Pasta With Gusto!
You don’t need a kitchen full of equipment – or an Italian grandmother – to make home-made pasta, just enthusiasm. By Mari-Louis Guy and Callie Maritz of Cakebread
Mixing up your own pasta dough and crafting it into different shapes makes for a fantastic interactive dinner party, with all your guests helping out. Getting covered in flour while sharing a bottle of vino gives grownups the chance to play with their food again. Whether you turn it into a team sport, or take your culinary pursuits a little more seriously, here are some basics to get you making pasta fresca (fresh pasta), pronto.
Italians insist on using 00 or ‘doppio zero’ flour, which is the most finely milled flour. (They grade their flour as 1, 0 or 00.) However, cake flour also works just fine. As an alternative, for a yellower pasta, substitute a quarter of the flour with semolina.
No modern kitchen is complete without either a food processor or an electric mixer. Top off your pasta-making line-up with a stainless steel pasta rolling machine (this will be your greatest gift to yourself). For filled pastas, a ravioli mould and cutter are nice to have, but not essential.
Whether you make the pasta dough in a food processor or by hand, it will require kneading. For this, there is no real method. Just stretch, pull, punch and pummel your dough until it goes from floury to very smooth. Wrap it in cling film and refrigerate for about half an hour to allow the gluten to relax. You can roll out the dough by hand or with a machine. Using a pasta rolling machine means you can make any shape of pasta, from lasagne sheets to long noodles of any width – vermicelli to fettuccini. It also saves you the workout of further kneading. Put the pasta roller on its widest setting and feed the dough through it. Fold the resulting sheet of pasta in three, turn the setting down a notch, and feed it back through the machine
Repeat six or seven times until the pasta is smooth and elastic, and very, very thin. No pasta machine? No problem. Most Italian cooks baulk at the sheer laziness of using one and prefer to roll out their pasta by hand. If you do go this route, you need to remember to keep your surface lightly floured and to work with less dough at once (a ball no bigger than an orange should be manageable). Using a small bamboo rolling pin will allow you to roll out the dough extra thin.
Tips and tricks
• Fresh pasta cooks far quicker than dry pasta, so keep a keen eye on the pot.
• Be liberal when salting the water; use about a tablespoon per litre.
• Be gentle with the pasta. Don’t just dump filled pasta into a colander; rather remove it from the pot with a slotted spoon.
• Pasta soaks up oil, so save some of the cooking water to keep it from clinging to itself when you serve it. (You can also add a bit of this water to thin down sauces that have thickened too much.)
• Pasta dough keeps very well refrigerated for four or five days.
• Pasta rolled out into sheets can be frozen for up to a month.
• Sprinkle semolina between pasta sheets before freezing to prevent them sticking to each other.
• Remember not to thaw frozen pasta; instead, go straight from the freezer to the pot.
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