Making Pasta

This is not what I wanted to do today……I have such a big to-do list going. But I made pasta. I’m planning ahead for relatives who are coming on the 26th and don’t eat turkey leftovers {sigh}. I thought of Italian pasta entrees as they freeze well and manicotti sounded good. I breezed down the  pasta aisle yesterday and remembered why I always make sheets of pasta to roll around the manicotti filling…..commercial manicotti shells are thick and hard to boil and then tear when you fill them with the cheese-y goodness.

Many, many years ago, Peter and I took some Italian cooking lessons at The Cambridge Center for Adult Education in MA, a truly wonderful place. I’m delighted to see is still around. It was the first time we ate fresh pasta and good ricotta and amazing Parmigana Reggiano and that workshop with a woman named Anna was the beginning of us becoming foodies. If you’ve never made pasta before, I thought you might be interested to see how easy it is. It does take time and some patience, but the pasta is beyond delicious.

No recipe is needed and I use two ingredients, eggs and flour. You can add salt and extra virgin olive oil, but it’s not necessary. The traditional way of mixing the two ingredients is mounding sifted flour on a counter top, but I find it’s a mess to clean up. I use a very large metal bowl. I sift some flour, drop in 4 eggs and the process begins.

4 eggs

Using a fork, I scramble the eggs in the hole in the flour.

Scrambling the eggs

Then as I stir and stir and swirl the fork around the bowl, the flour is pulled into the eggs and gradually a mass starts to form. And I stir and swirl and stir some more.

The dough starts to form

When it holds its shape a bit, but is still tremendously gooey, I sift some flour onto the counter and drop the blob of dough onto the flour. If there is flour left in the bowl, I sift that and make a mound on the counter. Can you see the floury bits left in the sieve? It is very important to keep sifting the flour that is re-used. I don’t want the dried up bits of dough getting incorporated into the lovely soft dough I’m making. At this point a board scraper is a very useful tool. When the dough is this sticky, I use the scraper to incorporate more flour.

Starting to knead

When the mass of dough is less sticky, I start to knead it. It is not like kneading bread; I was admonished for my bread kneading motion in class! It’s more of a push and pull and smear, which I sometimes do with pie crust. I had Christmas music playing and I planned meals in my head as I worked. When it seemed to be lovely and soft, I kneaded it for 5 more minutes and then it was amazing. It should feel like…. you guessed it…. a baby’s bottom. Just so silky and soft.

Resting

Then the dough needs to rest, for at least 30 minutes and I put it under a bowl. Can you see how soft it looks? After 30 minutes, you can do whatever you like with the dough. Since I am making manicotti, I need sheets of pasta which I will wrap around the filling.

Rolling pasta

We bought this pasta machine after we took the class. You can get an attachment for a stand mixer or roll it by hand with a rolling pin, but I like using the machine best. It’s really fun to watch it become thinner and longer as I change the setting.

Sheets of pasta

Then the pasta needs to rest and dry out a bit. I cut the sheets into the size I want to use for the manicotti. I rolled the scraps through the pasta machine to make some rough noodles, which I might share with Peter for dinner! ;-D Meanwhile I need to making the yummy filling for the manicotti and get it frozen.

And, as always, I have a helper! I was cutting the pasta in the dining room and came back to the kitchen to find Gizmo investigating! What would I do without him?

Gizmo makes pasta

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