it equal to baking your own rustic, crusty breads—a goal of mine this winter.) The fresh noodles can have such character and nuance that they need only the simplest dressing of quality olive oil and cheese to shine.

It is worth noting that rolling and cutting pasta by yourself is an often awkward exercise in patience and not all that much fun; convince a partner, friend, or family member to offer a helping hand in exchange for a portion of the spoils.

The recipe below, which is adapted from the epic Italian cookbook The Silver Spoon, differs slightly from the one provided on the City Arts site, but the basic principles are exactly the same. (Recipe and select photos here.)

Try different flour ratios and various moisture agents (wilted spinach, ricotta cheese, etc.) to discover your favorite noodles. Because the process can be a multi-hour affair from start to finish depending on the quantity of pasta, make a day of it by doubling or tripling a recipe and then dry whatever you don’t use for a later time (store in an airtight container in a cool place or put in the freezer once the noodles are completely dry). Pretty soon you’ll be such a pro that you’ll never have to purchase pasta again!

Fresh Pasta Dough

3 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (preferably type 00), or combination all-purpose and semolina flour [We used at least 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, 1 cup semolina, and 1/4 cup high-gluten flour, I believe. Both the semolina and the high-gluten flours absorb a lot of moisture, so we added water to achieve the right consistency.]
4 eggs, lightly beaten
Salt
Water, as needed

Sift the flour and two pinches of salt into a mound on the counter or into the bowl of a food processor [the food processor works brilliantly]. Make a well in the center and add the eggs. Using your fingers or the processor blades, gradually incorporate the eggs into the flour.

Knead the dough for about 10 minutes. If the mixture is too soft and wet, add 1 tablespoon flour; if it is too firm, add 1 tablespoon water. Shape the dough into a ball, cover, and let rest for 15 minutes.

Cut about one quarter of the dough from the ball and flatten it into a disk; cover the remaining dough. Run the dough through the widest setting of a pasta machine. Bring the ends of the dough toward the middle and press down to seal. Run the dough, open end first, through the widest setting again. Fold, seal, and roll again. Without folding, run the dough through the widest setting about two more times, until the dough is smooth. If at any point the dough is sticky, lightly dust with flour. Continue to run the dough through machine; narrow the setting each time, until you use last setting on the machine, and the outline of your hand is visible through dough sheet.

Follow instructions for cutting and shaping the pasta, covering the noodles after each batch.

The day of making pasta for the City Arts post, we used it in the following recipe, adapted from Bon Appétit. It was fantastic.

Pasta with Chicken, Leeks, Radicchio, and Pesto

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 1/2 cups thinly sliced leeks (including some dark green parts)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 chicken breast, chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
8 ounces cooked pasta, 1 cup cooking liquid reserved
Basil Pesto (such as this one from Gourmet)
1 1/2 cups thinly sliced radicchio [we used Traviso radicchio]
Toasted pine nuts, for garnish
Parmesan, for garnish

Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the leeks; season with salt and pepper. Cover; cook until tender and beginning to brown, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes.

Heat the remaining olive oil in a small skillet over medium-high heat. Sauté the chicken pieces until browned and cooked through, about 7 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Add the pasta, pesto, radicchio, and chicken to the leeks; toss, adding cooking liquid by the tablespoonful if dry. Garnish with toasted pine nuts and shaved Parmesan.

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