The July meeting of The Fearless Cooking Club takes us to Barb’s home. Barb has been to Italy and I’ve seen her fabulous pictures. Barb dusted off her pasta maker, drying rack and pulled out Beard on Pasta cookbook and taught us a thing or two about making homemade pasta.
Barb did her homework and studied the master James Beard. There were several key points that Barb noted.
1. Plan in advance. Chef Beard recommends that the dough rest for 30 to 120 minutes after mixing (the actual recipe is at the end of this blog).
2. It takes time. Homemade pasta is labor intensive. It took two or three of us to hold the dough above the pasta maker, turn the crank and pull dough out for flattening. It takes 3-4 cranks through with the pasta maker to get the thickness for the dough correct. We talked about how the TV chefs make it look so easy. They can hold the dough, crank it through masterfully, and get beautiful flattened dough and noodles on the other side.
3. Take a break. Whew! That was hard work. Pour the wine and have a snack.
4. Make your sauces. While the pasta is drying on the rack make your sauces. We had four to sample:
- A basic basil pesto using pine nuts from The New Best Recipe – Cook’s Illustrated (2004)
- Pesto Trapanese all Anna – A Lidia Bastianich recipe from her website
- An easy Puttanesca – aka “the way a streetwalker would make it” from The Denver Post Make It Fit series (2010)
- A creamy alfredo sauce made by Sarah. She used cream cheese and parmesan cheese in it. Interesting twist!
5. Prepare salads and desserts. I made a homemade Caesar salad from my standby cookbook The New Best Recipe – Cook’s Illustrated (2004) We had homemade puff pastry made by Barb. She said they were so easy to make. The filling came all the way from Pat-A-Cake, a cake decorating store in 316 W Norfolk Ave, Norfolk NE 68701, Phone: (402) 379-2061. And lastly, Char made her famous Pizzelles.
4. Cooking the pasta. Beard recommends to boil the water furiously; the water does not need salt, but a splash of oil is a good idea. I found this to be an interesting tip because most TV chefs I’ve watched only salt the water and never add oil. But they are not making homemade pasta I guess.
5. Fresh pasta cooks quickly. It does not need the standard 8 – 10 minutes; after placing pasta in the boiling water, it is usually ready by the time the water returns to a boil. Test by biting into a piece of the pasta – it should be pliable with no hard core. Drain pasta when done. It is best not to let pasta sit while sauce finishes. Try to have sauce ready to coat the pasta as soon as it comes out of the water.
We made fettucine and spaghetti. Turning out the spaghetti was interesting. It was so thin we thought it looked like angel hair pasta. But it plumped up in the water.
The table is ready! We even had pasta bibs to wear!
Clockwise from top left spaghetti with pesto; fettucine puttanesca; fettucine alfredo, spaghetti al pesto trapanese alla Anna.
Of course, we must have dessert. Plated is fresh cherries, a pizzelle and a cream puff.
And to top off the weekend, celebrating all Italian culture, Joy, my husband and I went to mass at Our Lady of Mt Carmel Church in the Highland neighborhood of Denver. The first Sunday of each month, the mass is said in Italian. It was amazing.
James Beard’s Basic Egg Pasta (serves 3 – 4)
Using Food Processor and Manual Pasta Machine
1 1/2 Cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
2 large eggs
1 TBSP oil
Put metal blade into food processor. Measure in the flour and salt, and process briefly to blend them. Drop the eggs and oil through the feeding tube, and let the machine run until the dough begins to form a ball – around 15 seconds. If too sticky, add a tablespoon or more of flour. If too dry add a few drops of water or part of an egg.
COOKS NOTE: Barb misplaced the dough blade for her food processor, so she used the regular blade. She ran the processor 15 seconds per instructions – it did not form a ball. She poured the mixture onto a floured surface and was easily able to form it into a ball.
Turn out dough onto a floured surface. Dust your hands with flour and continue kneading. Work for 3 – 5 minutes, adding more flour if necessary, until you have a smooth ball of dough.
Set to rest under a dish towel or in plastic wrap for a minimum of 30 minutes, but 2 hours is preferable.
After dough has rested, cut it into four pieces. Put three back under the dish towel and flatten the fourth with a rolling-pin or with your palm. Set the manual pasta machine so that the rollers are at their widest opening. We ran it through each setting twice, then narrowed the opening, until we completed setting 5. You’ll know when it is rolled enough because the dough will become smooth and satiny. Pasta dough is not delicate and can not be overhandled – if it tears, you can fold in half and run it through again.
Lay the ribbon of pasta on a dish towel while you roll out the other three pieces of dough.
The dough should rest another 5 minutes after rolling; typically the first ribbon will be ready by the time you finish rolling all 4 pieces of dough.
Place the hand crank into the cutting slot of your choice. Run the ribbons of pasta dough through; it helps to have one person crank and a second person feed and catch the pasta.
Place the pasta on a drying rack of some kind – if you don’t have a pasta rack you can use the back of a chair, a clothesline, etc. Let it dry.
**See you all next month when The Fearless Cooking Club will be celebrating the Spanish culture and making Paella.**