Cooking From Scratch: Uh-Oh, Spaghetti Woes
Making pasta from scratch is a little like being a mad scientist — there’s a lot of room for experimentation, you get to play with cool equipment, and you’re guaranteed to make a mess (which, of course, is half the fun).
Friends Don’t Let Friends Make Pasta Without Friends
So, Jeff and I got invited to a friend’s house to make pasta from scratch, and we’d been looking forward to it for weeks (yes, it is that exciting). I had visions of rolling out the pasta by hand (I grew up in an Italian town in Jersey … that’s how people made pasta), but boy was I ignorant to new pasta-making technologies.
Here was our process (complete with tips, lessons learned, and questions left unanswered):
1.) Dough! – Hannah (Jeff’s friend who actually knew what she was doing) mixed a pasta dough that was a combination of semolina and whole wheat flour. (For the record, she usually uses white flour). It was delicious, and it yielded a pasta that was a little more al dente … but we also needed to add a little more water as we were kneading (because of the whole wheat flour) to get the right consistency. Tip: Don’t skimp on the kneading. You want a smooth, firm, and dry dough — not too sticky!
2.) Feeding (and re-feeding) the Kitchen Aid pasta monster – The Kitchen Aid stand mixer is the coolest piece of kitchen machinery I’ve ever used — especially the pasta attachment. All you have to do is feed your firmly-kneaded dough through the roller a few times at decreasing thickness until you get long, smooth sheets of pasta like the one in the picture. The stand mixer will even do the thin cutting for you. Tip: If it’s crumbly, roll it into a ball and feed it through again. You can also do it the old-fashioned way, which is a much better workout.
3.) Racking it up – If I had to pinpoint the one woeful experience of our pasta-making, it was how hard it was to catch the pasta as it went through the stand mixer. We lost some fettuccine to the kitchen floor, and you really did need someone helping you grab the pasta and putting it on the drying rack. Tip: If you run out of room on your rack, use coat hangers. Also, remember that fresh pasta cooks much faster than the stuff in a box!
4.) Getting sauced – If you’ve got an amazing vehicle of flavor like homemade pasta, why make just one sauce? In true “Scratch Everything” fashion (or maybe it’s just called gluttony), we made two sauces — an easy clam sauce recipe that Hannah found in the Seattle Times, and a relatively quick puttanesca sauce a la Rachael Ray. Fun Factoid: The origins of pasta puttanesca are disputed, but the name is derived from the Italian word for “whore.” Hmmm….
5.) Mangia! – The reason why friends don’t let friends make pasta without friends is partially because the process is so much fun, and you need at least one extra pair of hands to help out… But if you’re going through so much effort, you might as well make a big batch to share with friends. You know what that means? Leftovers … although we’re still trying to figure out how best to store fresh pasta. (Apparently, freezing it or drying it out is the way to go … oops, something to try next time!)
Until then, buon appetito!