Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Homemade Pasta or Trial and Error

Last week after J and I picked up my car after getting the tires fixed and rotated (we came home from our trip to a flat tire because unbeknownst to us it had a nail in it) we stopped by Bed, Bath and Beyond to look around.  We had a gift card from a friend from our wedding and were trying to decide what to do with it.  We thought about getting a new floor lamp (since our living room doesn't have overhead lights) like this one:

Or a grill pan like this one:

Or a food mill like this one:

 But then I found this beauty.  And remembered number 17 on my 130 list and we snatched it up.

Woods investigates our new purchase
While J was in Omaha this weekend, I decided to give the pasta maker a spin.  I had made homemade pasta twice before: once as a child with my parents and once with my Sicilian roommate in college.  I had done mostly watching during these two times, which might account for my early mixed results.

When J and I began dating, he bought me this cookbook from Williams-Sonoma.  We've made several recipes over the years and I turned to it again for directions to make the pasta.

You begin by making a nest with 3 3/4 cups of unbleached all purpose flour and crack four eggs in the center of the nest.  The book recommends using a wooden or plastic surface because stainless steel or marble would chill the dough, reducing its elasticity.

You may want to use an open hand to make sure none of the egg flows out.  I didn't do this so well, as you can tell by the little egg puddle at the bottom right of the photo below.

I don't have pictures of these next few parts because my hands were busy and I wasn't sure it would even work out.  Add a drizzle of olive oil and a pinch of kosher salt.  Begin scrambling eggs in the center of the nest with a fork, again holding the sides to prevent seepage.  Begin incorporating flour into the mixture with the fork, until the mixture is too thick to continue with a fork.  At this point, you will want to kneading the dough with the palm of your hand, incorporating as much flour as you can.  Once the dough becomes thin, fold it over on itself and continue kneading.

I ended up with a larger size ball and several small sized pieces that wouldn't incorporate.  The cookbook assured me this was normal and instructed me to clear off the surface and discard the small pieces.  You may need a small dusting of flour to keep the ball from sticking when you place the dough back on the board.

I then began working with the dough, kneading it with my palms for the recommended fifteen minutes until the mixture became more smooth in appearance and less sticky.  I continued for another five to ten minutes because it didn't have the appearance I was told to expect.   Once I felt I was finally there, I then smoothed it out and covered with plastic wrap for thirty minutes to "relax the dough before rolling out."

Here is where I think I went a bit astray.  The directions in the cookbook and the manual that came with the pasta machine told me to cut the dough into fourths and begin feeding it through the machine.  It then told me to fold the dough in half once it had gone through one pass, continuing this pattern over and over as the dough got thinner and thinner.

My dough was much too thick to go through the machine, although I tried at first which all but destroyed the first quarter of the dough.  

The second quarter I rolled out first with a rolling pin which helped a lot in that department but the process of folding over still left huge holes and tears in the sheets, which would make it difficult to feed through the fettuccine/spaghetti cutter later on.

I was a bit frustrated at this point and decided to abandon the rules.  At that point, I got two decently long  quarters from quarters three and four respectively.  I slowly turned the handle and feed each piece through without folding, which left me with much longer sheets.

I then fed them through the fettuccine cutter, with good results.  Taking a page out of my earlier experiences, I practiced on some of the smaller sheets from quarters one and two in case it didn't turn out.  I didn't want to waste the two good looking sheets on early mistakes!  

This is what I was left with:

It wasn't a lot of pasta, but enough for me to eat--good thing that it was just me trying this for the first time!  By this time, it was 3:30 and I was due to have dinner at 5:15 before Spamalot, as discussed here.

I made a simple sauce and tried a few bites, storing the rest in the fridge for J and I to finish the next day. The pasta wasn't as light as I remembered it being when I made it with my roommate, which I think might have to do with the flour I used and the length of time I had to knead the dough to get it to come together (20-25 minutes vs. recommended 15 might have made it tough).  In the future, I'd like to try using some semolina flour or a combination of semolina and unfiltered flour to see if that works better!

Has anyone attempted homemade pasta before?  What type of flour do you use?  Any tips?  I'd love to hear from you!

Stay tuned for the recipe for the sauce after lunch today!


  1. That's awesome that you tried it yourself! I've made it with my sister in law a while back and I am dying for a pasta maker. I should just go grab one (not today in the knee-high snow, however). But they looks great! I have a semi-homemade approach to make my own ravioli using the wanton wrappers you can pick up at the grocery store and making the filling and assembling them. They taste and look great and are really impressive to guests! But now I think I want to up it a notch and make the dough myself. Thanks for the inspiration, girlie!

  2. Gina, those wonton wrapped ravioli sound delicious! Let me know when you get your own pasta maker...I'm interested to know if other people have similar experiences. Be careful out there today! :)

  3. Wow. I am impressed. I love pasta so this is something that I would love to try. I need to pick up a pasta maker for myself.

  4. That is not something I'm anywhere close to trying haha! I'm glad you got something out of it. It looks like a challenge!

  5. @ Ashly: You will definitely have to let me know how it goes! If we lived near each other, we could have a pasta party...maybe we could have a virtual pasta party? Haha

    @ Every Little Thing: Thanks! It was challenging but fun. Call me crazy but I'm looking forward to trying again, with a few changes, to see if I can't get better results :)


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