Last week, bored with the usual choices and needing inspiration, we played Cookery Lotto, a game guaranteed to introduce an element of randomness into the proceedings. Anything could have been chosen but the rules are that once chosen, it had to be cooked.
We ended up with a pasta dish from the Australian Gourmet Traveller Cookbook of 2008.
But this wasn’t going to be pasta from a packet – this was start from the beginning and make it from scratch pasta.
And I was glad because I knew how easy it was to do and this was my chance to show you.
The Bear and I have a pasta machine and we love making pasta. It wasn’t expensive at all (under £10 in a famous designer clothes, shoes and houseware clearance shop…it had been £29,99 . Look there in the kitchen section – I’ve seen them lots of times. Failing that you can get them for under £20 on Amazon)
The first time we did it we were carried away with the idea that we could produce perfect pasta. The pasta was fine…. it was the ravioli we attempted to make that were an utter disaster. Perhaps more skill was required for that. Perhaps we should have read a recipe properly. Anyway, the ravioli burst open and the fillings weren’t so great.
Straight forward pasta was fine though. Good, even. We have made tagliatelle and lasagne sheets and today we are making papardelle. When I say we, it is not me and my partner in life and crime, the Bear. He’s off travelling again and is on the other side of the world so he won’t be here to help.
We, today, are me, my friend M and her daughters. OK so the nearly-two year old won’t be much good, but I have high hopes of training the ten year old to be a willing kitchen slave.
I have looked at the recipe and it says 4 eggs and 560g of flour…. seems a lot I thought, and then I realised it was to make enough pasta for 8. Time to scale down. My amazing mathematical skills come to the fore as I rapidly divide everything by two… then thought I’d better divide again.
How much pasta do I need? I’m not intending to feed everyone I know. We shall use one egg and 140g of flour. That will be enough for us.
You do your own maths to work out how much you will need.
And…. off we go.
Weigh 140g of “00” Italian flour and lightly whisk one egg.
Put that in a bowl and add 3 teaspoons of extra virgin olive oil, a pinch of salt and 15 ml of water.
Then start to mix it. I’m using my KitchenAid mixer because I can. (And every use of it makes the overall cost per use drop. Use that argument when you are plea bargaining for one of your own) If you haven’t got an electric mixer, then you will have to stir it all by hand.
This is no bad thing – after all people were making pasta by hand for centuries before electric mixers were developed.
It will all come together quite easily and form a coherent dough. Now because eggs come in different sizes, you may need to add more flour to the mix if it looks too wet. We had to because we used an extra large egg.
You will need to knead it now – just put it on a floured board and stretch and pull and roll and knead until you feel it becoming smooth and springy. L, who is ten, really took to stretching and pulling the dough.
The girls had a great time helping to knead it. That’s the two of them, sharing the job. The nearly-two year old loved getting her hands on to the dough because she saw her big sister doing it. That’s the best way to get children to enjoy cooking… letting them get their hands in to it. It’s not the best way to keep the kitchen clean and tidy but it is the best way to have fun.
Now you just cover it with a damp tea towel and leave it to rest for a while. Ten minutes or so if you are wanting to get a move on, and hour or thereabouts if you have the time to wait.
Time for a nice cup of tea and teach young kitchen slaves how easy it is to wipe down the benches.
Now for the fun bit – cut the dough into two or three pieces and, having made sure your pasta machine is firmly screwed onto the bench, start feeding the first bit through. Give each piece a light sprinkling of flour so it doesn’t stick.
(If you haven’t got a pasta machine, don’t worry, just get ready to start rolling it out with a rolling pin. Make sure you have divided it out, though, before you start rolling it. Just dust it lightly and get cracking.)
You start off on the widest setting, and fold the first piece over on itself so it gets a really good pressing. Think Grandma’s mangle… you just turn the handle and the pasta goes through.
Got to the next notch sprinkle lightly, very lightly with flour and put the pasta through again. The girls loved this and took turns winding the handle.
Keep going until you have gone through all the settings and are down the last one.
Now my machine has setting for cutting pasta so I can either use them, feeding the thin sheets of pasta through the cutting attachments to make tagliatelle or cut the sheets free hand.
If you are cutting free hand, dust the surface lightly and roll the flattened sheets of pasta up like a giant swiss roll. Then simply cut down through the roll to get your pasta strips. Easy, huh?
Now, if I were going to be making pasta all the time, and I wanted to make it in advance of cooking it, then I would buy one of those pasta drying racks, but I’m not, so I haven’t. You can dangle it from clothes racks to let it air off or you can simply dust lightly with flour again or maybe fine polenta and start getting the pan ready to cook it in.
See? Within ten minutes we had a huge mound of tagliatelle for the girls to take home to their brothers to have for their supper
.. and some hand cut, broader strips of pappardelle for me.
We all sat around, gazing with pride at our beautiful pasta – a few minutes work and a huge amount of fun and laughter.
It was a wonderful afternoon’s work and at the end of it we had made food for everyone. It wasn’t difficult and it cost pennies to make. Some flour, an egg, a pinch of salt and some oil all came together to make delicious home made pasta. And two little girls now think they want to cook again… and again… and again!
My cunning plan will work – give them a few years and I can spend my time lolling on the sofa while my willing kitchen slaves toil for me.
Another success chalked up to the random selection of Cookery Lotto.