Sunday, 20 January 2008

Home-Made Pasta

In the panoply of international cooking gadgets we received for Christmas, Mr A&N and I gained a pasta maker. We had put it on our Amazon wishlist and crossed our fingers, and were gifted it by my parents. The gift was less of a surprise than they intended: having paid extra for the gift wrapping and specifying we weren't to open it until Christmas, they then wrote on the card attached to the gift "Hope you enjoy your present - there's nothing like fresh pasta!". All gifts are gratefully received here, and we finally had a chance to turn the handle on the machine last weekend.


The ingredients for pasta are simple - flour and egg. You can fancify it to make it green (adding water from boiled spinach to the dough), red (water from boiled beetroot), or presumably another color derived from the left-overs of other boiled vegetable water. Our main intentions are to make our own ravioli but we haven't had the chance to get the ravioli-making kit to enable that. I'm a by-the-rules sort of person who wants to wait to attempt ravioli until we know it won't be a complete disaster, while Mr A&N is just e-a-g-e-r and was trying his hardest to get me to throw caution to the wind and just go for it. Sometimes it pays to be stubborn; I talked us down from that precipice and our first home-made pasta adventure involved a simple tagliatelli cut and bolognese sauce.


We didn't revolutionize the history of pasta with what we made, but we did prove to ourselves that the effort was worth it. Home-made pasta compared to dried (or even supermarket-fresh) is the difference between silk and satin; freshly-brewed and instant coffee; a 3-day weekend versus a 2-day weekend. It's subtly, and yet substantially, different. It is smoother in taste and lighter in texture without feeling you've gone as far as eating something delicate. It is the pasta of Italy, the reason that the non-descript restaurant you discovered during your last visit seemed to serve the best bowl of spaghetti you ever tasted.

The greatest mystery to me is how your average Italian grandmother can operate the thing on her own. The 3-foot long sheets of dough that had to be fed through the contraption needed to be both lightly fed through and gently grabbed at the other end, and at least at the novice stage we needed all hands on deck to prevent disaster. Frankly, I don't think I have the right Mediterranean genes to ever operate it on my own. Pasta will have to be a team effort in the A&N household the next time we want to go fresh, but it does add to the feelings of family togetherness that Italian food brings out in you anyway.

20 comments:

Wendy said...

Very cool. It's something I haven't attempted yet and, not having a pasta contraption, won't be for a while. Envious in the extreme! Looking forward to some ravioli posts in the future. It's my favourite.

DaviMack said...

We've done ours up in orange by using the meat of a kaboch a squash as the liquid - that, a bit of oil, some rosemary, some semolina & regular flours ... wonderful!

Throw caution to the wind - those Italian grandmothers have been doing this by feel, without any measuring, and I'm sure haven't had much trouble. If it goes wrong, you add more & fix it!

Try cutting the noodles with a pizza cutter - the irregular shapes are wonderful!

Sigh. Now I've got to make pasta. :)

DaviMack said...

Kabocha Pasta shown here. Not anywhere as neat as yours, but tasty. :)

Bellini Valli said...

Cooking is always better when you do it together anyways. Get plenty of practice and bring on the ravioli!!!!

Jasmine said...

Congratulations on the addition to your kitchen--looking forward to finding out about the tasty treats you will create.

j

Brilynn said...

I just made wild mushroom ravioli tonight with homemade pasta! There's nothing like it!

Gigi said...

Lovely pasta! I can hardly wait to see the ravioli.

Elle said...

What a wonderful gift. It's nice to know that it is worth the extra effort...sort of like freshly baked bread instead of store bought or even baker bought?
Guess I should try making fresh pasta soon. :)

Kelly Mahoney said...

I got a kitchen aid for Christmas and I'm thinking about getting the pasta attachment. Thanks for the post!

Annemarie said...

Hi Wendy - yes, I think what I love about ravioli is that it's your whole meal in a dainty little parcel. Even just the concept is exciting.

Hi Davimack - thanks for linking to you post - its very tempting! I will try to feed the pasta through on my own someday, but I'm fully prepared to let fly a flurry of bad words. :)

Hi bellini - I was very pleased that we were working so well in the kitchen together, it's true. :)

Hi Jasmine - thanks, I hope things continue with it as well as they've started.

Hi Brilynn - mushroom ravioli...Mmmmm....

Hi Gigi - I'll be sure to blog about it, then. :)

Hi Elle - yes, exactly like your bread vs store bought bread (as long as you got your bread to rise and weren't so frustrated by the outcome you cursed the loaf before it came out of the oven). ;)

Hi Kelly - A kitchenaid? Oh, I've heard rumors of such wonderful things but never dared to dream I'd have one myself. Congrats - I hope you're in love with the thing and treating it very well. :)

Laurie Constantino said...

Once you use the pasta machine a few times, you'll get used to it and will be able to use it with ease. Also, you don't need a ravioli form to make ravioli. You can mark out squares with a ruler, put the filling in the middle each square and brush water between the dots of filling. Put the second layer of dough on top and gently press around each bit of filling to seal the top and bottom layers. Then cut them apart with a pastry cutter. It's cumbersome to describe, but pretty easy to do, and avoids having to buy more equipment. Don't worry - you can do it!

Patricia Scarpin said...

Homemade pasta is the best - love the step by step photos!

Julie said...

Very nice--I can't imagine how you'd do it without two pairs of hands either. I've made pasta without a machine (obviously not meant to be delicate), but I don't want to get a pasta maker b/c I'd forever feel guilty about using dried pasta instead of doing it myself.
Julie

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Susan from Food Blogga said...

I love this post! I used to make pasta like this with my dad when I lived at home. Pasta making is such a great way to spend time with family and then enjoy the fruits of your labor, literally.

Emiline said...

WOW! That pasta looks perfect!

My dad has been making pasta like that, for years. We had a big Christmas dinner with it. He's not Italian, though. ;)

Your parents are good gift-givers.

Sophie said...

Well done - I'm yet to venture into pasta making territory in the fear that the gadget will end up in the cupboard gathering dust!

Love fresh pasta but I think I prefer dried pasta for some heartier recipes like chunky tomato sauces

Annemarie said...

Hi Laurie - Good tip, thank you. I know we want to go in the ravioli direction this weekend, so maybe we should just freestyle it.

Hi Patricia - it is such a good but simple pleasure. You should see all the photos I *didn't* include (including some of boiling and then eating the stuff).

Hi Julie - I'm impressed that you've gone machine-less!

Hi Susan - It did feel very family oriented - I have no idea how much time it all took but just knew it was entirely fun.

Hi Emiline - Lucky you for having years of good pasta to eat. :)

Hi Sophie - Plus, dried pasta is much more realistic when you want a quick, easy meal.

Cinnamonda said...

The pasta looks lovely! Your post made me want to buy one of those machines! Well, maybe one day... :) By the way, thank you for visiting my new blog!

Greetings,
Tiina

kellypea said...

I bought one for a friend for her birthday and don't have one myself! I've been tempted lately, though...