Homemade Pasta – A Photo Tutorial

As you can probably tell from my lack of a Sunday Project Food Blog post, I’m out of the competition. I can’t lie and say that I wasn’t bummed, but making it to round three was absolutely amazing. And I couldn’t have done it without your help, so thank you for all your kind comments and of course for your votes. Make sure to check out all the round four entries, there are some very talented bloggers still in the competition!

We had no choice but to do this challenge in advance of the results for round three (which I’m convinced is the reason I didn’t make it through — I jinxed myself!), so all the cooking was done and the pictures taken. Therefore, I decided to post anyway, whether it be for my reassurance, my benefit (or maybe even yours!) or just in support of all the other PFB challengers out there. So…here it is, my would-be post for round four of Project Food Blog.

Before I get into the details though, a few notes on making fresh pasta. Marcella Hazan is the Italian God. We turn to her for any and everything Italian that I don’t know from my family. According to her pasta-making tips, regular old all-purpose flour works perfectly fine for fresh, homemade pasta. In fact, she says it’s best for home cooks. Traditional pasta is made with 00 or doppio zero flour, which is apparently near-impossible to find. It’s the finest of flours, perfect for traditional Italian cooking. Then there’s semolina flour, which is what’s traditionally used in dried pastas. Marcella actually suggests not using this type of flour as it’s frustrating to work with. Well, we read this after buying semolina flour specifically for this challenge. So, we used it anyway. The semolina flour reminded me more of cornmeal than flour, and it was a little more difficult to work with than regular all-purpose flour, but in the end everything turned out just fine. We actually liked the taste and texture of the cooked pasta better than any pasta we’ve made using all-purpose flour. Anyway, enough blabbing. Basically, it’s up to you what flour you use, but all-purpose is probably the safest bet.

Homemade Pasta

{Print this Recipe}
Here’s what you’ll need:
Makes: about 1 pound
– 1 cup flour
– 2 eggs

Instructions:
Pour the flour out onto a large counter or flat workspace in one large mound (in other words, don’t spread it out). Using your hand or the bottom of a measuring cup, form a hole in the center. Make sure the “walls” of the mound are secure since you’ll be mixing the eggs in the center. Crack the eggs into the center of the mound and gently beat them with a fork. As you’re beating the eggs, begin to draw some of the flour over onto the eggs, mixing with the fork, until the eggs are no longer runny.

Because you may not need to use all of the flour, push some to the side before mixing completely. Draw the sides of the mound together with your hands and begin to work the eggs and flour together using your fingers and the palms of your hand. The dough will still be pretty sticky at this point. Continue to work the eggs and flour together until you have a smooth mixture. Test the dough by pressing your finger into the center — if your finger comes out clean and the dough doesn’t feel sticky, no more flour is needed. If the dough is still too moist, add some of the flour you set aside. Clean your work surface and begin kneading the dough.

According to Marcella, there’s a “proper way” to knead the dough: “Push forward against the dough using the heel of your palm, keeping your fingers bent. Fold the mass in half, give it a half turn, press hard against it with the heel of your palm again, and repeat the operation. Make sure that you keep turning the ball of dough always in the same direction. When you have kneaded it thus for eight full minutes and the dough is as smoother as baby skin, it is ready for the machine.”

After kneading for eight full minutes, prepare the dough for the pasta machine. Set up an area near your machine with clean, dry cloths to allow the pasta to dry. Cut the dough into three equal parts and wrap two of the separated balls in plastic wrap so they don’t dry out. Working with one piece of the dough, flatten it with the palm of your hand. Using the widest opening of the thinning rollers on your machine, feed the flattened piece of dough through the machine. Next, fold the dough twice into a third of it’s length and feed it by the narrow end through the machine again. Repeat this process two or three times on the widest setting, then close down the opening to the very next setting. Run the dough strip through the lower setting one time, then close down the opening by one notch again. Continue this process, lowering the setting by one notch each time, until you reach the desired thickness (you don’t necessarily have to go to the smallest setting on your pasta machine). Place the flattened dough on the towel and repeat the whole process again with the other two pieces of dough. Once all the strips have been flattened to the desired thickness, let them dry for at least 10 minutes before cutting. The strips are ready to be cut when they’re still moist enough so they won’t crack, but dry enough so they won’t stick together.

Once all the pasta is cut it’s ready to be cooked (or dried for storage). Place it all in one cloth and carefully slide it into a large pot of salted, boiling water. Begin stirring the pasta immediately to keep it from sticking together as it cooks. Fresh pasta will cook in five minutes or less, so make sure to keep a close eye on it. I also like to keep my fresh pasta moving as it cooks.

I’m reading over this blog and it sort of sounds really difficult and a little confusing, but I promise it’s not. It’s just a lot to explain, but it really is an easy thing to do — and the results are worth the little effort it takes. The dough comes together easily, and once you get in a routine of flattening and cutting the pasta, you’ll find that it’s ready to cook in no time.

Fresh pasta is so much different than dried. It’s…fresher (obviously), and that’s evident in the cooking process and (of course) the taste and texture. It cooks so quickly, and it plumps up as it cooks. The end result is thick, pillowy strands of pasta that can never be compared to the dried variety. A simple, light sauce is perfect for homemade pasta — you don’t want something that’s heavy and overpowering for the delicate work you’ve done!

Homemade pasta doesn’t have to be scary. It’s definitely not something you’ll do all the time, but it’s great for a special treat. Plus, it’s pretty dang awesome to enjoy a homemade dinner from start to finish! A special thanks to Billy for doing all the hard work while I snapped a million photos. 🙂

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