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Learn to Make Fresh Pasta (with a video!)

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A Delicious Vegetarian Dish: Pasta alla Norma

Eating Our Way Through the Amalfi Coast

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Spicy Bucatini all'Amatriciana - a Roman Classic

My Mom's Pork Chops

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My Five Inexpensive Kitchen Essentials

Beet Ravioli with Goat Cheese

Sunday
Mar302008

Pasta Fresca

My oldest son was home from college this weekend and I definitely wanted to fix a classic meat sauce for him, a bolognese sauce, which he loves. But which pasta to fix? I could make farfalle, which he likes a lot and holds the sauce well. But having him home just seemed to call for a fresh fettuccine, which is really a labor of love and the traditional pasta to accompany a bolognese sauce. It's easy to make and yet the time and effort you put into it seems to be a satisfying thing to do when you want to cook something special for someone.

I really love dried semolina pasta, but I have never found a dried fettuccine that I like. I have tried many brands and even the ones made with bronze dies. So when I want fettuccine, I prefer to make it by hand - fresh. I really hope that you try it. Make it on a Saturday or Sunday when you have lots of time and really enjoy the process. Pour yourself a glass of wine and have fun.

I must say, though, that in the years when I was first married and had a hand cranked Atlas pasta machine to roll the sheets out with, I did not make pasta as much as I do now. That is because I eventually bought a KitchenAid mixer and purchased the pasta roller attachments. To make fresh pasta now is a snap. The machine just basically cranks the rollers for you, instead of you doing it yourself. I had the standard mixer first and then a few years ago upgraded to the professional stand mixer, which can do a triple batch of dough for pizza or bread. A real work horse. This machine has been my partner in the kitchen and I really don't know what I would do without it. This weekend alone I used it to make pancake batter, make focaccia dough, grind meat for the bolognese sauce and make the fresh fettuccine. If you don't have a KitchenAid mixer, I like making pasta also with a hand crank machine like this one


To make traditional pasta dough by hand, you only need flour and eggs. That's it. Sometimes recipes will tell you to add water, salt or olive oil, but you really don't need them. Water, I believe, makes the pasta gummy. Flour and good fresh eggs are all you need.   You usually mound the flour on the counter and make a well in the center and beat the eggs with a fork and start incorporating the flour, little by little. But I like to do this in my mixer now, with the dough hook. It really is the same action. I place some flour in the mixer bowl, break the eggs in the middle, attach the dough hook and start mixing. It does the same thing as when you start mixing by hand with a fork, only easier. If you have a KitchenAid mixer and the dough hook, try it.

I usually figure that 3/4 cup of flour and 1 egg will feed 2 people. That's my beginning measurement. But I always add more egg or just egg yolks, to make it richer. This weekend I tripled the recipe and used 2.25 cups of flour and 4 eggs plus one more egg yolk.  And if you remember my pizza post, when making doughs you add most of the flour to the wet ingredients and at the end slowly add only how much more flour the dough will take. This is a very important technique to know and you will use it whenever you make any kind of dough.

 


Fresh Pasta

Ingredients:

 

  • 1.5 cups Italian 00 flour or unbleached all purpose flour 
  • 2 eggs minimum (I always add a couple more eggs or egg yolks to make it richer - this is optional)

 

this makes about 4-5  servings

Instructions:
Mound 3/4 of the flour on counter or in mixer bowl. Make a well and break eggs in the center. Begin beating eggs with a fork or, using dough hook, start mixing. When most of the flour has been incorporated, begin adding the rest. Only add as much as the dough will take. You want a firm dough, not sticky, but not completely dry. Cover the dough in plastic wrap and let it rest at room temperature for at least 20 minutes.

 

Cut off a third of the pasta dough and, using the roller attachment, being to roll out dough. Start at #1 on the roller attachment. Keep dusting the dough with flour so the dough won't stick. When the dough comes out, fold into thirds and put it back through the rollers. Do this several times. The dough will become very soft. Dust the dough again with flour and move the rollers to #2. Put the dough through again.


I put the dough through twice at every number. Keep going until you reach #5. Put the dough through this number once. The dough strip will be very long. Place on floured counter and cut into 10 inch lengths. Place on floured towel to dry out for about 10 minutes before cutting. Do this with the remaining dough.

Switch to the fettuccine attachment and run dough strips through the cutters. Mound the fettuccine in little "nests" on a floured towel to dry out.


 

After about 10 minutes, fluff the nests so the fettuccine doesn't stick together. Do this a few times and then leave the pasta alone, because it becomes brittle as it completely dries.

You can leave the pasta on this floured towel until you are ready to use it.  Marcella Hazan says she even stores hers in airtight containers after it is completely, thoroughly dried.

