A Poem for Pasta
Pasta, oh pasta, you slippery food.
A deceivingly simple, carbohydrate-filled dude.
Ever since I was young, you were my morning noon and night
Now as an adult I try to eat light. (yeah right!)
But there comes a time when all that you’re craving,
Is a sweet bowl of pasta without sweating or slaving
I will tell you a secret, a trick to the trade,
The carbs are much sweeter when your pasta’s handmade.
So go, my people, run to the store!
Buy: flour, buy eggs and nothing much more
Make up a dough, but roll it out thin.
Boil it up and let the saucing begin.
Rejoice! You can do it! I know that you can!
Drain your freshly made noodles and toss them into a pan!
The result will be super, you will think you’ve gone crazy,
Now buying your pasta will make you feel lazy.
Look, making fresh pasta is easy… I swear! First, you mix your dough together. Then, you knead it while having a conversation about how you can’t believe you just ruined your friend’s surprise party (true story) by accidentally spilling the beans. Use this rage until your dough is nice and silky-smooth. This was the most technical part of the whole operation and it’s done. Take a load off and wipe that brow cause this dough needs to rest for 30 minutes or so. Now comes the part where you roll this sucker out. Dividing the dough into portions really helped because I was able to put all of my weight and rolling skills into a smaller mass, which rolled out nice and easy once I started working with it. Stay dedicated to your goal here. If you must, chant to yourself quietly while you roll, “Paper thin, paper-thin, paper-thin”. Don’t stop till the job is done.
Now, don’t be scared, but you will have to try to cut in a straight line. It is not so imperative that each noodle be exactly the same, but you do want everything to cook at the same time, so do your best. The result of cutting this shape is a sort of ‘fettucini’ type pasta, toothsome and able to soak up any sauce you throw at it. If you are terrified of this straight line stuff you can also try the trick of rolling the pasta sheet up first so that you cut through and through and then unravel the noodle for the big reveal.
In a later attempt I was able to get my dough thinner (I’m telling you guys, this is really key), and I cut the noodles thinner, too. Holy hell the difference was night and day. The second attempt yielded the kind of supple cloud like noodle I was aiming for. They were so good we were eating them sauce-less. For my next act my roommate suggested bow-ties or farfalle as they are traditionally known. I don’t have one of those fancy zig-zag cutters so I just went with straight up rectangles, delicately pinched at the very center. Easy as pie.
Finally, with one more ball of dough remaining I knocked out a batch of ravioli. I’ve found them notoriously fickle in past attempts; times in which the dough, being so thick along the edges, remained awkwardly chewy when the rest was perfectly cooked.
Armed with my ‘thin as a sheet of paper’ dough, I dropped a few balls of goat cheese flecked with lemon zest and black pepper along the sheet of pasta with gaps in between. I folded, sealed and pinched with the finesse of a newly trained cook in an Italian restaurant in a strip mall in New Jersey. And to my surprise, these little guys cooked up real nice. Not too chewy, light from all angles, with a creamy decadent center of goat cheese goo. It was a job well done. Seriously friends, this was a really great day of pasta experimentation. I had previously made fresh pasta with results that left something to be desired. But this time it was different. The trick this time (I believe), was that this dough needed to be rolled as thin as I could possibly get it by hand, and that made all the difference. The first batch was thicker, albeit very tasty, but it lacked a certain delicateness that I expect from fresh pasta. The dedication to getting super thin pasta resulted in a lighter than air experience in the end.
IF you are so lucky as to have a pasta machine at home – this should be a no brainer. In fact, you should not even be reading this because it means you should already know how to relish in your own fresh pasta making abilities. Get out! This post is for the machineless folks out there who just need someone to give them hope that doing it by hand is worth it. I’m here to tell you…it soooooo is.
Pasta 3 Ways
* enough for 2 people (or a bunch of experiments if you are like me)
1 cup ’00’ flour (for those of you in Israel- you can find this flour at the Asian food stores in the Shuk or some other specialty stores popping up)
Put flour in a bowl and make a well in the center. Crack the eggs into the well and mix with a fork. Begin mixing the flour in with egg until you start to form a shaggy mixture. When you can go no further in the bowl, dump the mess onto a floured surface and begin kneading. Knead and knead and knead. Soon you will notice the flour is absorbing and the surface is becoming smoother. Keep kneading! My guess is 6-8 minutes total.
Wrap in plastic wrap and count to 30 (minutes, that is).
Unwrap and dump onto lightly floured surface. Divide into 2 balls to make your life easier (keep the ball you are not working with in plastic wrap so it doesn’t dry out).
Roll out very thin. Super thin. So thin you can see thru it and beyond to other universes and galaxies.
Proceed to slice and shape accordingly.
Get a pot of water boiling, salt it liberally.
Dump whatever shaped pasta you decided on and wait 3-4 minutes into the pasta has risen to the top and is perfectly cooked/al dente. Drain it and get it sauced.
Want a cool and super easy sauce that can be made in the same time it takes you freshly made pasta to cook? Good. Follow me.
2 lemons zest of both and juice of 1
hunk of parmesan
While your pasta is cooking grab a saute pan. Swig in some olive oil, add in half your lemon zest. Scoop spoonful or two of your cooking water from the pot of pasta and toss in your pan, Reduce. When your pasta is done cooking add directly to your saute pan. Add black pepper (generously), chili flakes, salt and remaining lemon zest. Squeeze juice of a lemon over the pasta and grate a whole butt load of parmesan on it. Serve with a drizzle of olive oil and some parsley. You will thank me later