Saturday, February 7, 2009

Making pasta makes me happy

A few weeks back I was inspired to dig out my pasta machine and make some modifications so it would clamp adequately onto the bench in my parents' kitchen. It's been ages since I made fresh pasta, and it's a lovely way to pass the time. Like most crafts, it's hell frustrating when you're starting out and still getting a feel for it, but very rewarding when you finally learn how to get the right dough consistency and how not to get it all bunched up and stuck in the rollers.

The dough is just flour and eggs, and a little goes a long way. I made this batch for three people and used two eggs and a couple of cups of flour.

So this is my fettucini, which I made by rolling out long sheets of dough, a little thicker than you'd use for stuffed pasta, letting them dry for about ten minutes, and then rolling them through the cutter attachment. Letting the sheets dry a bit first helps prevent the strands from sticking together once they're cut.

My fabulous pasta drying rack was a birthday present from my flatmates at Selwyn Street, after Helen and I rigged up an inventive but slightly inefficient wooden spoon contraption to hang the pasta on.

It's very satisfying cooking fresh spaghetti or fettucini in the biggest pot you have. It also stops it sticking together, but as far as I'm concerned that's the secondary reason.

The sauce for this batch was very simple to make, but quite decadent in these days of expensive cheese and 99% fat free. For three people, it was made by heating 50g of butter in a pan over a low heat, then adding around 150mls of cream and three quarters of a cup of grated Parmesan. Once it's brought to the boil and seasoned with salt and pepper and a few tablespoons of chopped parsley, you add it to the pasta. It's very tasty.

Handmade fresh pasta is quite different to dried pasta – it's softer and has a smooth, silky texture and I think it holds the sauce more evenly. It's also surprisingly quick to make, once you get the hang of it – like bread, it's one of those things you make in phases and go off and do something else in between steps.

My next challenge is drying spaghetti in nests for future use. Done properly and stored in an air-tight container, it can apparently be kept indefinitely. Perhaps in a simple glass jar it would make a nice gift – what do you think?

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