Monday, March 14, 2011

How is this my FIRST PASTA post?!?!

I love pasta!  Seriously, it is one of the few things I could eat everyday and never tire of.  There are so many kinds of pasta, flavor and shape, tons of sauces and endless supply of things to mix in.
When I first moved to Utah I was living in a house with a huge kitchen (in my eyes), with lots of empty granite counter space.  Also, nobody in the house really cooked food, they made stuff to eat.  So, I took the liberty of commandeering the kitchen on many occasions.  One night I was bored with what I had to cook, so I sat down with my Fannie Farmer cookbook.  (One of the best things I have ever bought!)  I came across the recipe for pasta dough, I was SHOCKED at how easy it looked.  I hopped on my computer and googled pasta recipes.  I looked at recipes calling for only water or 10 eggs, semolina or white flour, with oil or without, herbs or veggie purees, make now or rest for 24 hours.  I sifted through them until I felt like I could go forward with semi-confidence in one of them.
I decided to make ravioli.  I have no idea why I needed to make ravioli instead of just noodles I could smother in sauce if they didn't turn out.  That first time was tough.  Pasta dough is a stiff dough, generally not a huge problem, unless you are rolling it out for ravioli.  Noodles can be sort of thick, but ravioli sheets are supposed to be fairly thin.  I must have worked on rolling out the dough for at least an hour.  But I was fairly successful, the ravioli came out fine, even if they weren't sealed perfectly and leaked a little in the boiling water. After that experience I tweaked here and there every time I made pasta. I have written in my little notes in my Fannie Farmer cookbook with all my little discoveries.  Now when I make my pasta it really feels like my own creation (even though I always keep the recipe at hand when I make it). 

Joanne's Pasta Dough (4 to 6 servings)
In a mixing bowl put about 1 cup plus of flour, add salt (about 1/2 tsp).  (I stopped trying to start it on the counter, with the traditional little flour mound and well.  I just pushed flour on the flour and made glue in the middle.  You can also add flavors here, I like to add basil, garlic, and parsley.)   
Mix together and make a slight well in the flour.  To the well, add one whole egg plus one egg white.  (I made a mistake one day, the recipe I was using called for one egg plus a yolk.  I accidentally put in the second white instead of yolk... it was great!  The dough was much easier to work with.)  Beat these together a bit, but do not mix into flour, then add 1 Tbsp of olive oil.  Start combining the flour into the wet ingredients.  
Add 1/4 cup of flour to the dough.  It will be a little crumbly and yet damp at the same time.  
Spread another 1/4 cup of flour on the counter and turn out the dough and excess flour onto the surface.  (Be sure to take off all jewelry, as pasta dough gets right into the crevices of it.)   
Flour your hands and start slowly kneading the dough.  It will be very sticky, but as you work in the flour it will get stiff.  Knead for at least  5 minutes, no more than 8.  Keep a little bowl nearby, with some water in it.  Use up to 2 Tbsp of water, a sprinkle at a time, to work the dough into an elastic smooth ball.  
Allow to rest for 15 to 30 minutes under a mixing bowl or Tupperware.  (This is one step I always skipped as I am not the most patient person in cooking.  But, one day I had to go take care of something in the middle of pasta making.  I covered the dough ball so it wouldn't dry out.  When I came back I was surprised at how easy the rolling out went.  Some say it is the moisture that builds under the cover or the resting of the gluten.  Either way, LET IT REST, it also gives you a chance to clean up the kitchen or make your filling for raviolis.)
Separate the ball into four parts.  Roll the pasta to your preferred thickness, and cut for your recipe, sheets, noodles, etc.  (Oh, I have bought a manual pasta roller to save my aching shoulders and arms.  I got mine at Ross for $15.  It clamps to the counter, rolls sheets at 8 settings, and had a noodles cutting attachment too.  Completely worth it!
Boil and ENJOY! (Fresh pasta cooks faster and tastes better al dente than the dried stuff.)

These are my Cannelloni.  Sheets of pasta rolled around a filling of ricotta, mozzarella, egg, and herbs.

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