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Wednesday, June 29, 2011

PASTA

Pasta is a delicious and inexpensive food, and making your own is a simple and enjoyable process that with a vast array of accompanying sauces will provide an ever changing variety to your menu and your diet. Beginning with just three ingredients - flour, eggs, and oil to make a simple dough, it can be an easy meal for one, a hands on evening of fun for the whole family, and will thoroughly impress guests of any age. 

Having made our own pasta for some years now, I have devised a fairly reliable ratio of about 90 grams of flour to one good organic free-range egg and one teaspoon of olive oil - per person. You'll also need extra flour for dusting both when kneading your dough and when rolling out your pasta. Using good quality eggs makes the best pasta and also gives it a lovely rich colour. As I'm most often cooking for just two I would make a dough of 4 eggs, roughly 360 grams of fine 'tipo 00' pasta flour, and about 4 teaspoons of oil. This way I have enough for two meals as the dough keeps very well in the fridge for three or four days and is then ready to roll out into which ever shape you want next time around.


Simply begin by sifting your flour into a bowl and make a well in the middle. Crack your eggs into the center along with your olive oil.


Using a fork gradually whisk the wet into the dry until it forms a rough dough. Turn this out onto a floured bench and get stuck into it with your hands and fists, kneading well for about five minutes and dusting with extra flour until it's no longer sticky but beautifully soft and elastic.


Now wrap your dough in a plastic bag and place into the fridge for at least an hour. Refrigerating the dough allows it to rest and reduces the amount it will retract when it comes to rolling.


Normally while the dough is resting is when I'll prepare the ingredients and concoct the sauce that will adorn our resulting pasta. Once your sauce is cooking take the dough from the fridge and cut into two pieces, possibly three if you've made a larger batch, and return any unneeded dough to the fridge. Again dust your bench with flour and using a rolling pin begin rolling your dough out into a large oval-ish rectangular shape. Shift your sheet of pasta around as you roll to keep it an even thickness, occasionally turning it over and keep it reasonably well floured. 


Once your sheet is roughly an even 2mm thick all over your ready to cut your pasta. There are many shapes you can experiment with from a thin spaghetti to using whole sheets for a lasagna, or little pockets filled with flavours such as a ravioli or tortellini. But I don't think you can beat a decent fettuccine or better still a wide ribbon pappardelle. If you have a pasta machine this can aid the whole rolling and cutting process, but I quite enjoy doing the process by hand and it's no more time consuming. 
To cut any size ribbon by hand take your lightly flour dusted sheet and loosely roll it up. Decide on the thickness you want and cut with a sharp knife, being careful not to squash.


Unroll each piece and place into a tidy pile of strips. Your now ready to cook. 


Unlike dry pasta that takes about 10 or 12 minutes to cook, into a pot of boiling water as salty as the Mediterranean ocean this fresh pasta will only take two to three minutes. So once your water is boiling and your sauce is ready to serve, bring whoever is eating to the kitchen, as pasta doesn't wait for people, people wait for pasta! 


Gently place your pasta into the boiling water and quickly place the lid back on to bring it back to a flowing boil. Once your pasta is Al dente, which won't take long so keep a keen eye on it, toss through your sauce, serve with a drizzle of good olive oil and a sprinkling of sea salt. 


Bon Appetito. 



Katie's Kindred Cook, Matt.

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