By the way, if you are interested in fresh pasta, this month's issue of Saveur magazine is about Classic Pasta - how to make it by hand and how to make a good bolognese sauce. The recipes are diverse - every good Italian cook has their version. It's a beautiful issue.


 

Wednesday
Mar262008

Eggplant Rollatini

This makes a delicious vegetarian entree or a filling side dish. You all know how to make risotto now - remember my risotto post? For this recipe, however, instead of making a saffron type risotto, I make it with a little tomato paste and very light beef broth. You can certainly use vegetable broth if you want to keep it a vegetarian dish. This dish is great because you can make it in the morning, or even the day before, refrigerate it and bring it to room temperature before baking.

There is a lot of debate with cooks about whether to salt eggplant or not. Some people claim that salting the eggplant before cooking helps get rid of any bitterness. Salt does help suppress bitterness in foods, this is true, but most people rinse off the salt before cooking. Actually, the main reason to salt eggplant is to help with the amount of oil the eggplant soaks up during cooking. If you have ever cooked eggplant, you know it can absorb an unbelievable amount of oil. That is because eggplant is full of tiny air pockets. It is actually just like a sponge. When you slice eggplant and then salt it before cooking, the salt draws out the moisture and helps collapse the air pockets, so it takes on a lot less oil. It is worth doing.

Eggplant Rolatini

This recipe makes 5 rollatini.

Ingredients:

For the Risotto:

  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 cup arborio or carnaroli rice
  • 4 cups light beef broth (or vegetable broth), heated
  • 1/3 cup grated parmesan

for the eggplant:

  • 1 large eggplant
  • oilve oil
  • marinara sauce

Instructions:

Heat a little olive oil in a heavy saucepan. Add the garlic and saute gently for one minute. Add the tomato paste and cook for one minute. Add the rice and cook for about a minute more.

Start adding the warm broth and stir the risotto. Every time the rice absorbs the liquid, add a couple more ladles. Keep stirring for about 25 to 30 minutes. Take the risotto off the heat and add the cheese. Transfer to a bowl and let cool before assembling rollatini.

 


Slice the very ends off the eggplant. Slice the eggplant into 1/4 inch slices. You should have 5 slices for a large eggplant. Salt the slices heavily and place in a colander for about one hour. Rinse the salt off the eggplant and press with paper towels to dry.

Heat a grill or grill pan on the stove. Make sure it's hot before beginning. Brush the eggplant slices on both sides with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Grill on both sides until you have nice grill marks and the eggplant is pliable.

Place a little marinara sauce in the bottom of a small baking dish. Place some risotto all along the eggplant slices and roll up and place seam side down in baking dish. Top with marinara sauce. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes covered. Remove cover and bake an additional 10 minutes. Serve with grated parmesan cheese.

Wednesday
Mar192008

Italian Easter Bread


Buona Pasqua!  I've made this Easter bread for years for my kids. It's a sweet bread, made with milk and sugar and has an Easter Egg in the middle! There's a lot of Italian recipes for Easter breads, some are savory and some are sweet. This one is fun.

Italian Easter Bread

for a printer friendly recipe, click here
makes 6 individual loaves
Ingredients:
  • 1 package Rapid Rise yeast
  • 1.25 cups scalded milk, cooled to room temperature
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/3 cup butter, softened
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3.5 cups flour (approximate)
  • 1 egg, beaten with 1 teaspoon of water
  • 6 dyed Easter eggs
  • sprinkles
 

tip: the Easter eggs do not need to be hard boiled. They cook when the bread bakes. I usually just dye the eggs right out of the fridge, without hardboiling them. Saves time. Just be careful they don't crack!

Instructions:

In a large mixer bowl, combine yeast, warm (not hot) milk, salt, butter, eggs and sugar. Add about half the flour and beat until smooth with dough hook.   Slowly add the remaining flour to form a stiff dough. Don't worry about how much flour it ends up being, just keep adding until the dough is not sticky anymore.  Knead until smooth with either dough hook attachment or turn out on floured board and knead. Place in a greased bowl, cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about an hour.

Punch dough down, divide into 12 pieces. Roll each piece to form a 1 inch thick rope about 14 inches long and, taking two pieces, twist to form a "braid", pinching the ends,  and loop into a circle.

Place on a greased baking sheet or line your baking sheet with parchment paper or a Silpat. Cover and let rise until double, about an hour again. Brush each bread with beaten egg wash. Put on the sprinkles. In the middle of each bread ring, gently place an Easter egg, making an indentation with the egg.

Bake at 350 degrees until golden - about 20 - 25 minutes. Cool on rack.

 

** Note:  For an updated version of this bread, see my most recent Easter Bread post.  It's made with golden eggs and pearl sugar:


Another cute idea for Easter is making these Edible Egg Nests for your table:

 

 You might also like to try Italian Easter Torta (Torta Pasqualina):