Many children, and even a percentage of adults, have never had fresh pasta. All they know is that pasta comes dry in a box or bag. Not only is the texture of cooked fresh pasta superior to dry, the process of making it can be quite liberating. Making a well in the measured flour and mixing the dough directly on the countertop is an experience that everyone must try… and if you have children or grandchildren, get them involved – they will be amazed that you will be making dinner from raw ingredients on the counter.
Yes, this does require more effort than opening a box, but the results are amazing. Take a Sunday afternoon, put on some music by Pavarotti, and make a month’s supply. It can be frozen quite nicely if care is taken to not compress the fragile pasta dough back into a solid mass. For freezing I use a large plastic container and put “nests” of freshly cut/floured pasta side-by-side, not stacked, in the container. Seal tightly and try to use it up within 3 to 6 months. Each nest can then be removed easily and directly put into salted boiling water direct from frozen without having to thaw or cook more than you need.
One last note, pasta dough can be rolled and cut by hand, but perfection will come from buying a good quality hand-crank pasta machine. Beware – you get what you pay for and should be willing to spend anywhere from $80 to $120 or more. I followed this advice in 1989 and still have the same pasta machine today. Enjoy…
Fresh Pasta from Scratch
“What a wonderfully rustic thing to create from raw ingredients! It cooks fast and tastes incredible with your favourite pasta sauce.”
• 2 ¾ (two and three quarters) cups all-purpose flour
• 3 large eggs
• ¼ (one quarter) cup
• 1 tbsp + 1 tsp water
• 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1. Mound the flour on a countertop and make a well in the center large enough for the rest of the ingredients.
2. Add the eggs, water, oil and a pinch of salt to the well. Scramble the eggs with a fork and slowly start incorporating the flour. Keep mixing with a fork while continuing to incorporate more flour until you cannot mix with a fork any longer. Continue to mix by hand for a couple of minutes until it comes together in one mass. You may need to add a bit more water if it is too dry or a bit more flour if it is too wet. It should be firm and holding together but not sticky.
3. Knead by hand for approximately 8 to 10 minutes until smooth. Shape into a ball, cover with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature for 30 to 45 minutes. Or alternatively up to three hours in the refrigerator.
4. Cut dough into 4 equal pieces and work with one piece at a time while keeping the others covered. Set your pasta machine to the widest setting. Hand shape the piece of dough into an approximate rectangle and feed it through the machine. Fold it over and pass it through again, and do this a couple of times to help make it as rectangular as possible.
5. Continue to run it through the machine while narrowing the rollers on the pasta machine each time. Stop when the pasta has reached the desired thickness, dust liberally with flour and cut into the desired shape(s). Dust one more time with flour and set aside covered with plastic wrap until all the pasta dough is rolled and cut.
6. Bring salted water to a boil and then add the fresh pasta, stirring immediately and cook until done – anywhere from 2 to 6 minutes depending on the thickness you have chosen. Toss with your favorite sauce and enjoy!
Makes approximately one and a half pounds of fresh pasta
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Chef Dez is a Food Columnist, Culinary Instructor & Cooking Show Performer. Visit him at www.chefdez.com
The next “Chef Dez on Cooking” column will appear May 11/12.