Sunday, December 17, 2017

Channeling Italia - Taking Pasta To The Next Level

Coming back to Terra Albuquerqua after each trip usually involves the integration of the latest cooking revelations I have gained from whatever cooking class I took during the trip. I had a mission cooking learning-wise when we planned the Italy trip. And that was to try and learn the secrets that make pasta in Italy so incredibly good, even when it is very simple. And indeed, there did seem to be a special component...the flour. This was what our teacher told us. It is the flour. Made from semolina wheat it has different properties that the soft wheat flour we have here. Our teacher claimed that even hard wheat flour grown in the US would not substitute. And he told us a particular brand which could be purchased on Amazon (All hail the great Amazonian God for whom all products spew forth...and forgive me Great Rodent God but I'd rather have Italian flour and pasta making attachments than lines and poor expensive food).

Authentic, Imported Italian Semolina Durum Flour
(a birthday present from #3 via The Great Amazon)

Making homemade pasta using my hand cranked machine is a chore
Our teacher said to just get the attachments for the KitchenAid Mixer

Machine powered pasta rolling and cutting attachments for KitchenAid Mixer
(a birthday present from myself to myself via The Great Amazon)

Roller attachment prepared to do battle

Making homemade pasta is really not that difficult
We should have here a picture of our flour built up with a well in it kind of like a volcano in which one puts the beaten eggs.
Unfortunately my 'volcano' walls were too thin and I immediately had a pyroclastic flow going all over the working surface.
Rapid work with the spatula ensured all eggs and flour were secured

Pasta flour and eggs incorporated and ready for kneading
Marcella Hazan in her book, Essentials of Italian Cooking says you should knead for 8 minutes or until the dough is (and I quote) "Smooth as a baby's bottom".
Unfortunately I have no baby's bottoms available to compare so just knead for 10 minutes.

Pasta cut into sections for putting though machine
Pathetic attempt at an 'action shot' of me rolling the pasta.
Hard to do the pasta and hold the phone for the shot at the same time.

Pasta sheets after rolling
And yes they are all different - Homemade means never having to apologize for inconsistency
Finished cut thin pasta
I made one of the very simple Roman pastas - Cacio e Pepe - pasta with Pecarino cheese and pepper.
You just grate cheese, toast a lot of coarse ground pepper in butter, add some of the pasta water (the secret flavor ingredient according to our pasta teacher), work it into a paste, add the pasta, mix, add more water if necessary to get it smooth. Serve with more cheese and pepper on the side

Voilá  - Très Yummy


I was quite pleased. It was really good. Definitely a big step up in quality from my prior attempts making pasta. There is a distinct flavor, subtle but which builds as you eat the pasta, and I'm talking about the pasta itself. The pasta had a much more toothsome texture, was able to truly be al dente. 
The pasta was also much easier to work with. It took very little additional flour when I was combining and kneading. I used no additional flour while I was rolling. This made the whole process less messy. Finally the automated attachments reduced the work and frustration by many factors over the hand cranked machine. And because there was no additional flour used, they required virtually no cleaning. 

All in all, I was very happy with the result. I believe that homemade pasta is going to be a frequent guest on our Sunday dinner menus in the future.


alexis said...

we are going to frequent our visits on Sundays I think. I'm so pleased the flour did the trick!

Renee Michelle Goertzen said...

I hope this does up during my visit!

A co-worker and I were discussing pasta making yesterday. He expressed frustration at past attempts. I would love to be able to give him some advice, especially if I see this in action.