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Monday, December 8, 2008

Basta Pasta

Homemade pasta! Sounds great, huh? Too much trouble though, huh? Well, now, think about it for a minute.

Pasta isn't that hard to make. There are plenty of easy to use devices on the market to help you out and the fresh pasta that results can not be compared to any of that dried stuff on your grocery shelf.


Wanna make a flavored pasta? Tomato, spinach, squid ink, lemon-pepper? Easy, too! You just need to have a few ingredients on hand.

The real problem is which pasta to make. You should know there are literally hundreds of different kinds of pasta, each with its own purpose, tradition, place of birth in Italy. From angel hair pasta's fine strings to the wide lasagne pasta, to shells of all sizes, tubes, wagon wheels and bow ties, rice-like orzo to stuffable manicotti. The types, sizes, shapes and flavors are almost limitless.

So, what tools do you need? Not much really. Or, you can buy an extruding type machine with dies. They come in all price ranges. I bought my first one from Ron Popeil. Yeah, the pocket fisherman and ginzu knives guy. He actually makes a pretty good machine. I bought mine used on e-bay real cheap and it came with 30 dies, each making a different shape of pasta.

You can also buy very expensive extruders with better dies and more horsepower.

A pasta roller of some type is pretty imperative as the alternative is a lot of pretty hard work--rolling and rolling. The pasta roller machines roll the pasta dough into sheets, thinner and thinner until it is ready to be cut into fettachini or spaghetti, etc. These type machines are limited as to the types of pasta they'll make but they have a reputation for longevity and they do what they do very well. Imperia and Atlas are the most popular brands and they can come with an electric motor. These machines can run $75 and up.

The Kitchen-Aid mixer has a pasta roller option attachement that runs about $100. It will flatten dough, make angel hair, lasagne, or spaghetti.

All of these machines have limitations all have their pluses. Basically if you can get your dough rolled out flat and thin you can cut it or shape it into all sorts of pasta types yourself.


Or, you can make it from scratch on a counter top as in the old style or in a bowl or a food processor. There will be those that turn there noses up at one or more of these options, but in the end you will still have made fresh pasta at a fraction of the cost of the store brands.


Here is the recipe for a basic handmade pasta dough. If you bought and extruder, follow the recipe in their book.


Making the Dough by Hand


Ingredients:

3 1/2 to 4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
4 extra large eggs
1 extra large egg yolk
1 1/2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil

Pile the flour in a mound on the countertop.
Make a deep well in the center of the flour.
Break the eggs into the well.
Add the salt and oil.

With the fork, gently start pushing flour into the eggs and oil and mixing them together so that the eggs and flour blend.
Mix together until the dough forms a firm, solid ball.
The dough should be in a solid, firm ball that is not sticky. Add more flour if it is too wet. Don't over knead. Wrap the ball in cellophane and set aside for 30 minutes.

Now you need that pasta maker. Roll the dough out according to the thickness needed for the type pasta you are making. Some need to be thinner, other thicker. Ravioli, for an example, needs to be thinner. Tagliatelle and Fettucine need to be thicker. The owner's manual will guide you through this part.

There are other tools you can add to your pasta arsenal. I like my ravioli cutter. Use it to crimp the edges of a sheet of flat pasta dough with the filling laid out and the econd sheet laid over the first. The cutter crimps the edge sealing the filing inside the individual ravioli.

I use a drying rack to hang the still moist pasta after extruding it. It hangs over the rack until dry when it can then be packaged for long term storage. But you can also freeze your pasta for a time if you don't plan to use it all right away.

Finding good recipes for different flavors of pasta is as easy as an Internet search and there are plenty of options out there. It comes down to finding the recipe that sounds good to you. White sauce, tomato based sauces, aioli sauce--what's your pleasure?

To wrap up this blog episode, here is my recipe for Tre-Tinta Pasta Puttanesca.

Mangia!


Tre-Tinta Pasta Puttanesca

Pastas:

Egg noodle fettucine
Tomato fettucine
Spinach fettucine
Three colors honoring the colors of the Italian flag.

Alternative: Use only one color of pasta and purchase a high quality pasta pre-made.

Sauce ingredients:

Italian plum tomatoes either fresh or canned
Olive oil
Garlic
Onion
Red pepper flakes
Marinated Artichoke Hearts
Kalamata Olives pitted
Capers
Lemon zest
Fresh Basil
Fresh Rosemary
Sea salt and Fresh ground pepper to taste
Sweet and hot sausage links
Roasted Marinated Chicken Breast


Quick Tomato Sauce: 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil 1 pound sweet and or spicy Italian sausages sliced on the bias ½ inch thick
And or chunks of roasted chicken breast pulled from the bone
1/4 medium onion, diced (about 3 tablespoons) 3 cloves garlic, chopped 3 1/2 cups whole, p
eeled, canned tomatoes in puree, (one 28-ounce can), roughly chopped Sprig fresh thyme Sprig fresh basil 2 teaspoons kosher salt Freshly ground black pepper
Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Cook the sausage until beginning to brown, about 3 minutes. Add the onion, garlic and red pepper flakes stirring, until lightly browned, about 3 minutes more. Add the tomatoes and the herb sprigs, olives, capers, lemon zest, artichoke hearts and chicken and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer, covered, for 10 minutes.

Cook pasta in large pot of well salted water until just al dente. Drain but do not rinse cooked pasta. Arrange pastas on large platter according to color of Italian flag. Ladle finished sauce over the top of the pasta. Serve.
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