Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Pasta for Uno (or Due)

If I told you that you could have fresh, homemade pasta in LESS TIME than it takes to cook those wooden, dried skewers you're used to eating, would you believe me? Since dried pasta usually takes up to 10 minutes to cook, fresh pasta kicks its butt, with a mere minute-or-two cook time. And you can do all the prep while your water is coming to a boil. Well, there are a few must have a pasta rolling machine and a little bit of counter space, and if you have a second pair of hands to help you, that's even better--it will cut your prep time (mathematically unsurprisingly) in half.

You just need some proportions is all. We're BIG fans of freshly rolled pasta up here, so much so that we do it probably once a week. It's so good all you need is a little butter and parm cheese and you've got a delicious (read: kissing my fingertips in exaggerated Italian gesticulations) meal.

Some things to keep in mind:
  1. Use whatever flour you want. Durum/semolina is traditional; all purpose works great; we like to go halfsies with some whole grain flours (spelt, barley, whole wheat, and kamut flours have all worked for us in the past). Just be sure to use about half regular white flour and half grain flour.
  2. Throw in other stuff too. As you can (or maybe you can't because I'm a saaaad photographer) tell, we had lots of fresh thyme in the fridge, so I chopped it up and threw it in the dough. This is your chance to un-bland one of the blankest canvases in the food universe.
  3. This multiplies pretty well (so just double to serve 2-3).
  4. Speaking of which, it will also last up to 2 days in a zipper baggie in the fridge. So if you feel like pasta 3 days in a row, double up.

Homemade Egg Pasta
(Serves 1, generously)
1 egg
2/3 cup flour
1 tsp olive oil
1/2 tsp salt

Throw all ingredients in a bowl and beat with a fork until combined (dough will be very shaggy and dry). Turn out onto the counter and knead 5 or 6 times, until you can form a pretty solid ball. It will be dense. If it's just absolutely too dry, sprinkle a little water (say, up to 1 Tbsp) on the dough while you knead. DO NOT over-water your dough. You'll end up with chewing gum instead of pasta.

Meanwhile, fill a small pot with water and put on stove to boil.

If you have time, let the dough hang out for about 20 minutes. If not, proceed to divide your ball into 4 chunks. Flatten slightly with your hand and begin running through pasta roller. You want to do it 7-8 times on the largest setting, folding dough in half between each run. It will seem like a tragically lost cause at first, but eventually you will end up with lovely sheets of dough. Once you've completed 8 rounds on the largest setting, turn the dial to the next-narrowest setting, running dough sheet through once on each number. If your machine is numbered like mine (1-7, 7 being the widest and 1 the most narrow), stop at 3. We found that when we went all the way to the end our pasta was almost nonexistently thin. Repeat with all four dough chunks.

If you do not have a pasta roller, break out the rolling pin. If you have the patience to roll that dough out into a super thin sheet (1/8-in), more power to you.

Finally, run the sheets through the cutter--we like the wide fettucini noodles--or cut sheets with a knife, you non machine-owning reader.

By now, your water is probably boiling. Drop your pasta into the water and push it around a little. Cook for 1-2 minutes (seriously, that's all!), then drain. Toss with a little olive oil and parmesan cheese -- not the powder, for the love of pete -- salt and pepper.

If you need a little more than just the noodles, get creative with what's in your fridge or pantry. We happened to have some brussels sprouts and leeks, which I sauteed, and some ground turkey, which I made delightful little meatballs out of (but this is another post for another day). Beans work nicely, leftover meats cut bite-size, you see where I'm going with this...

For a fuller meal, chop up some veggies and saute them until soft. Don't forget the garlic, people. Save that water your pasta cooked in, dip some out with a ladle and throw it in to your veggie saute pan. Instant sauce!

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