Pasta afternoon

We are not sure what the weather has been around your house, but we have been living under cold rain; good for the drought, but after several weekends, it has become boring! So, what better to do that play in the kitchen? We decided that after more years than we can remember, it was past time to make pasta from scratch again.  The first step for an extended kitchen assignment is to crank up the music …  Fortunately, we have no neighbors close by, so there was no one calling to tell us they would prefer something other than our selection of Stones, Grateful Dead, Clapton, Collective Soul, and Hot Tuna (the Electric Years – Note to Jorma … More blues, please!).

Pasta_2With our background entertainment running, our next task was to locate our hand-cranked pasta machine, refresh our memories about how it works, and set it up.  After a bit of jury-rigging that involved a trip to the basement to cut shims to match the machine clamp to the counters we have here (replacing the old clothes pin halves that were in the box from the last time we used the machine), we started looking for the pasta drying rack; an entirely fruitless search as things turned out!  We know it is here somewhere, probably in a box somewhere as it hasn’t been seen since we moved into the house six years ago.  OK, time to improvise – two chairs with foil-covered rulers placed between them served as a great place to hang the pasta while it dried.

Pasta_1As you have noticed from some of our recipes, we have been trying to expand our tastes to include both textures and new flavors. With that in mind, we debated adding some whole wheat flour to the basic pasta recipe.  The idea of the whole wheat wasn’t the problem, it was the fact that we hadn’t done this in a long time and we knew the addition of wheat flour would cause some consistency changes.  After some discussion, we decided to use 1 1/2 cups of all purpose flour, and 1 cup of white whole wheat to make the fresh fettuccine recipe.  After mixing the ingredients in the food processor, we found that the dough was quite firm; but we thought we would be able to work with it – and work, we did!

For those of you who have never used a hand-cranked machine, the process requires putting portions of dough through the machine multiple times, folding the dough over along the way, and narrowing the roller settings with each pass until the sheet is the correct thickness.  After several passes through this process, adding a bit of water because the dough was drying out, and muttered curses, we were eventually rewarded with some great results.

Pasta_3Once the dough had been processed,  the pasta was hung up to dry for a short period of time.  Switching to the other side of the pasta machine, we cut the dough and coiled it to dry for a couple of hours (complete instructions are in the recipe). Since we had several ‘rolls’ of pasta, we put half of them into bags and froze it for later use.

Pasta_4

One lesson we learned during our first experiments with pasta making was that you don’t let the pasta reach too close to the floor if you happen to have a dog who enjoys hanging out in the kitchen.  We had to add instructions to the recipes we have that included cutting off the ends of the pasta after our dog, Nutmeg, was caught carefully licking each piece she was able to reach. But then, she also found that people who are stringing popcorn for the Christmas tree forget to watch the end as it curls down onto the floor – making for a great ‘popcorn on a string’ treat.

finished_pastaNow that the pasta is made, and ready to cook, we put together a very quick sauce that combined some local broccoli with leeks, and the always popular goat cheese.  Compared to commercial pasta, fresh pasta cooks very quickly, and the finished product is a completely different experience that we can recommend highly, not to mention the added bonus of an afternoon of kitchen fun.

2 Comments

mike1624October 13th, 2009 at 4:50 pm

I thought that the pasta dish we had at the IOP house had just a hint of Iames or was it Alpo?
Glad that you found a workable whole wheat/white flour combination, so I don’t have to waste a batch or two.

MerryOctober 13th, 2009 at 9:09 pm

The ghost of Nutmeg says *yes*, you did get just a hint of Iams following her close perusal of the pasta…

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