Fresh pasta – is it worth it?

After my first bite of homemade pasta at L’Oca Giuliva in Sevilla, Spain, I knew I had to start making pasta at home. The texture of fresh, homemade pasta is phenomenal. It is silky and chewy, and most importantly, it can be however you want. Before last night, I could only imagine how difficult and time consuming pasta making was, but after trying it once, I have changed my opinion. My first go at it wasn’t fast – it took me an hour and a half to make the dough – but I know I will get faster. It took me longer because I was curious and I was weighing out the eggs, and I decided to try the whole process by hand vs using my stand mixer for mixing the dough.

The dough making is the most important part, which includes the resting time. The balance of ingredients, and the type of ingredients you decide to use will either provide you with excellent pasta, or a disaster. Luckily, Niki Achitoff-Gray of Serious Eats has done all the dirty work experimenting with various recipes, and sharing the best outcome. Being a pasta making newbie, I used her trusted recipe – flour, eggs, salt.

01-pasta-ingredients

I spent the time weighing the eggs because she provided weights in her recipe, which I find helpful, because not all large eggs are uniform in size. For the two whole eggs, she weighed in at 4 ounces, and I weighed in at 4.1 ounces. Her four egg yolks weighed in at 2.5 ounces; mine were 2.9 ounces. I should mention that her recipes calls for large eggs. My weights were close, but my eggs were labelled as extra large.

I poured the flour onto my pastry board, and shaped it into a volcano, with a four-inch diameter hole. I know it was four-inches, because I whipped out a ruler to check. Based on my experience on what happened next, I will either have to increase the diameter or make the walls at least a half-inch taller next time.

You can either put the eggs and yolks in whole with the salt in the hole and mix with a fork, or I beat the eggs and salt in a bowl and poured the mixture in. I felt this was simpler.

The following images is taken from the Serious Eats website. I’ve included it to demonstrate what it should look like.

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This is how my egg-flour crater looked:

02-flour-egg-volcano

As you can see, egg mixture is at the rim. I was home alone, so I was unable to photograph what happened next. As I lightly pushed some of the flour into the egg mixture, disaster ensued. My volcano erupted, so to speak, and the egg mixture flowed out like lava. I’m thankful that my pastry board is as big as it is. I managed to contain all the egg on the board, and was able to work it all into the flour. As you can appreciate, it was a sticky mess; hence no time or hands for photo ops.

I should mention that you can skip all of this, and throw the ingredients in your stand mixer using your dough hook, but I wanted to get the full experience.

Once I had blended the egg and flour together, it was time to start kneading. At this point, the dough is one piece, but it does feel a little dry. Don’t worry, this next step will fix it. Given that I’m of average, maybe a little shorter, height, I stood on a stool to do this part of the process. I set the timer for 10 minutes, and began kneading. I actually had to stop after three minutes to shed off my sweater.

03-dough-ball

For size reference:

04-dough-ball-with-knife

To my surprise, this recipe states that it provide 4-6 servings. This little ball?! So I cut it in half, wrapped each in saran wrap, and placed one wrapped half into a freezer bag and froze it. The other half was left wrapped on the counter. Letting your dough rest is a crucial part of the process. Some people say 30 minutes is sufficient – my pastry chef friend recommends an hour. Niki’s testing led her to this conclusion:

The dough that hadn’t rested at all was a little harder and firmer, a little more rubbery. The doughs that had rested for an hour or longer were almost identical. It’s sort of like the difference between blender pesto and mortar-and-pestle pesto. The former isn’t bad but the latter is definitely superior.

It was approximately two hours later when I was ready to turn the dough into pasta. Hubs was now home and he is holding the half ball in his hand, truly skeptical that it will be enough. He cuts the half into half, and begins to roll out the two pieces separately with a rolling pin until it is about a quarter of an inch thick. We now have two small, oblong pieces of dough. It really does seem impossible that we’ll get very much pasta out of this.

We then set up the pasta attachments on my stand mixer. The first step is to run the dough through the roller to flatten it. The instructions in the recipe call for rolling it down to level 6, but we stopped at level 5 because it felt thin enough for us.

05-rolling-dough

After rolling the sheets to our desired thickness, it was time to switch out the rolling attachment for the fettuccine cutting attachment. This part was wild!

06-cutting-fettuccine

My sister-in-law had told us that we definitely had to hang the pasta; however, our pasta was not wet or sticky. I draped the first batch over a chopstick that I held while hubs cut the second sheet, but in hindsight, there was no need for me to do this. Look at those beautiful ribbons of pasta!

07-fettuccine-ready-for-cooking

We brought a pot of salted water to a boil, and we cooked the two batches separately. We cooked each for 60 seconds. The sauce was very basic – caramelized onions, sausage, tomatoes, and kale. But this basic dish was elevated to a whole new level with homemade pasta. I cannot wait to have this pasta with my homemade bolognese.

08-bowl-of-homemade-fettuccine

And if you were wondering what I did with the four egg whites, I made a high protein, low cholesterol egg lunch.

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