Today was the third time I’ve tried my hand at making my own pasta. The first time I made bucatini it turned out okay. The dough was way too sticky and it was difficult to extrude through the pasta attachment on my stand mixer. It still tasted good and I have been determined to become skilled at making it. That and freakin’ dumplings.
Stupid freakin’ dumplings.
The second attempt at making pasta was elbow macaroni. Total failure. That dough went directly into the trash. I don’t even remember where that went wrong. Yesterday I think I made somewhat of a breakthrough and I choose to believe it is because I didn’t follow a recipe exactly. It could be luck. I have been feeling lucky lately. Who knows?
One thing I’ve learned from making bread is that dough is difficult to pin down and calculate as an exact science. There are so many factors that go into what consistency it is: humidity, the grind of the flour, the type of flour, how accurately you measure the ingredients. It is easier to use your hands, your fingers and your instinct to judge what you need by touch. The last two times I precisely followed the pasta dough recipe it didn’t work out the best. This time I combined two recipes (one from my Kitchenaid stand mixer recipe book and one from Joy of Cooking). I used fewer eggs than Joy of Cooking advised and I used considerably more water than what Kitchenaid instructed. I continued adding water until it hit the proper feel in my hands. I kneaded it around 20 minutes, much longer than what both recipes said I should have had to, but I blame that on Lotus who was busy sticking things in her ears and coloring on walls. And standing on dining room chairs. And chewing on the kitchen sponge. (seriously. sigh.)
So I kneaded that dough until it was fairly smooth and tight in my hands. Not dry, not slimy. I cut it into four sections, wrapped it in plastic and let it hang out on the counter for a couple hours. I followed the stand mixer directions for the pasta attachment and it worked. I set the completed bucatini on a lightly floured counter to rest for a couple more hours before dinner and it cooked up nicely. Al dente. ‘To the tooth’, indeed. Fresh pasta is pretty much one of the best things ever. This made enough pasta for me to use half with tonight’s dinner and I’m going to dry out and save the rest for a rainy day. Or a sunny day. Or a day where I just need some tasty Italian in my life. And really, when isn’t that day?!
I recently had a Klout perk for a $10 credit on a Zinio subscription (Zinio is a subscription reader for the computer or your phone/tablet). I used it toward a subscription of La Cucina Italiana and I’m in love. What a fantastic publication. I’m definitely looking forward to making a lot of these recipes. I chose the Penne con Peperoni Arrostiti, except I didn’t use penne. I used my own fabulously fresh bucatini.
Pardon me while I pat myself on the shoulder. Thank you.
I used a combination of green and white peppers from my CSA collection. I have also officially gone head right over heels for anchovies. That’s right. Capers are always welcome to the party in my mouth. If you want the recipe for it, pick up the October issue of La Cucina Italiana. It’s on page 76. I’m not going to post the recipe here because I followed it exactly, didn’t alter anything except for the choice of pasta. Go get it. Worth it.
Here is how I made the pasta. It might work for you, it might not. Again, play with the dough. It shouldn’t be too sticky but it needs to be wet enough that it isn’t crumbling in your hands. I started out using the stand mixer and dumped it all on the counter to finish by hand. I enjoy using my hands.
Basic Pasta Dough
3 1/2 c. flour (I used bread flour)
1 tsp. salt
2 T water + more as needed
1 tsp. olive oil
I mixed the flour and salt in the stand mixer on speed 2 with the flat mixer, then switched to the dough attachment and added the eggs and 2 T water until it looked crumbly. (This followed the Kitchenaid recipe instructions)
I then dumped it all out onto my countertop (which was spotlessly clean, of course), and saw that it needed MUCH more liquid. I added water bit by bit and went ahead and added a teaspoon of olive oil as well. I continued kneading until it felt right (smooth and not splitting apart everywhere), cut it into four pieces and wrapped it in plastic wrap. I then fed it into the attachment and just like magic, half an hour later, there was a completed batch of bucatini.
Did I mention that bucatini is an amazing, hollow spaghetti-like pasta?
Yep. It is.
My test kitchen always smells good except when I do something silly like accidentally burn garlic (this did not happen today).
My audience isn’t always excited with what I make but I continue on. This is something that makes me happy. What makes you happy? Whatever it is, do it to the best of your ability and embrace it.
[note: I am certain there are pasta purists out there who are simply reeling over my methodology here. I'm just an amateur home chef who enjoys sharing what works and doesn't work for me. I have plenty of experience on both ends of the success spectrum.]