Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Making Pasta by Hand

For Christmas this year my ever-thoughtful and darn-near-omniscient husband gave me a great set of pasta machines.  It was exactly what I wanted, and he had purchased them before I even knew I wanted them.  I guess all of the cooking and learning Italian and talk of my Italian grandmother tipped him off.

The first pasta I made was on Christmas day...a fettucini with red wine curry sauce.  The recipe was from one of the Italian blogs I follow.  If you're up on your Italian, you can find those blogs listed on my profile.  The dish was incredible!  When I was almost done making that first batch it occurred to me--I should have taken pictures to share with you--which I did remember to do with the second batch.

The recipe is very simple: for egg pasta (which we like better) one egg per person and 2/3 c. flour per egg and then some salt, olive oil and warm water if needed. For 6 servings one only needs 1/2 tsp. each salt and olive oil. For Semolina Pasta, 6 servings, use 4 c flour (about 1/3 of which should be semolina flour, but the proportion is very flexible), 1 egg, 1 tsp. salt, and about 1 1/4 c. warm water. (These are from "Lidia's Italian Table" but identical recipies can be found almost anywhere.)

Here's the beginning:  regular and semolina flour are in a mound with a well; the egg and water mixture is ready to be beaten and added.  As you can see, the batch I made this day was Semolina Pasta.

After adding all of the egg mixture into the well, you stir until it's all combined into a dough. 
Then you knead the dough until the gluten develops and it becomes smooth and shiny--maybe 10-13 minutes.  As my husband pointed out, everything up to and including kneading the pasta dough can be done in the bowl of a KitchenAid mixer with the dough hook or even a food processor, but I was going for the old fashioned traditional pasta-making experience here.  Grandma and her sisters didn't have a KitchenAid!

Next, you must rest the dough by wrapping it in plastic and leaving it at room temperature for an hour. (I didn't take a picture of that.)

The other portion of kneading, which lengthens and works the gluten so the pasta will hold together, is done with the pasta machine itself.  You take the dough and flatten it somewhat, then feed it through the pasta machine at the widest setting.  At first it tears and comes through unevenly, but after each feed through the machine, you fold the dough end to end and feed it through again (folded end first) at the same widest setting.  After about 7-10 passes through the machine, the dough begins to homogenize and look silky and feel quite smooth. 

At that point it's ready to flatten and shape.  This time, I was going for a thin spaghetti and flattened it to setting 7 (out of 8) on the dial.  So each piece is rolled through setting 1, 2, 3, 4, etc., and as it's rolled it gets longer and you have to cut it into sections and roll each section through the settings, and so on.
This looks like the last pass (below).  By the time I was done, that one ball of dough ended up being about 22 sections of dough, all flattened to #7.  While working with the other sections, you have to keep the dough covered, so I used waxed paper and layered them on top of themselves.

When all of the dough is the right thickness, then you cut.  It feels like reaching the finish line after all of the rolling. (See the waxed-paper covered sections on the counter to my right.)

Here's what I did with the spaghetti/angel hair pasta while I made it:  this is my clothes drying rack, washed up before becoming a spaghetti rack.  We cooked most of this that night, and that which we didn't cook went into a storage container and into the 'fridge.  I'm not sure I'd use the rack again; I think it would work just as well to make the spaghetti into those neat little nests on trays--and I could have dried it that way.
I've had a lot of fun making my own pasta so far.  But, it certainly isn't something you come home and do after working all day.  It's more like a Saturday or Sunday evening hanging out with family/friends in the kitchen with some wine and good music on, keeping tradition alive.


  1. That does sound like fun when you make an evening of it! You certainly are an adventurous cook - more so than I. And kudos to the husband who listens!

  2. Ciao Erin!! thanks for your comment on my post!I'm so happy you made my grandmother 'cappelletti' ! I see, with great pleasure, your blog is really interesting and so..... I'll follow you!
    un bacio
    a presto (see you soon)


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