Thursday, November 17, 2016

Week 42 - Homemade Pasta

I was a little apprehensive about the Week 42 challenge to make homemade pasta. I was worried I would completely screw it up, but I was also a little excited to push my boundaries to do something new. Besides, if I did mess it up so badly that it were inedible, we had plenty of dried pasta as plan B. What was nice was that I had already been planning to do the pasta sauce for Week 41, so it was a no-brainer to combine the two and have a (relatively intensive) completely from scratch Italian dinner.

I decided to make orecchiette, one of my favorite pasta shapes, even though bolognese sauce is usually served with spaghetti. A bunch of reasons why - too lazy to use more equipment, not enough room in the cramped kitchen to take out the stand mixer and attachment with the sauce and everything else going on, and my personal love for shapes. Besides, orecchiette would be great for catching all of the sauce, which is one reason I love it.

I went to a taping of The Chew here in NYC a couple of years ago, and it happened to be an episode on homemade pasta. I still remembered the general steps for how they made the pasta, but it's very different watching and making it yourself. To make sure I didn't completely screw it up, I followed two separate guides for making the pasta. I started with this link for making orecchiette, which noted that orecchiette is usually made with a flour and water dough. That led me to this link for an eggless pasta dough. I don't know if it's more common to do this with or without egg, now that I think about it.

The first step was to create a well of flour (we used about 2 cups), mix in some salt, and then slowly add water (about 1/2 cup) inside the well, folding the flour in to create a dough. We ended up adding some more water after the initial 1/2 cup since it didn't seem like enough, but it ended up being slightly too much in the end. Good thing I had dropped flour all over the cutting board and counter while trying to knead the dough, so I was able to add it in and keep kneading.

Once the dough was kneaded, we wrapped it in plastic wrap and let it sit for about 15 minutes. Next, it was time to actually make the pasta shapes. First was rolling sections of the dough into tubes, and then cutting the tubes into small pieces. The cutting step was easy, but rolling into even tubes was much harder than I thought it would be. A was so much better at it than I was.

Once we had all of the pieces cut, we shaped it around our fingers until we had an entire cutting board full of orecchiette that needed to dry. We let it dry for about 15 minutes while the water boiled. Partway through the drying time, I flipped the pieces over so that the other side wouldn't be so sticky either.

We boiled the pasta for a couple of minutes until it was al dente and then ate it with the bolognese sauce. It had a completely different texture than the dried pasta we usually make. It was a lot more doughy. Not sure if it was supposed to be like that, or if it was just our inexperience. They were fine, and it felt good to know that we had made them from scratch for the very first time.

Would we make orecchiette at home? Maybe. Although it's nice to have fresh homemade pasta, we really don't have a ton of counter space to do this type of thing regularly. And making dried pasta is just so easy. I won't rule it out, but I don't think it'll be a routine thing for us.

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