Friday, 18 October 2013

Cooking: Making your own pasta


My stepfather is a big fan of pasta; however, he's been watching his food intake for the last year for health reasons. But, like any gourmet foodaholic, he'll sneak in little indulgences here and there! His most famous way seems to be to wait until I come over for a visit, and then we end up cooking something incredibly awesome and delicious and indulgent and awesome and...did I say awesome already?
Who *wouldn't* want to cook here?!

This year has been no exception: if I'm not making pans upon pans of homemade veal and pork meatballs for my homemade spaghetti sauce (he likes it when I make lots so he can freeze them and defrost a half dozen at a time), we're working together in their gourmet's delight of a kitchen, making a giant repast for the whole family to enjoy.

My favourite meal of the past year would have to be when we made spinach fusilli and whole wheat fettuccine from scratch; it may have taken hours to make the noodles, but it was so worth it when we finally sat down to dinner!

Ingredients for the spinach and whole wheat pastas
The first thing to know about making your own pasta is how few ingredients there are in the really good stuff; ideally, there should only be flour, eggs, water, a little salt, and, if any, whatever flavourings you're adding, such as spinach or sun-dried tomatoes.

For the spinach pasta, it was an absolute breeze to add the spinach, simply because I bought a bag of pre-chopped frozen spinach nuggets. Great time-saver!  Just toss two or three nuggets in a cup of boiling water and let sit for 5 minutes, or until you're ready to use it; then drain, squeeze hard in a clean dish towel, and it's ready to go. This spinach is also great for dropping into soups, stews, stirfrys, and anywhere else I can think of to add a little extra iron and "veggie power" to my food.

We used the KitchenAid pasta roller/cutter attachments for the whole wheat pasta, and the pasta extruder attachment for the fusilli, but if you want to make noodles and have a regular tabletop pasta roller (or a rolling pin and particularly impressive set of biceps) those should work just fine.

It is important to roll the pasta several times; the process of squeezing the blocks of raw pasta through the ever-decreasing widths of the rollers helps to combine itself far better than initial mixing can achieve. 

Here are the recipes we used for the spinach and whole wheat pastas (I strongly recommend using a tabletop mixer for the initial mixing). Both are super-simple, and delicious!

Note1: If cooking the pasta "wet" (i.e. freshly made), cook in oiled and salted water for 2-5 minutes. If cooking the pasta "dry" (i.e. the rolled/extruded pasta has sat out and dried), cook in oiled and salted water for 7 minutes.

Note2: When combining the pasta with the sauce, DO NOT rinse the pasta under running water when draining! The starch that remains on the pasta helps the sauce to stick.


Spinach Pasta

Yield: 4 servings
  • 1 10 oz. package of frozen chopped spinach, thawed
  • 1 Tbsp water
  • 4 large eggs
  • 4 cups sifted all purpose flour
Place spinach in a towel and wring out all of the water until spinach is dry. If necessary, finely chop the spinach using a food processor or blender.


Place the spinach, water, eggs, and flour in the mixer bowl. Attach the flat beater, turn to speed 2 and mix for 30 seconds.

Exchange the flat beater for the dough hook. Turn to speed 2 and knead for two minutes. Remove dough from bowl and hand knead for 1-2 minutes. 

Divide dough into eight pieces and allow to rest for up to 30 minutes before processing further into your preferred noodle style.

Whole Wheat Pasta

Yield: 4 servings
  • 2 large eggs 
  • 1 3/4 cups whole wheat flour 
  • 1 tbs water  
  • 1/4 tsp salt

Place all ingredients into a bowl and beat at speed 2 for 30 seconds. 

Exchange the flat beater for a dough hook and beat for another 2 minutes on speed 2. 

Remove dough from bowl and hand-knead for 2 minutes. 

Divide dough into four pieces (each piece is one serving) before sending though a pasta sheet roller and pasta cutter.*

*Works best when using a ravioli or lasagna cutter or fettuccine cutter.
 


When mixed with TWO homemade, delicious sauces (one for each pasta type), salad, and crusty garlic bread, we had a meal fit for royalty. I strongly urge anyone who has never made their own pasta to try it at least once; you may never go back to store-bought noodles again!