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Monday, August 11, 2014

How to Be Awesome at Making Pasta

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For my birthday, I asked for a pasta maker.  Nothing fancy.  Just a simple hand-crank model that I can use to make basic pasta.  I mean, I know you can make really simple pasta without any kind of machine, and I've actually done it before, but it's a lot easier with a pasta maker.  This is the machine I got.

Of course, once I got my pasta maker, I couldn't wait to try it out.  Here's how it went.

Step 1: Enlist an Assistant

While it is not strictly necessary to have an assistant in order to make pasta, it does make the process far more interesting.  Plus, it's nice to have someone to catch the pasta as it comes out of the machine.  Bonus if they are tall enough to catch it without dropping it on the floor first!

Step 2:  Mix the Ingredients

I used this recipe from the Pioneer Woman.  She uses a ratio of 2:1 eggs to cups of flour.  I ended up having to add some water to mine because it was too dry.

You just put the flour on your counter or board or whatever, add the eggs into a hole in the middle and then start kneading.  It's a little messy, but this is apparently the super traditional way to do it, and who am I to mess with tradition?

Step 3:  Knead for a Long Time

You just keep kneading and kneading until the dough is smooth and not sticky.  If it's too sticky, add a little extra flour.  If it's too dry, add a few drops of water.  It's a very imprecise recipe, which bugs me as a perfectionist.  You'd think surely after literally thousands of years, someone would have figured out the exact measurements, but whatever.

Once it is a nice smooth consistency, let it rest for a few minutes.

Step 4:  Roll it Out

The great thing about a pasta maker is, not only does it cut the pasta into perfect noodles for you, it also rolls it out for you!  You just take a chunk of the dough and feed it through the rollers over and over, adjusting the setting to be a little smaller each time until it's really thin.

My helper was very good at this part.

Step 5:  Cut your Pasta

Once you've gotten it thin enough, you just roll your sheet through the cutting attachment to make your noodles.  The pasta maker I got came with an attachment that makes fettucini fetuccini flat spaghetti and vermichelli vermicelle worm pasta.  (Italian is hard!)  You can get additional attachments for other noodles, too.

Again, the machine makes this super easy.  Instead of stressing that my noodles aren't all the same width (don't even tell me that wouldn't stress you out), you just turn the handle and you're done!  

It is a bit of a challenge to figure out what to do with the pasta as it's coming out, because it's kinda fragile, so you don't want it to just crumple into a pile there on the table.  If you have an assistant, this is where they come in handy to catch the pasta as it comes out.

But you might have to convince them not to eat it.

Step 6:  Cook or Dry Pasta

At this point, if you are ready for dinner, you can totally just throw it in some boiling water for a minute or two and it will be ready.  Super easy!  

If you want to save it for later, though, you need to dry it.  The last time I made pasta myself, I literally had it hanging on all the cabinet doors and knobs in our apartment.  It looked a little silly.  I was more prepared for this go-around because I bought an actual pasta drying rack.

There is nothing magical about having a dedicated pasta drying rack.  It is just dowels, but it does work really well for getting all those noodles out of the way, even if it does bend them in half.

Also, it takes -f o r e v e r- to carefully place each individual noodle on the dowels.  That's probably the most time-consuming part of the whole thing.  Still, when it's dry, it turns a lovely golden color and it looks totally legit.

Then you can store your pasta in plastic bags and whenever your ready, move on to the best step...

Step 7:  Eat Pasta

If your pasta is dried, just boil it a couple of extra minutes, but still not as long as commercial pasta.  I made Alfredo sauce to go with mine, and it was amazing!  Just check out these pictures if you don't believe me!

So there you go.  Homemade pasta is totally a doable thing!  I think it would make a great gift, too, so if we're friends, don't be surprised if you open a fettuccine-shaped package on Christmas morning.