Tuesday, March 9, 2010

mamma mia!

 I made pasta!  From scratch!  For real!!  I have been wanting to tackle homemade pasta for a long time.  A la-la-la-la-long time.  And, pasta-maker be damned, I did it!

...this is not to say I don't want, need, and crave a pasta-maker in my life; just that its empty void will not stop me from getting down to my Italian roots!*

*There is not a single ounce of Italian in me, for the record.

 I failed at making a well big enough for all the eggs.  Don't let this happen to you.  Put flower in a large mixing bowl & make a serious well for the eggs.

Mixing with your fingers is just as fun and messy as you would think.  The ratio I used for pasta dough is 2 eggs:1 cup flour.  And, I am told, a serving size is about 1 egg per person.

Now, I could either let you believe I cooked dinner for four, as you see there are four eggs swimming around in my flour... but no!  I totally made extra.  Why?  Because 1) I love leftovers and I had a feeling I would want more of this, and 2) I felt a 4-person batch would fit the sauce recipe better.

 Weird alien ball of pasta dough.  Very sticky... time to knead!

Ahh, smooth ball of pasta dough!  Much better.  Smoothness means the gluten is... um.... doin' the right thing. There's no time limit for how long you work the dough.  Just keep kneading and rolling and punching, adding flour to your counter as needed, until it's smooth. 

I wish I rolled this out more to make a thinner pasta.  But, as you can see, I was kinda running out of room and got impatient.

Method if you don't have a pasta maker: flour both sides of dough; roll up; cut spirals at your desired width; unravel spirals.  You are somewhat limited as to how thin you can make these noodles by the sharpness of your knife and the temperature of the dough.  If you want to attempt thin noodles, I would try tossing the dough, in a plastic bag, into the fridge for an hour and then cutting. 

By this time, I was plenty excited.... Pasta goes into well-salted, boiling water for 2-5minutes.  Mine took longer (closer to the 5 min mark) because it was thicker, but in general plan to cook homemade pasta for a fraction of the time it takes for stuff from a box. 

The sauce was pecorino romano, pasta water, olive oil, and black pepper.  That's it.  And that, my friends, is all you need!  It's my understanding (read: guess) that the pasta water is added to very hot oil so that they will combine instead of staying separate, as oil and water are want to do.  Also, the recipe calls for "finely ground fresh-cracked black pepper," which is PRECISELY what we did.  I put the beau to work* grinding fresh peppercorns with a mortar & pestle.  I highly recommend this course of action as, 1) the pepper acts as a part of the sauce/a flavor in the sauce instead of just a seasoning, and 2) pre-"ground black pepper"/dust doesn't have the flavor that full peppercorns do.  If you have a hand grinder with a "fine" setting, that would work, too.

*Ok, so maybe the whole "why don't I just grind with a mortar" was his genius idea.  Whatever, my blog, my brilliancy. 

And, wonder of wonders, miracle of miracles: I followed a recipe!  TWO of them!!  To the "T"!!!  I must say, I am as shocked as you are.

So, dinner was Homemade Pasta with Romano & Black Pepper and Grilled Chicken.  And let me tell you, AH-mazing!  The sauce was absolutely fantastic- the method is great to have in your back pocket to adjust and tweak, depending on what cheese you have on hand.  Definitely, a recipe to have when you have nothing in your fridge, as I consider all these ingredients "pantry staples," or want a quick dinner.  Also?  I love how creamy this was without the use of heavy cream or milk!  Excellent.  And, I can't wait to make more homemade pasta.

The chicken, in case you cared, was fantastic and the perfect compliment to the pasta.  First, I brined the chicken, because it's what I do.  Then, my sous chef* split the chicken breasts, seasoned with some weird, tasty, pre-made spice mix and threw onto the grill pan. 

*JUST KIDDING!   Co-chef! 

Homemade Pasta Dough
serves 4, adapted from Pioneer Woman Cooks

4 eggs
2c flour

Form a in the flour and crack in the eggs.  Mix together with your fingers.

Flour a counter/surface and dump pasta ball.  Knead by hand until smooth and pliable (you will need to add more flour to your surface, as necessary.)  Let dough rest.

Roll out dough as thinly as possible/to your preference.  The noodles will plump up quite a bit.  Cut noodles into desired shape.  If you want to make long noodles, like pappardelle or fettucini and don't have a pasta blade, then roll up the dough and cut into spirals.
Cook the noodles in boiling, well-salted water for 2-5 minutes (depending on thickness- test & watch closely.)  Reserve 1 1/2c pasta water for sauce, and drain pasta.

Note: ~1 egg per person per serving.  And 2 eggs for every 1c flour 

Romano & Black Pepper Sauce
serves 4, adapted from Smitten Kitchen

1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
4 ounces Pecorino Romano cheese, finely grated
1 1/2 teaspoon finely ground black pepper

In same pot as you cooked the pasta,* dry and heat olive oil over high until almost smoking.  Add pasta and 1c of pasta water.  BUT BE CAREFUL!  Water + oil = splattery mess of hotness!!  Add butter, 3oz cheese and pepper.  Mix & taste, adding more water or cheese or pepper as necessary/to taste.**  Serve with more cheese sprinkled on top.

*This recipe works with 1lb dried pasta.
**You can salt, if necessary, though I didn't need it.

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