Boston Snow Days: Lets Make Homemade Pasta

Can you imagine being stranded in your home for days at a time during snow storms like the folks in Boston? What to do? For a family activity, my brother made homemade pasta with his kids. And he sent me detailed steps and photos for a nice guide to making your own pasta.

2015 05 08 Pasta 037-finished pasta in the snow

Why make homemade pasta?

The most obvious question is why make homemade pasta? It takes alot of time (it is an all-afternoon activity), skill and elbow grease (to crank the pasta maker) and pasta is readily available in stores.

In my opinion, the main reason to make homemade pasta is that fresh pasta tastes much better than dried, packaged pasta. There just is no comparison. Once you’ve made a batch of fresh pasta, I’m sure you will agree. So while I wouldn’t make pasta on a daily basis; from time to time or during a snow day or for special occasions fresh pasta is really nice.

Boston 2015 Snow Scene -  1 - 2015 05 14 snow 003

Other reasons to make fresh pasta:

  • It’s a stress-reliever. You can be creative; there are so many shapes and sizes of pasta attachments–it’s a good outlet from all the stresses in life to make something inventive on your own. Forget your problems, get cooking.
  • You can make unique pastas that aren’t easily available in markets–pumpkin, tomato, spinach, basil pasta come to mind.
  • You can make ravioli with most pasta makers; there are many delicious fillings for ravioli. I made a crab meat ravioli pasta with a spicy Cajun cream sauce for a board of directors dinner that I was catering one time for something really different. The Cajun-Italian fusion turned out well.
  • It’s a social activity. My brother got a pasta maker in the 1980’s to have an activity to do with his wife; later with the kids.
  • It’s a party. My son recently hosted a “ravioli party” in New Orleans for friends. Guests brought fillings and sauces; he supplied the fresh ravioli pasta. Guests came up with some really interesting combinations–pear and bacon pasta with a chocolate sauce; chicken/basil sausage pasta filling with a pinenut and olive oil sauce.

Pasta Makers

While you can make pasta by hand with a rolling pin; it is easier to use a pasta maker of some sort to make homemade pasta. And most are hand cranked. To avoid this, I purchased an apparatus similar to a bread maker that mixes the dough; then the dough is extruded through tubes to make the pasta. The pasta turned out very thick. Kitchen Aide makes a pasta attachment for their mixers; good but you can’t make ravioli.

There are several brands of pasta makers on the market; I’m not familiar enough with any of them to endorse a brand. My brother uses a Mercato Atlas 150 mm. The attachment used here is probably the 2mm spaghetti attachment.  His machine is similar to Marcato Atlas Wellness 150 Pasta Maker, Stainless Steel.

If you’re not making pasta very often, should you invest in a machine? That’s a matter of choice. However, with proper care the machine should last for years—there isn’t a motor in most of the pasta makers. My brother has had his for 25 plus years, so it is a long term investment.

One piece of advice; don’t put a pasta maker or attachments in the dishwasher unless you want a corroded machine. Be careful with cleaning it. After the pasta making session, let the dough dry and then it is easy to “knock” off the pieces.

Making Pasta – Stretchy Dough

It takes practice and patience to make pasta dough of good consistency. As you mix and knead the flour, water and eggs to make the pasta dough and let then let the dough rest, the gluten in the flour develops allowing the pasta to become stretchy. From the photo at the start of the blog post, I think my brother has this part mastered.

Go slow in adding water. If the dough is too sticky because you’ve added too much water then add a little more flour. It just won’t work if the dough is too sticky. Advice from my brother is that the dough has to be really perfect to do angel hair pasta.

My brother uses King Arthur brand of flour. Look for this flour or for a pasta blend which contains some semolina.  Semolina is wheat middlings derived during milling wheat. The semolina for pasta comes from durum wheat–a high protein wheat with strength; good for pasta.

Here are the steps for making pasta.

Step 1.  Put 1 1/2 cup flour in Cuisinart food processor (w/chopping blade). Lightly beat two eggs.

2015 05 08 Pasta 011-Step 1

Step 2.  Pour eggs into Cuisinart. Cover with 1/2 cup additional flour.

2015 05 08 Pasta 013-Step 2

Step 3.  Pulse lightly.

