Making your own pasta: A life-changing experience

Posted on 28/03/2011. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , |

I guess everybody is familiar with “slow food“. When you look into the philosophy behind it, it’s not surprising that the movement had its beginnings in Italy, where food is not just appreciated but worshiped and whole conversations can be taken up with a particular dish the way that the English can while away hours discussing the weather.

If you want to understand and appreciate the philosophy behind slow food you could do no better than reflect on that essential Italian dish: pasta. It comes in many varieties, each boasting its own particular origins and bearing its own story  .

In the way pasta may be experienced in Australia, we can observe the complete fast – slow continuum. At the fast end, we find the Heinz Spaghetti in Tomato Sauce. Most Italians will tell you “That’s not spaghetti!”, but for many of us Australians it was the only form of spaghetti we knew and judging by the supermarket shelves, it still has a sizeable following here.

Moving along our fast-slow continuum, we come to the dried pasta. As far as the preparation time of this is concerned, nothing (except Heinz spaghetti) could be much faster – just boil for however long it says on the packet. The issue of time only becomes relevant when we consider which sauce to serve. My favourite is perhaps the most simple, consisting of nothing more than olive oil and roasted garlic. But my wife and La Nonna have been known to work lovingly most of the afternoon to prepare a ragout consisting mainly of veal and tomatoes which is so rich that you can’t believe that you won’t weigh an extra 2 kilos at the end of the meal. I intend to devote some later blogs to the preparation of sauces for your pasta.

For now, however, let’s turn our attention to the slow end of the fast – slow continuum – home made pasta. I’m going to assume that you have access to a pasta maker, whether it’s manual or electric. If you have an energetic partner, you could consider the manual one, but the electrical one isn’t particularly expensive. My wife tells me she has seen La Nonna do this entirely by hand, but even she has bowed to technology and uses an electric pasta maker.

Home-Made Pasta Dough

INGREDIENTS
400g plain flour
4 whole eggs, lightly beaten
salt to taste
METHOD
Place flour onto a clean work surface. (We have a granite cupboard top which is excellent, but a marble or laminated surface will be fine.) Make a volcano shape with the flour, forming a crater in the centre.  Put the eggs and the salt into the “crater” and  gradually work them into the flour until a soft and pliable dough forms. Dust your hands with dry flour if things get a bit messy.Knead the dough until smooth and consistent – 5 minutes should be enough.
Cover the dough and place it in the refrigerator for about 20 minutes. Divide dough into 4 balls. Flatten each ball into a disk so that it passes through the pasta machine on the widest setting. Fold in half lengthways and repeat. Keep rolling several times on each setting until you reach the narrowest setting.
You may need to cut the pasta to make it more manageable if it gets too long.
Dust rolled pasta with extra flour and allow to sit for 10 minutes before using, or air dry the pasta until required.

In later posts I’ll show you how to use the dough to make a variety of types of pasta.

In the meantime, if you would like to checkout a You Tube video of a demonstration of fettuccine being made, click here

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