Just like that. October.
All right. So my question for you today is, have you tried your hand at homemade pasta?
The mixing of flour and eggs and kneading and rolling and cutting by hand type all while making a glorious mess in your kitchen kind of homemade pasta?
I'd so love to hear how it turned out for you. But first, my story.
I grew up with my mom making fresh pasta at our kitchen table. It was one of those weekend event things, usually in preparation for a dinner party with similarly Italian loving friends. Or sometimes it was just for her family, when she wanted to give us a little extra special love. It was always appreciated and I have fond memories of her having fun doing it, looking forward to the process and results. I know this love for making pasta was amplified by many return visits to Italy, where, of course, they've got this down.
So by now you know that while I was in Rome, I spent a day in a chef's kitchen learning some tricks of the trade. The highlight, for me, was making the pasta from scratch. Despite having watched my mom do it, I never attempted it. Fear, I suppose. I know, dumb reason.
Our results from that class were so fabulous. You could just taste the love mixed up in our dishes, made all the more better by getting to share them with new friends.
With this as background, I decided to try and recreate my experience at home. I have to tell you, I had built it up in my head for a couple months and I was pretty excited. I had visions of delicately tossing the pasta by hand, perfect strands of pale gold, ready to jump into that boiling water and turn into something fabulous. I had high hopes.
First, I'll share the recipe. Seriously, two ingredients. Sounds simple, right?
Ingredients (serves 4)
4 cups all purpose flour, sifted first
On a cooking sheet, silpat type object or some other surface that is clean and can get a little dirty in the process, dump your flour into a small pile in the center. Turn your pile of flour into a small volcano type object by making a deep hole in the center. Be careful to leave a layer of flour at the bottom.
Crack eggs into the well in the flour. With a fork, very gradually whisk those eggs into the flour. Be patient with this process. It is really meant to go slow with a very gradual taking of flour from the sides of your 'volcano' into the egg mixture. Eventually you will get to a point where it the flour is incorporated and dough like mixture begins to form. Keep going until you have everything incorporated. I used my hands at the end to get everything in there. It is also not an exact science, so you'll have to use a little personal judgment as to when to stop. Don't let things become too dry (this is where practice and experience helps).
So now you have dough.
Dust a little more flour on your working surface and on a rolling pin and start rolling out the dough. You can also do this in a pasta machine if you have one. After you roll it out, fold it over and start rolling again. Keep repeating this process until you achieve the right level of pliability (you will get a feel for this as you go). When 'ready', begin rolling out your dough until very thin, almost transparent. I found this almost impossible, so my advice is just to keep going and get it as thin as you can without tearing it.
When ready, you can begin cutting your dough into thin pasta resembling shapes. I prepared for this by dusting my work surface with a little cornmeal and the top of the pasta sheet with a little cornmeal. This will help prevent things from sticking. Roll your dough very gently until you have something that looks like a jelly roll. From here, you can begin slicing the ends off, each slice producing a new strand of pasta. Cut as thin as you possibly can. Once you have all of your slices, gently open them up and toss them lightly with cornmeal again and lay them out on a surface to rest. Let them 'dry' for a couple of hours in the open air if you can.
Now you are ready to make the pasta. Get some water boiling in a large pot. Add your pasta to the boiling water. Stir in a tablespoon of salt. Stir often to prevent from sticking. Taste your pasta after 3 or 4 minutes to see if it is done (it should be!) Drain your pasta and use as you see fit!
Okay, having made this, I am now truly convinced that pasta making is an art that requires skill, practice and lots of love to perfect. I now also understand why my mom got so into it. She too wanted to reach that level of culinary achievement.
She also had a pasta maker which I truly believe is necessary for my novice self. I just do not possess the arm strength to roll out the dough to the perfect thinness. I really did try. And tried. And tried. It just didn't happen. Our pasta was 'thick' and 'chewy' (not in a good al dente way).
It wasn't perfect, but it was made with lots of love and determination, and this found its way into the end product. Kind of like life, I think. You get out of it what you put into it.
And guess who's getting a pasta maker as a wedding gift? Yup, so next time I'm here pontificating about homemade pasta, we may have a slightly different story. Practice makes perfect, but I think strong arms, or a little machinery, will help. I am very much looking forward to my next trial.
I'd love to hear your stories. Successful attempts? Not so successful? The real question is... did you have fun with the process?