Still feeling Italian.... really, it was only a matter of time before I got my fingers in some pasta dough.
I haven't made much pasta in the past few months, mostly because I've been cutting right back on the wheat. But it's the holidays, and I've been pretty much off the FODMAPs wagon, and I truly hate the thought of never having pasta. So it seemed like a good time.
Every time I make fresh pasta I go into raptures about how good it is, and why don't I make all my own pasta, etc etc. Of course on a lazy holiday day, making your own pasta seems like the easiest thing in the world. Try me again on a busy work night.
It is pretty magical, though, in the same way cake, or cheese, or quince paste are magical: you start with something quite unpromising and end up with something that's completely changed in nature and quite delicious.
For those of you who've never made your own pasta, here's a step-by step. You start with a pile of flour, a bit of salt and some eggs. I used about 1 1/2 cups plain flour here, and 2 smallish eggs.
You mix it up a bit (carefully, to avoid rivers of egg breaking over the flour banks and running all over the bench). There's nothing stopping you doing this bit in a large bowl, if you want to. Gradually incorporate the flour and egg together into a bit of a dough.
It will look a bit gnarly for a while, and you will think "Oh my god, this is not working, what a waste of egg, I'd better add some water," or things like that. But trust me, it works out in the end. Before you know it, you'll have a shaggy-looking dough. Now it's time to knead. Just do what comes naturally, turning and pushing the dough, and it will gradually become smooth and springy and lovely. (This was about as much of a workout as I've had all holidays. I wonder if it was negated by the wine I was also drinking at the time?) Before long you will have a ball of something that springs back when you press it, and you can imagine rolling out into a thin sheet.
This is the stage at which proper Italian mamas with large biceps would roll the dough out by hand, using long thin wooden rolling pins, until they have the world's most gorgeous silky pasta. Then they use their army of grandchildren to make individual pieces of fusilli or orichiette or whatever. This is the stage where I bust out the pasta machine.
This still requires some manual labour (turning the handle) and it takes a wee bit of time as you feed the bits of dough (cut up your ball into manageable pieces) through, gradually setting the rollers closer together and making the pasta thinner and thinner. This is the stage when you start to feel like a complete domestic goddess and start exclaiming in loud, faux Italian to your husband while he's trying to watch the cricket.
I'm always amazed with how much pasta I end up with. This dough really ended up making enough tagliatelle (or is it fettucine? I'm never quite sure) for four comfortably. I often make pappardelle, which I cut up by hand since my machine only has two cutting settings.
I usually scatter the pasta over a board and spread it out so it can dry a little bit and doesn't stick together. Proper Italian cooks hang their pasta on racks. If anyone has a suggestion for what I could use as an impromptu pasta-hanging rack, I'm all ears. Apart from the clothes-drying rack (which trust me, I have thought about).
You can dry this pasta out a bit and keep it for a few days in the fridge. Or you can cook it straight away. Fresh pasta only takes a couple of minutes to cook, so do everything else for your dish first and have a pot of water boiling and ready to go about three minutes before you want to eat. Give it lots of room to move around and a bit of salt.
It's a terrible shame to overcook it when you've gone to all this effort, so give it two minutes, test a bit and be ready to whip it off the heat and drain straight away.
I could eat fresh pasta with olive oil, salt and pepper. But in the interests of marital relations I went to a tiny bit more effort with this pasta. I tossed a little garlic and chilli in a pan, then added some lovely little cherry tomatoes and a few prawns. Toss, toss toss, get the prawns colored, add a couple of handfuls of rocket. Chuck the pasta in, gently toss it all together, add olive oil, salt and pepper and basil leaves and eat, pronto!
Then eat the leftover pasta the next day with a chopped tomato, a chopped chilli, a bunch of basil and a bit (maybe a lot) of grated parmesan. Mmmmmmmolto bene.