i’m gonna do a little how-to on the fresh pasta thing, cause it’s fun and everyone should try it sometime. now, we just got the pasta roller and cutter set for the stand mixer for xmas [thanks jill’s mom!], and that makes everything really easy, but if you don’t have one, you can still make pasta with a rolling pin and a sharp knife (and a ton of elbow grease).
alright, first of all: sauce, and i’m not talking about jill’s attitude. i’m talking about the pure beautiful thing that is pomodoro. three ingredients: fresh tomatoes, fresh basil, garlic. it’s simple, so use good ingredients, and don’t eff em up. fresh basil makes a big difference; the aroma of the stuff is a huge part of the final product. chiffonade the basil. that’s just a fancy word i recently learned [thanks jacob] that is the culinary term for a technique for cutting greens and herbs where you stack the leaves and roll them tightly, then thinly slice the roll crosswise to make long, thin, regular strips. mince the garlic. dice the tomatoes and remove their liquid.
now just saute the garlic and tomatoes, then toss in the basil at the last minute. salt and pepper to taste. serve hot.
basic fresh pasta:
3 cups of all purpose flour
4 large eggs
pinch of salt
dash of olive oil
this is a crowd pleaser. if you don’t like fun things, put everything in a stand mixer, and you can skip straight to the kneading. otherwise, pile the flour in the middle of your work surface to make a pyramid. use a fork to work in a little well, trying to make the walls even all the way around. you’re creating a bowl for your eggs, so you want some structural integrity. once you make enough space for four eggs, put a pinch of salt in the bottom, along with a dash of olive oil. now crack the eggs and dump them (carefully) into the flour-well.
use your fork to beat the eggs, without destroying the structure. the whole idea of this method is to incorporate the flour into the egg slowly, so your dough will be smooth and even. as you beat the eggs, continually use the palm of your hand to draw the flour back towards the center. this keeps your well intact and also knocks a little bit of the flour from the top of the well into the egg. if you keep this up, you’ll start to get a pancake batter like consistency.
at some point, you’ll have added enough flour that your fork will no longer move easily, and you have a sticky but cohesive dough. put the fork to the side, cover your blob of dough with the remaining flour, and start kneading. kneading incorporates flour into the dough, works on the gluten to increase the elasticity of the dough, and smoothes the dough. you’re gonna want to go at it for at least five minutes, but probably not more than ten. depending on the humidity, you may or may not use all the flour. trust your judgement — when it feels right it’s ready (if it’s sticky keep going, if it’s not sticking together, you’ve gone too far). now work the dough into a taut ball, cover with a bowl or wrap in plastic, and let sit for twenty minutes.
at this point, get your sharp knife out, and cut the ball of dough into quarters. roll each quarter into a short snake (six to eight inches long). take one of the snakes, flatten an end with the heel of your hand, and feed it into your pasta roller set to the widest setting. if you don’t have a pasta roller, flour your work surface, lay out a snake, and roll the hell out of it. you want it very even, and as thin as you can get it. if you’re using the machine, run the dough through a few times on each setting, gradually decreasing the width every few passes. my friend grady showed me a neat trick that involves nipping the ends of the dough together before it passes through the rollers, so that you create an endless loop of dough. it gets longer as you work it thinner and thinner, so make sure you’ve made space to allow it to expand. when you get to your desired thinness, cut the dough so it can release from the roller, then cut pieces the length you want your noodles to be (somewhere between twelve and eighteen inches should be good). flour the strips and set them aside while you repeat the process and roll out the rest of your dough.
if you’ve got a cutter, run all your strips of dough through, flouring again as soon as the pasta comes out the other side to discourage sticking. otherwise, fold the dough over on itself a few times lengthwise, then use a sharp chef’s knife to cut regular sized slices, which unfolded become your full-sized, hand-cut linguini noodles.
fresh pasta cooks really fast, so you’re gonna want to get your biggest pot, fill it with water, add a good tablespoon or two of salt, bring it to a rolling boil, then add your pasta. our linguini took less than five minutes, so stand over it, stir it a couple times, and test it regularly. otherwise you could miss that moment of al dente perfection. drain in a colander, plate immediately and top with hot pomodoro sauce. grate or shred some parmesan on top, garnish with a sprig of basil, and serve with a nice glass of red wine.
the salad is jill’s home made cesar, which i’ll write a separate post about at some point.