Stegaliuniverse


PATRICK AND KIR MAKE A [PASTA] PORNO by stegall
January 20, 2009, 3:48 pm
Filed under: Cooking

DISCLAIMER:  I’ve been asked to clarify the title of this post.  It’s a rip on the title of Kevin Smith’s latest film Zack and Miri Make a Porno.  No actual porn is being made here.  Perhaps you’ve heard of the buzz phrase “food porn”?  That’s the joke.  Funny, right?  We’re all adults here.

I’ve gone a made life a lot more difficult for myself. Here’s how: I make my own pasta. Here’s why: It used to be that when Kir and I came home tired and hungry after a taxing day, we’d shelf whatever difficult dinner we’d had planned in favor of dried pasta, a simple sauce, and a three or four reruns of House. Not anymore.

The first time I skimmed a strand of my own fettucine from the starchy cloud of boiling water on our stovetop and tasted it, pasta-in-a-box was forever ruined for me. Gone were the days of “boil some water, throw it in, wait 10 minutes, drain, and eat.” What follows is the complex, and ultimately rewarding, ritual that now greets me whenever I have a craving for a good carbonara or bolognese.

Now I’m assuming that you have either a stand mixer with roller attachments or some other mechanized means of rolling your dough out, otherwise you’ve got quite a workout a head of you. I know the process is somewhat complicated, time consuming, and messy, but it’s worth it. Totally worth it.

You know how when you eat out a great restaurant and you think, “I really shouldn’t just get a pasta at such a nice restaurant,” but you do and then you think, “Damn that’s good! I’m glad I just paid $16 for that. I wonder what the secret is?” Here’s the secret: they make it themselves. Here’s another secret: you’ve been ripped off. I estimate that making a pound of pasta at home costs about 30 cents, maybe a dollar if you use grass fed eggs and organic flour (and you should). Here’s what you need:

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Six eggs, 4 cups of flower (by volume—I know, I know), two teaspoons of kosher salt, and a bit of olive oil. That’s it. That’s all it takes to make the dough in terms of your pantry. Those proportions will serve eight as an entrée or sixteen as a side. I don’t need that much, so I’m halving the recipe. The easiest way to bring it all together is to pile the floug, eggs, and salt into your food processor and pulse it like you’re running the lights at a rave (wumph, wumph, wumph, wumph).

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If you feel compelled to mimic Fabio on Top Chef and make a little flour bowl on your counter, put the eggs inside of it, stir them into a yolky yellow pool, and then chop chop chop it all into a dough, go right ahead. It works just as well and is likely to impress any dinner guests who might be looking over your shoulder. It all tastes the same so I prefer to let the machine do the work.

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Uh oh. When I measured my ingredients out I did the flour by weight (the breadmaker in me just won’t let that go) and this dough is far too wet. If I’d tried to roll this dough out in it’s current form (which I did), it might (will) look like this.

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This is all fixable because pasta dough, unlike bread, doesn’t mind being overworked too much, so you’re free to tinker until it’s just right. To solve this just add more flour in quarter-cup doses and pulse until the result looks more like a dusty pile of rice than a typical dough. Pour that clumpy mess out onto your workstation and gather it up, compacting and rolling it into a golden ball.

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Put a pea-sized dollop of olive oil in your hands and roll a sheen onto the dough before smashing it into a disc, wrapping it in plastic, and dropping it in the fridge for at least half an hour. Seriously! If you decide that this is all too much and no longer want to make pasta today, you can freeze the disc of dough for up to three months.

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Before we jump right into kneading/rolling the dough, let’s take a look at our hardware.

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This, the roller, is the heart of the operation. There are numerous shape cutters and ravioli stuffers out there, but the roller is the one thing you need regardless of what you want the end product to be.

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On the side is a dial with a series of settings (1 thru 8 in my case) which determine the thickness that the dough will be rolled to. Setting 1 is a great deal wider than the rest and is used for the initial kneading of the dough. Settings 2 thru 8 step down in increasingly smaller increments. How thick or thin the pasta should wind up totally depends on what cut you’re making.

Now that we have that out of the way, it’s time to rescue the dough from the fridge. It will have darkened and dried out some while it was curing, this a normal and necessary part of the process. Just don’t ask me to explain it.

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Cut the disc into quarters and dust each side with a little more flower. Then press them flat between your palms and feed through your roller on setting 1 (note: always use the slowest speed possible when using delicate attachments on a stand mixer). After the first pass, fold the dough into thirds and run it through again. Send it through another two times. You should always flip the dough after rolling it (i.e. the tail of the first pass will be the head of the next one).

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The dough should be nice and smooth by now, so you can begin rolling it out to the appropriate thickness. I’m making a basic spaghetti here, so I’m going down to setting 6. To get there the dough gets rolled twice on settings 2, 3, and 4 and once on settings 5 and 6. As you finish rolling each strip, lay it out on a floured work surface.

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Keep in mind that each one of those strips represents one quarter of our original disc of dough, or 1-2 servings. When everything is rolled out, put your spaghetti (or any other) cutter on the stand mixer. Cut the long strips in half and send them through the cutter. This is the easiest and most rewarding part.

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Catch the spaghetti as if comes out of the cutter and lay it out on a well-floured surface. Don’t mind all that raw flour on the pasta, it keeps everything from sticking and washes right off in the boil.

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At this point you should be boiling water and making sauce (I’ll leave that up to you), because this stuff cooks incredibly quickly, 1-2 minutes tops. Just do me a favor and stop for a moment to appreciate what you’ve created. If you’re like me, you’ll leave the cleaning to your significant other and grab the camera so you can capture a few pasta-graphic images for the web.

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There you go. You’ve created an incredibly light, flavorful pasta that soaks up whatever sauce you serve it with. And you’ll need to find another last-minute meal you can throw together before House, because you won’t ever be able to lift a heavy fork of Barilla without thinking, “If only I’d made this…”

Forthcoming: A post on spinach pasta including recipes for Real Deal Roman Fettucine Alfredo and Red/Green Holiday Lasagna

Here’s a teaser…

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4 Comments so far
Leave a comment

Okay. I like to make my own pasta, and I agree that it is delicious and totally better than store bought. and I totally have plans to make Carter rainbow colored pasta for his birthday. But, i’d like to learn make it with whole wheat flour. and i don’t have the time to YOUR to do list, please :)?

Comment by elizabeth

whole wheat flour, smole wheat flour. if i’m making my own pasta i’m eating the way italy intended me to. 🙂

Comment by stegaliu

so… does this mean I have to do my OWN research!?! oh well. white flour will take my food coloring better. 🙂

Comment by elizabeth

that IS a lot of work. we used to have neighbours downstairs who would make their own, and then selfless angels that they are, would share some with us. delicate does not begin to describe it. so i understand your, um, “specificity” when it comes to pasta consumption now. my neighbours swore by an old-school ceramic roller, which they claimed left tiny little indentations in the noodles, thereby allowing to hold on to that much more sauce… who knows. it tasted wonderful. well done.

Comment by aarti




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