The way I see it!

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

From Scratch - The Basic Fresh Egg Pasta

Making Fresh Pasta is one of the most pleasurable and rewarding kitchen activities

When we love our food and are delighted about what we are preparing, only then will our food excite us. Only then will it ever be outstanding!

Probably the most pleasurable of cooking activities is the making of Fresh Pasta. From the mixing, to the rolling, to cutting and even filling, pasta making is so much fun and really rewarding. I hear many people say,
what is special about a Spaghetti Bolognese? Many of my friends tell me, they cook a spaghetti on lazy days, when they don't feel like cooking, because it is boring! At any point, when we view cooking as a chore or a dish as boring, we are then serving, only that: Boring! But when we love our food, and are excited about what we are preparing, only then will our food excite us. Only then will it taste good.

I have been talking miles about the goodness of fresh, and how using fresh makes all the difference to our cooking. I sincerely believe that fresh is one of the decisive factors between excellent and mediocre (really good and OK). When you make your own pasta, you are going to have it fresh, which is miles better than the dried version. Furthermore, you will make sure to use the best quality ingredients, from the eggs, to the flour, and other flavourings, if using. This will tremendously improve the overall flavour of any pasta dish. When the base is the best that there is, the rest of the dish naturally follows in standard. Then a Spaghetti Bolognese becomes special. Not boring, not lazy rather good! Making fresh pasta opens up endless varieties for you to cook. Particularly if you have an extra special ingredient to celebrate, like a superb fresh local Ricotta, or seasonal fresh mushrooms, or even access to exquisite seasonal truffles. Making fresh pasta in that case maximises this celebration of fresh, as you can then use it to create your own stuffed pastas such as Ravioli, tortelini or agnolotti. Even without stuffing, making your own means access to different cuts such as tagliatellle or the wide pappardelle... You can even make bows and other shapes, especially these days, when most kitchen mixers have a pasta rolling and pasta shape attachments. The process and the outcome are so rewarding, that once you have tried it, you will definitely be going for it more often.

Making your own pasta allows more creativity in shapes, flavours and dish compilations

Having vistited Italian Dairy Products - an Itlaian cheese factory in Sharjah, see the post here - and having tasted their exquisite Ricotta cheese, all I could think of was the taste of this cheese mixed with spinach in a home-made Ravioli. Italian Dairy products, where so generous and gave us a goodie box filled with their different cheeses! I was very happy to know, I had 2 huge containers of fresh Ricotta, because that night I made Fresh Ricotta & Spinach Ravioli in Creamed Tomato Sauce. It was succulent, it was exciting, it was comforting, and there was nothing boring or lazy about it! My family loved it, and I slept like a baby afterwards lol

I will post for you the Ravioli Recipe, but first lets start with the base: The making of fresh egg pasta. This is the base recipe, on which you can build with flavourings, like saffron for fusion, which I have used in the making of Crab and lobster filled Raviolis in a Lemongrass Veloute. You see, even in your choice of ingredients and sauces, you don't have to think traditional all the time. You can keep the spark in the kitchen and your dishes creative and inspiring by going for creative options and fusions. But this can only happen, when you make your pasta, as only then, will you be able to flavour it ready for fusions.

Let's get the dough rolling...

Basic Fresh Egg Pasta
Makes 1 Kg
The best flour to use in making Pasta is Tipo 00, but I have adjusted this recipe to use all purpose flour, as it is more readily available. The end result was just as good. The semolina here is used for dusting as it gives texture to your pasta. But you can skip it if you don't have it.

You Need
500 all purpose flour, and extra flour for dusting
1 tsp fine sea salt
5 large eggs
6 large egg yolks
1/2 cup Semolina for dusting

Making the Pasta Dough

Place the flour, salt, eggs and egg yolks in the bowl of your mixer. Mix using a dough hook until the pasta gets together into a ball of dough. Remove the past from the bowl into a floured surface (1/2 semolina 1/2 flour) and knead lightly for 3 minutes. The dough should be smooth, but not too stiff or difficult to knead.

Gather the dough into a ball, and cut the ball into 8 equal sized pieces. Slightly knead, each piece separately,  and shape into a small ball. Cover each ball tightly with plastic wrap and rest in the fridge for at least 1 hour.

Rolling & Folding the Pasta

Use a traditional pasta roller, or the pasta rolling attachment on your stand mixer. Set the roller on the widest setting and sprinkle generously with flour. Flour, your work surface too. Push the pasta between the rollers on the widest setting, then place it on your work surface and fold the sides in. You will end up with an envelop-like shape as in picture 3 above. Turn the dough by a quarter and roll it again between the rollers - still on the widest setting. Remove and fold into an envelop, turn by a quarter and roll again. Repeat this process 10 times. This is done aerate and stretch the dough in order to develop texture.

Hand-cutting Pasta

Once the 10 times are done, the dough should feel silky. Then you can gradually reduce the setting of your pasta roller, rolling down your dough into thin sheets, as required by each recipe. As you are rolling the dough, you will get long sheets. If the length starts getting in the way, cut the sheets in half. The sheets are now ready to cut into lasagne sheets, tagliatelle, pappardelle or even into shapes ready for filling.

You can either pass the rolled sheets through the pasta cutting rolls (special slotted rolls or shaped blades), or you can cut the pasta bu hand. To hand-cut pasta, dust it with flour, then loosely fold it into a rectangle. Cut out the irregular edges to tidy up the look. Then cut the roll across into ribbons in the desired thickness. Gently, lift and separate the ribbons.

Your pasta is now ready to cook. The time of cooking pasta depends on its size, if it is filled or not...etc. In general, fresh pasta usually takes 3-4 minutes to cook. Fresh Pasta hardly has any bite to it, but it is generally firmer when cooked than dried pasta. However, if it is soft, that means it's been overcooked. 'Al Dente' in fresh pasta means firm pasta, with no bite.

TIPs 

  • Always cook the pasta in a heavy bottomed saucepan 3/4 full of salted water. For best results, bring the water to a boil, then salt and bring back to a boil before adding the pasta.
  • Allow for a minute of extra cooking, when combining the pasta with a sauce.
  • Do not wash pasta after cooking, this will cause its surface to become too slippery, and therefore would prevent the sauce from clinging to it. For best results, straight out of the water and into the sauce.
  • Use a small amount of the pasta boiling water, to thicken the accompanying sauce if necessary.

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I do hope that you will give fresh pasta making a chance, because I know that you will love it, and it will make all the difference to all your pasta dishes. Do let me know what you think, I always love to hear from you, and get your feedback ;) Also why not tell me, which is your favourite pasta dish?

Drop by again soon for the Ravioli Recipe!

Have a delicious day x

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