October 25, 2105 – Fresh-Made Pasta with Homemade Sauce

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We should start by saying that Tony’s Very Italian Mother makes AWESOME homemade pasta: spaghetti, fettuccine, and if she has time, ravioli. Tony has wanted to try his hand at making pasta for a while, but was waiting for the right time. He bought a pasta making attachment for our Kitchen Aid stand mixer and, knowing his pasta wouldn’t be as good as his mom’s (spoiler alert: it wasn’t!), gave it a go last Sunday. Here’s how he did it.

Pasta is pretty simple, ingredient-wise: all that’s in it is eggs and flour, and, depending on your recipe, water and salt. I had watched my mom make pasta enough times that I could probably try to replicate her approach, but since her recipe is basically “use one egg per person and then add enough flour to make the dough”, I figured I would start out by using the recipe that came with the instruction manual for the pasta maker. My rate limiting step was not going to be my desire to make a lot of pasta, but space to lay out the pasta before and after it was cut, so I halved the recipe. I put two eggs, 1 3/4 cups of flour, 1 tablespoon of water, and 1/2 teaspoon of salt into the bowl of the stand mixer and mixed at low speed using the paddle attachment for about 30 seconds.

At this point, the dough had not come together at all, so I added one more egg – the eggs I was using were small, so I was hoping that 3 small eggs would get me close to the 2 large eggs called for in the halved recipe – and a couple of tablespoons of water. I figured if the dough was now too wet, I could just add more flour. After mixing for 30 more seconds, the dough came together perfectly: not too wet, not too dry, and just a bit stretchy.

I switched over to the dough hook on the stand mixer and kneaded the dough for about 2 minutes on low speed. The dough pulled away from the sides of the mixing bowl just the way it was supposed to and was very easy to dump out onto a lightly floured cutting board. I kneaded the dough by hand for two minutes (this was much more satisfying than I though it would be!) and let it sit for about 20 minutes.

I floured the cutting board lightly and then cut the dough into pieces about 1 cm thick.  I attached the pasta roller to the stand mixer, set it to thickness level 1, and began passing the pieces of dough through, folding them in half a few times as the recipe instructs. After about maybe four or so passes at level 1, I moved to level 2 and passed the dough through again, but this time without folding. The dough still seemed a little thick, so I ran it through level 3, which seemed to be perfect. When I’ve watched my mom do this step, she ends up with pieces of dough that are all about three inches wide and two feet long and all of the same thickness. Mine were, shall we say, a little less uniform. I had a few pieces that were squares about six inches on a side, a few that were perfect, and a few that were almost too big to work with.

As I mentioned, I was a little limited by space, so my plan was to roll out two or three pieces of dough, switch from the rolling attachment to the (fettuccine) cutting attachment, cut the pasta, and then start the process over. All in all, this approach worked out well. I was able to fit three pieces of rolled out dough on the cutting board without any trouble, but I probably could have used a little more flour to make things go more smoothly. Switching between the rolling and cutting attachments wasn’t too much trouble, though I did have a “Lucy at the candy factory” moment: I failed to really secure the cutter for the first batch, so rather than it staying in place and the cutting cylinders rolling, the whole thing started to spin around, with a sheet of pasta flapping along with it! The cutter worked well and the pasta separated pretty easily. It took about three cycles to roll and cut all the pasta, but it didn’t take too long. The only other thing I should have done differently is to spread the cut pasta over a lager baking sheet, or used two smaller ones, rather than pile it up as in the photo below. The pasta clumped a bit, but a few vigorous stirs after the pasta went into the boiling water and the clumps were gone.

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Since fresh pasta cooks quickly (the fettuccine only took three minutes), it was time to eat before we knew it. We plated the pasta, ladled on the sauce (which we made a few weeks ago, using my mom’s recipe), sprinkled on the grated Parmesan cheese, poured the wine, and sat down to eat.

The pasta, which not as good as my mom’s, was still excellent. It was rich but still incredibly light and cooked perfectly. The sauce will good too; I added a few shakes of red pepper flakes to it when I reheated it so it had a little bite. We had a great dinner, but I will have to keep practicing until, maybe someday, my pasta is (almost) as good as my mom’s!

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