A FIRST TRY AT HOMEMADE PASTA
If you had seen me in my kitchen last Wednesday, you would have noticed my brows furrowed with concentration and a puzzled look decorating my face, as I tried hard to decipher if the pasta-making machine I had in front of me really was as easy to use as it looked.
I’d been playing a game of tug-of-war with the idea of making pasta from scratch over the past one year, and when the time actually came for me to make pasta, just like an Italian Nonna would, instead of eating those packets of pre-packaged dried pasta, I was breaking out in cold sweat.
The idea of homemade pasta has tantalized me from the first time I ever tried it in Argentina.
In the same way that I fell in love with making homemade bread, fresh jams and hand-made pie-crusts, I grew more and more enchanted with the thought of using nothing but the simplest of ingredients, combining them and kneading the dough until homogeneous, and then pushing it through the pasta-maker, forming shreds of soft, fresh pasta dough, light and cool to the touch.
In particular, I’ve always been fond of the tagliatelle pasta, the kind that resembles long, flat golden ribbons, whose origins find their history in the Italian regions Emilia-Romagna and Marches. Because they are flat and long, with a porous and rough texture (particularly if made as fresh pasta), it is easy for the sauce and ingredients that come with it to cling to the pasta, making for easy and very pleasurable eating.
While I’d been harboring the desire of kneading pasta dough and making my own pasta for the longest time, the sheer notion that it was a huge and daunting task kept me in my place, longing but not sufficiently brave enough to actually go through with it. Plus, I kept telling myself, I’m no Italian, I grew up eating rice, not pasta, what would prevent it from being a total flop?
In an unpredictable turn of events, I found myself once again face-to-face with the decision– to make or not to make? – when Juan and I took a couple of days off to bask in the Argentine countryside.
During our stay at the beautiful countryside ranch “La Rica”, we found ourselves well-fed by Claudia, the lady who pretty much did everything in house. More than just being the housekeeper, she was a amazing cook who stuffed us with large portions of cake, fried doughnuts, interesting dishes, and of course, homemade pasta.
As I ate those lovely strands of homemade pasta at the ranch, I found myself overcome with the desire and the need to make homemade pasta. After a good deal of commenting on how good the pasta was and mutual agreement from Juan, I struck up the courage to ask Claudia for her secret recipe. Thankfully she wasn’t anything like that sort of ladies who refuse to share their recipes for fear of losing their exclusivity. Without much asking on my part, she rattled off the ingredients quickly and easily – a recipe she had memorized by heart from years of practice – while I noted down the steps and ingredients into my phone for fear of forgetting them.
I’d let the recipe sit and incubate in my phone for about two weeks, procrastinating and using the excuse that I didn’t own a pasta-maker to push the task further down the road.
But when Juan and I found a pasta-maker at a very good deal in a mega department store last weekend, I knew I had run out of excuses. (Of course I know that Claudia’s recipe may not be the authentic Italian pasta recipe, but it seemed worth a shot).
So there I was, in the kitchen on a Wednesday night, trying to figure out how the machine worked, and crossing all my fingers and toes that I’d be able to do Claudia’s recipe justice.
Once I started mixing the ingredients together – light, airy flour with whole eggs and water – I found my fears evaporating away.
I began kneading and creating homogenous dough, falling into the rhythm you only get when you fall in love with cooking.
Keep in mind that the key is to roll the dough as thinly as possible and to be generous with sprinkling flour, because you’re going to want to keep the strands of pasta from sticking together.
Once rolled into sheets with the same width as that of the pasta-maker, the dough was easy to pass through, and like a miracle, shreds of fresh homemade pasta started coming out of the other end of the machine.
It was completely amazing, like watching the birth of new life, like hearing the sounds of birds chirping in the early morning just before the sun comes up, like waking up and breathing in the fresh mountain air.
Thick, fresh, soft homemade pasta, still stained wtih traces of white flour.
Then boiled in salted water..to be eaten any way and with any sauce you fancy.
HOMEMADE TAGLIATELLE PASTA (Serves 8)
Adapted from Claudia’s recipe
1) 1kg of self-raising flour
2) 5 eggs
3) 200ml of water
4) A pinch of salt
1) Mix flour and eggs together, adding as much water as necessary to form a homogenous dough (if dough becomes too wet, add more flour)
2) Knead dough well and then break it into small pieces, flattening each piece of dough with a rolling pin on a cool flat surface, as thinly as possible
3) Sprinkle each piece of flattened dough with a good quantity of flour (so the shreds of pasta do not stick together after being passed through the pasta machine)
4) Pass the flattened dough pieces one by one through the pasta machine
5) Collect all the pasta shreds in a large plate or tray, trying as much as possible to spread them out
6) Cook in salted boiling water for about 15 minutes or until dough is no longer raw
* Note: if you don’t own a pasta machine, you can still make the pasta by cutting the dough in long evenly thin shreds. It just takes more time this way, but the taste will be the same.
Mix flour and eggs together:
Adding as much water as necessary to form a homogenous dough:
Knead dough well and then break it into small pieces, flattening each piece of dough with a rolling pin on a cool flat surface, as thinly as possible:
Pass the flattened dough pieces one by one through the pasta machine:
Collect all the pasta shreds in a large plate or tray, trying as much as possible to spread them out:
Cook in salted boiling water for about 15 minutes or until dough is no longer raw: