Saturday, March 8, 2008

putting a(l) dent(e) in the to-do list

Spring break has sprung, and I'm taking it as an opportunity to prepare exam outlines put a dent in my ever-growing culinary to-do list.

Today I made fresh pasta, which is one of the items that has been on my to-do list for so long, I may have to chip it off with a chisel rather than cross it out.

Though I have eaten plenty of fresh pasta, I have been reluctant to try my hand at making my own because I have been sadly lacking in a pasta machine. I am still sadly lacking in a pasta machine of my own, but Alex lent me hers for this adventure. (She gets pasta in exchange.)

Today I learned that fresh pasta requires more patience than technique, and that it is definitely worth the effort. It looks as though Alex may receive a steady supply of fresh pasta... at least until I get my own machine.

Seven-Yolk Pasta
(Recipe adapted from Thomas Keller, via SmittenKitchen)

If you want to make this recipe yourself, you should really follow the link to SmittenKitchen. There are nice, clear instructions, and the photos are much better than mine.

(Serves one, with leftovers.)

1 3/4 cups (8 ounces) all-purpose flour
6 large egg yolks
1 large egg
1 1/2 teaspoons olive oil
1 tablespoon milk

Clean a section of your countertop. Get it really, really clean, and make sure it's perfectly dry.

Measure the flour carefully. If you screw up like I did, you'll have too much flour and the dough will be extremely stiff and exhausting to knead.

Dump the flour on your countertop, and make a big, shallow well in it, large enough to hold all the wet ingredients. Add the wet ingredients.

Stick your fingers into the well and break up the egg yolks. Working carefully, stir the eggs with your fingers so that the flour gets pulled in little by little. Keep stirring.

Keep stirring. Does it look like nothing's really happening? Yep, that's how it's going to go for the next fifteen minutes or so.

Keep stirring. Push the flour in closer to the eggs. It won't really make a difference, but some of it will spill into the eggs, and it'll make you feel like you're getting somewhere.

Keep stirring. Is it starting to thicken?

Okay, push the flour in closer. Keep stirring.

Push the flour in. Keep stirring.

Push the flour in. Keep stirring.

Is the dough starting to pull away from the board? This is the point at which I deviate from the recipe because I don't have a pastry scraper. Take the dough and knead it gently until all the flour is incorporated.

Form the dough into a ball. If you used too much flour, the dough will be stiff and dry. Don't worry too much about it, but ready yourself. You're going to be in for a workout.

Knead the dough by pushing downwards, so that the dough gets flattened out. Once that happens, form it back into a ball. Knead until you think your arms might fall off. Then knead some more. When you can take a small piece and stretch it very, very thin without it breaking, you can probably call it good.

Form the dough into a ball again.

Wrap the dough in two layers of plastic wrap, and leave it in the fridge for an hour. Clean off the countertop. Or maybe you should just go rest your aching arms.

When the hour is up, your dough is ready for the pasta machine. I cut mine into fettuccine:

(This batch was a bit too thick. I made sure to roll it out thinner in subsequent batches.)

And prepared it two ways. The first: olive oil, garlic, anchovies, and a squeeze of lemon.

And the second: butter, garlic, basil, and the rest of the lemon.

The pasta didn't really cook to what I think of as al dente, but it was richly eggy and had a good, firm chew. Mmm.

I think we'll call this adventure a success. Next up... croissants?


Yulinka said...

Looks great. I've always like my pasta softer than al dante. Is that ok if you're a foodie?

Matthew said...

I don't think fresh pasta really does al dente, I've always thought of it as a consequence of being dried first. You would probably know better, I suppose.

tammy said...

I love extra egg yolks in my pasta. Yum. I save the egg whites for pignoli cookies!

Ann said...

Oh yum. I haven't made pasta yet either. But soon. :-)

Yours looks amazing!

adele said...

Yulinka - I don't think it's the foodies you need to worry about. Just the Italians.

Matt - The fresh pasta I bought in Italy did have some bite to it. Nathaniel did some research, and he says it might have to do with the use of semolina flour.

Tammy - Now that's an use I haven't heard of for leftover egg whites.

Ann - Thank you! I'll look forward to the report on your experiences soon. :P

alex said...

You can also use the eggwhites for almond cookies.

Anonymous said...

Or you can use the egg whites for meringues or macaroons.