Last week on Valentine’s Day I decided to break out of my comfort zone and attempt something new for dinner, homemade pasta. Truthfully I wasn’t feeling my best but I like to do something special for my family that doesn’t involve red food coloring, heart shaped foods or sugar. Last year it was fancy take out sushi complete with chopsticks and bamboo dishes I had purchased in China. This year I was going for comfort.
I happen to live close to an authentic Italian Market, Claro’s they have the best deli counter and my favorite brand of ladyfingers for Tiramisu. My intention this trip was to pick up the ingredients for lasagna when I spotted the pasta makers. I thought about purchasing one a long time ago but I thought it would be another kitchen disaster just waiting to happen. I’m not sure what changed my mind that day but $70 later I was the proud new owner of a Marcato Altlas 150 pasta machine, Happy Valentine’s Day to me.
I did a little reverse research (to set my mind at ease that I didn’t in fact just blow seventy dollars on a set of stainless steel rollers) and was happy with the reviews. I followed the suggestion of using room temperature eggs, the enclosed booklet included also mentioned letting the cut pasta rest for an hour so I gave myself ample time.[a side note about eggs and conscious eating in general] I just discovered eggs from pasture raised hens in Austin, TX from Vital Farms. Inside the 6 pack carton was the most adorable mini newsletter about the farm what goes on in the hen only pastures of Vital Farms. I want you to do yourself a big favor and educate yourself about the eggs (and read why goat cheese is the new veal while you are at it) because not all eggs are created equal. I use this egg scorecard as my guide when shopping. Happy to see Vital Farms got very high marks. These eggs have a silky butter-like quality to them that you will not only see but taste. I’m telling you once you have had a farm fresh egg you won’t want to go back to those supposedly “better yolk” caged hens that aren’t allowed to roam free. and PS they make the best linguine!
Along with good eggs I bought a big bag of semolina flour, I wasn’t sure if this was the right flour but the guy on the bag was making pasta so I figured I was headed in the right direction. The recipe called for 1 pound of flour, which can translate to different volumetric measures so I’ll let answer.com explain it. I used a scale it seemed to equal a little over 3 cups. One of the best reviews of the machine on amazon has a simple suggestion 1 cup of flour for each egg and for each egg, 1/4 tsp oil and salt. The reviewer also recommends combining all purpose flour and semolina (50/50).
I placed the flour in a large bowl and cracked 5 eggs into it, combined the mixture with a fork and added about 1/4 C of water because it was not sticking together when pinched. Once the dough formed a ball I placed it on a lightly floured surface and kneaded the dough for a few minutes. I covered it with a damp towel and let it rest, I heard its good to let gluten rest. After 20 minutes or so I sliced off a 3 inch chunk and flattened it out with the palm of my hand.
Set the rollers to 0, this is the widest setting. Feed the dough through turning the hand crank and roll the dough through. Take that piece you just rolled sprinkle flour down the center, fold in half so its twice as thick and roll it through again. Throw more flour down n the middle, fold and roll again. Repeat this for a total of 4 to 6 runs through at 0. You are trying to get a nice long and wide evenly shaped sheet of pasta. One you achieved the shape you want its time to slowly thin the sheet. Adjust the dial to 1, this narrows the rollers, as the number increases your pasta will become more delicate as it thins out so handle with care. Sprinkling flour will help prevent the dough from becoming sticky. Sticky dough does not flatten nicely. Overly dry dough does not cut well either, its all about finding the balance (ain’t that the truth!) I ran the pasta through twice on each setting stopping at 6 for thin spaghetti.
** I’ll update this post this week with step-by-step photo instructions. For now its iPhone photos featuring the Hipstamatic App Foodie Pak.
At this point you can take the entire sheet and generously flour on all sides and fold. Take a sharp knife and slice to desired strip thickness, I would do this for a wide pasta. I used the other side of the pasta maker which comes with the spaghetti and linguine cutter/rolls. Feed the sheet and evenly crank the handle to pull the pasta through the cutter.
Dry the cut pasta. If you don’t have a fancy drier (like me) oven handles work nicely.
I didn’t have a drying rack so I improvised. I found out that if I left the cut pasta to sit it would become sticky and almost melt back into a mound (which by the way I rerolled out and remade the pasta and it worked beautifully). I let the pasta dry for 45 minutes and cooked it in a large pot of boiling salted water. Make sure when cooking fresh pasta you don’t crowd, the pasta will puff and increase in volume. It will also cook MUCH faster, 2-3 minutes. Do what I do and toss against the wall if it sticks it’s done!
Quick Catanzaro Sauce (half red half white sauce)
For a quick Catanzaro (half red half white) sauce. I sauteed 3 cloves garlic (run through a garlic press) in 3 TBL olive oil. Added 1 28 oz. can of crushed or chopped tomatoes, 1 cup of Red Table Wine, salt, pepper and a tsp of sugar.While that simmered I browned 1 lb. of sweet Italian sausage (drained on paper towels after) and sauteed 2 cups of sliced mushrooms with 2 TBL unsalted butter and 1 tsp of olive oil and 1 tsp fresh chopped oregano ( double up if you are using dried version). Add the cooked sausage, mushrooms and 2 tablespoons of fresh chopped basil. Simmer for 20-30 minutes. Right before you are ready to serve take sauce off the heat and add 1/2 C (or more up to 1 cup) of cream stir and return to heat until sauce is heated through. Grate fresh Parmesan cheese and viola dinner is served.
Another great sauce to try is Food Network’s The Pioneer Woman and her delicious Pasta with Tomato Cream Sauce which by the way I just got my advance copy of Food From My Frontier and the recipe is featured in the pasta section! Oh Happy Day! I’ll be giving away a copy on the blog in a couple weeks so make sure to check back. I have to say Ree’s creamy red sauce with its addition of chopped onions gives my version a run for its money.
disclosure:: food links to my Amazon Store are affiliate that means if you buy I get paid a commission, money earned to date = not enough for a cup o’ coffee.