I am the type of person who would like to move to Emilia Romagna for a month to have some elderly woman teach me the proper way to make homemade fresh pasta by hand, and to spend a month or so making it at least once a day to be sure I can actually do it correctly. While I have a passport, and can speak Italian, the likelihood of this happening soon in my life is remote.
I do, however, have good cookbooks, access to eBay, and some lovely KitchenAid appliances at my disposal.
First, the cookbook: Marcella Says…, by Marcella Hazan. Marcella has made a career teaching Italian cooking to Americans and others, in the USA and in Italy. This book is one of the first cookbooks I bought when I moved to the midwest. I read through Marcella’s description of making homemade pasta, and I read that she herself, in her advanced age, no longer uses the hand crank pasta machines one often sees. She uses the pasta roller and cutter attachments made in Italy for Kitchen Aid. So, the pasta attachments became a wish-list item for me.
Five Years Later….
I was perusing eBay looking for a used ice cream maker (thanks to a wonderful visit with Adelia and Burt in Stillwater, OK), and ended up bidding on the KitchenAid pasta rollers. I’m pleased to say I won the auction, and got them for less than retail.
This weekend, I took the lovely rollers out of their box, and checked it all out. It was time to refer back to Marcella for the basic recipe. She doesn’t tell you how easy it is, as Jamie Oliver does, and show you how much fun it is to energetically mix it with your hands. She’s much more direct. I will paraphrase/embellish the directions here. For enough pasta for 2-4 people (2 as a generous main dish or 4 primi piatti (first course), IMHO):
- Put your metal blade in your food processor. Add a heaping cup of all-purpose flour and two eggs. Process until it clumps together. If it’s sticky, add flour by the tablespoon, pulsing between until it isn’t sticky. If it’s too dry, add water by the tablespoon until it comes together in big clumps.
- Gather the dough into a ball and knead it for one minute, pushing it away with the heel of your hand against the worksurface. Turn, fold, and repeat. The heat of your hands and the pressure will make the dough smooth. Cover the dough with plastic wrap or foil and let rest (15 min. to 1 hr.)
- Roll and cut with the pasta roller and cutter, according to the manufacturer’s directions. Either cook the pasta immediately in boiling water (2-4 minutes), or let the pasta air dry on tea towels, and store for later.
Okay, so there’s none of the romance of making it completely by hand, of a special skill gained learning to roll the pasta with a dowel. But it is fast, easy, and delicious in the way that dried pasta can never be. It’s tender, tasty, and has a texture all it’s own. You can understand why this has a special place in the hearts of Italians by taste alone. The fact that it’s made with love by mamma, well, books have been written about that.
We made this pasta twice this weekend. (First to try out the tools and a quick sauce recipe, and the second time to avoid the mistakes of our first effort, cutting too-sticky pasta by hand. And to use up the sauce. And because we were hungry.)
Honestly, it IS possible to go from eggs and flour to cooked pasta in about 35 minutes (15 min. of resting time) with the food processor and the KitchenAid pasta roller and cutter. If you add another 20 minutes on the front making a quick tomato sauce, in an hour it’s a really great dinner. OK, we’re aided by some sophisticated machinery. But it does pass Michael Pollan’s test for real food. We can identify all ingredients, and we combined them together at home. And Michael Pollan never said sophisticated cooking machinery was not allowed. (Imagine the backlash…)
I can see why this might be too much effort for some people. But I am pretty sure this is not a flash in the pan gadget for us. Tonight, while we were cooking the pasta pictured here, DH mentioned that this might be a great first course at a dinner we’re cooking for a silent auction. Or that we might want to do this at another dinner party. Marcella would be proud. I’ve introduced another person to the joys of homemade pasta all’uova, and he can tell how good it is.