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Page history last edited by PBworks 18 years, 4 months ago


Flour and Eggs

13 Feb 06


Now that I have a new kitchen to play in, I've been experimenting with different ingredients and techniques. This past weekend, I thought I'd draw from my Italian heritage, and make pasta by hand.


My sweetie and I have made hand-made pasta using a pasta machine, the very machine my mom used to use, clamped to a basement table, making yards and yards of pasta for memorable holiday meals. What surprised me was that even 20 years after the last time I'd made pasta, the sense memory of how dry, how smooth, how lustrous the pasta was supposed to be was still there. This in spite of my only contribution to the collective holiday pasta making effort was cranking the machine. This time, though, I thought I'd go all the way, and do it by hand, with a maple rolling pin.


I vaguely remembered a recipe calling for about 1 egg per 100 g (by weight) of flour. In the old days, my mom got tremendous results with all-purpose flour, but for this, I thought I'd use good Italian pasta flour, specifically Divella Type 00 general purpose flour, which I found in an Italian deli I frequent. Since I didn't trust my memory, though, I went with the hand-made pasta recipe found in \"Cooking By Hand\" by Paul Bertolli. I learned about the book because it was recommended by Lynne Rossetto Kasper on American public radio's \"The Splendid Table\".


Bertolli's recipe called for 10 ounces (280 grams) of Artisan Flour per 4 eggs. Based on piss poor math, I figured that meant 154g of flour per egg - even wrote it in pen in the book! So, based on that wingnut math, I tried about 580g of flour with four eggs (don't ask me how I came to that - I could never duplicate it again). Well, not entirely surprisingly, the dough came out pretty damned dry! I trusted my memory a bit more, tried another two eggs, and came out with a dough that was close to the ideal - I can remember pasta resting in one of my mom's bowls, smooth as a baby's bottom, with a bit of give (but not much). I let the dough sit for about 40 minutes, then rolled it out.


It was then that I realized that all the nonnas that did this with rolling pins were likely able to do a LOT more push-ups than I could, based on how hard I found it to roll out. Another problem - I was pressing as hard as my girlie-man arms would let me, but the pasta was coming out too thick. I found that if I got it too thin, it would break. I aimed at having it thin enough to be able to see the dark pattern of the granite through it. When I had a longish strip of pasta, about the width of my hand, I would roll it up like a cigar, and cut slices that would unroll into fettucine (~ 1/4 inch wide).


Cooked it up for about 4-5 minutes at a rolling boil, and dressed it with an osso bucco sauce I'd made last weekend (basically, brown the veal shanks, then slow roast them covered in good tomato puree - I use Muir Glen Whole Tomatoes - scoop the marrow into the sauce, shred the meat and add it to the sauce, heat through again, and you're done). My sweetie dressed a batch with olive oil, garlic and a bit of parsley. Since the pasta was pretty thick, it had a good "bite" to it. I was a bit disappointed, but I also figured I'd get better with more practice.


The real "memory of home", though, came the next day. If you love eating the crunchy, almost burned edges and corners of the lasagna, you'll know what I mean. I heated up a bit of olive oil in a skillet, and like the old days, threw the leftover pasta into the pan to crust up a bit. The give of the pasta, combined with the crunch of the crust, and some extra browning of the chunks of meat in the sauce - awesome! After having some, even my sweetie said, "I didn't think it would be good when you told me about this, but I like this."


Next time, I hope to have a better story of a more successful attempt. Still, for the first time by hand with a rolling pin, it wasn't as good as my nonna's, but I think she would have approved of the intent.


14 Feb 06 UPDATE: Special thanks to Taia, a colleague-reader-fellow chowhound, who suggested that, according to her mom, optimal results can be obtained by ensuring the eggs are at room temperature.

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