Step 4.  Add two tablespoons water and pulse again. The trick now is to get the dough so that it will just stick together into a ball but not be sticky. Repeat ( Step 4). The photo shows that we are not quite there.  It is not clumping.

2015 05 08 Pasta 017-Step 4

Step 5.  We are here. This is the magic to the whole process…to get the dough just right. If you add too much water and it gets sticky, just add flour and pulse until it gets to the right consistency.  if the dough is shiny, that is a good indicator of a proper mix (but sometimes it isn’t and it is still ok).

2015 05 08 Pasta 019-Step 5a2015 05 08 Pasta 020-Step 5b

Step 6.  Pour into large mixing bowl and form into a big ball. Then form into fist size balls and flatten to approximately 1/4 inch.

2015 05 08 Pasta 021-Step 6a

2015 05 08 Pasta 022-Step 6b

Step 7.  Set up the pasta machine. Clamp firmly to counter. Set to widest width setting (“1” one mine). Start cranking the pasta balls through. Usually on the first setting, I run it through a few times. Then increase the setting (we will go to 5 or 6) and crank through again. If you want to merge the noodles, I do it on setting 5. I like to go to 6, but the dough has to be just right, else I stop at 5.

2015 05 08 Pasta 023-Step 7a

2015 05 08 Pasta 024-Step 7b

 Step 8   Now crank it through the pasta side.  I crank it into a large bowl. You can dust it with flour to keep it from sticking.

2015 05 08 Pasta 038-Step 8a

2015 05 08 Pasta 040-Step 8b

2015 05 08 Pasta 041-Step 8c

You are done! To cook the pasta, add water to a large pot – large enough to accommodate the pasta. When the water comes to a boil, add the pasta, a tsp salt and a tsp olive oil. Cook until al dente; firm to bite, not soft. The cooking time will vary on the type of pasta.

2015 05 08 Pasta 043-you are done

Enjoy fresh pasta with a favorite pasta sauce; or just some olive oil, fresh garlic and Parmesan cheese.

Well, l don’t have a pasta machine–just borrow my son’s when needed. Fresh pasta is available at most markets. Here’s some fresh linguine that I purchased served with chicken, wine sauce and artichoke hearts.

Fresh Pasta with Chicken and Artichokes - IMG_2149_1
Recipe

Curt's Homemade Pasta

  • Servings: 8
  • Time: all afternoon
  • Difficulty: difficult
  • Print

Ingredients

  • 2 cups King Arthur flour (split 1 1/2 cup and 1/2 cup)
  • 2 medium eggs
  • Approx 1/3 cup water

Method and Steps

  1. Put 1 1/2 cup flour in Cuisinart food processor (w/chopping blade). Lightly beat two eggs.
  2. Pour eggs into Cuisinart. Cover with 1/2 cup additional flour.
  3. Pulse lightly.
  4. Add two tablespoons water and pulse again. The trick now is to get the dough so that it will just stick together into a ball but not be sticky. Repeat ( Step 4). The photo shows that we are not quite there.  It is not clumping.
  5. We are here. This is the magic to the whole process…to get the dough just right. If you add too much water and it gets sticky, just add flour and pulse until it gets to the right consistency.  if the dough is shiny, that is a good indicator of a proper mix (but sometimes it isn’t and it is still ok).
  6. Pour into large mixing bowl and form into a big ball. Then form into fist size balls and flatten to approximately 1/4 inch.
  7. Set up the pasta machine. Clamp firmly to counter. Set to widest width setting (“1” one mine). Start cranking the pasta balls through. Usually on the first setting, I run it through a few times. Then increase the setting (we will go to 5 or 6) and crank through again. If you want to merge the noodles, I do it on setting 5. I like to go to 6, but the dough has to be just right, else I stop at 5.
  8. Now crank it through the pasta side.  I crank it into a large bowl. You can dust it with flour to keep it from sticking.
  9. To cook the pasta, add water to a large pot – large enough to accommodate the pasta. When the water comes to a boil, add the pasta, a tsp salt and a tsp olive oil. Cook until al dente; firm to bite, not soft. The cooking time will vary on the type of pasta.

What did we do to entertain ourselves during hurricanes and snow storms before video games, internet, cell phones and notebooks? Next time you are stranded at home, get creative. And when you get tired of shoveling snow, step back inside to make some pasta.

Boston 2015 Snow Scene - 2 - 2015 02 15 Round 4 012

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