My husband managed to pull one over on me this Christmas. I am exceedingly hard to surprise, but he did it! I asked for a Fitbit for Christmas, but instead he got me a pasta maker. Really that’s the anti-Fitbit isn’t it?
Now, full disclosure before I go any further, in our home it is a good thing to give kitchen gadgets as Christmas gifts. Some people feel that a slow cooker or a food processor is the absolute worst gift, but we tend to not buy appliances, technology, and whatnot throughout the year unless absolutely necessary and as such, they end up appearing at Christmas instead. The fact that I was given a new crockpot from my mother and a pasta maker from my husband is actually quite exciting to me.
I’ve been fairly low key about this until now, but I was fortunate enough to travel to Italy last fall for work and added a few vacation days on the side. There are not enough ways to communicate the gratitude that I have for such an opportunity, but I am thankful.
After a week in Rome I came back pretty much ruined for coffee and pasta. Oh my, so unbelievably good. The cappuccinos were like nothing I have ever had, just no. I am in mourning, I ignored coffee at work for a week once I got home because it was just too sad. The pasta was also delicious, fresh pasta, fresh, simple ingredients. For the win, every time.
I asked for a pasta cookbook for Christmas, I figured that there was no way I was going to shell out big money for a fancy espresso machine but I very likely could get the swing of fresh pasta in my kitchen. My husband, knowing full well that this was a gift request that would be beneficial to him and the kids as well, came through for me and I also now have a lovely book of artisanal pasta recipes that I will be trying over the next while. Stay tuned on that front. Thinking that the pasta request had been met, I was completely surprised by the made in Italy, Marcato Atlas Wellness 150 pasta maker. Not a gimmicky, likely not to work maker, but an “if I had a Nona, and she had a pasta maker it’s be this one” maker. Hubby did his research. I’m not certain how Wellness and pasta go together, but if it’s on the box it must be true?
Now the absolute best thing about this pasta maker, besides making pasta in that the instructions explicitly say that you do not wash it. No water, ever. Make your dough, run the pasta through it, brush away the excess, store until next use. I love kitchen gadgets but I hate high maintenance ones. Had I know this little secret I might have asked for one a long time ago.
There is a lot of information out there about making homemade pasta, which flours to use, what technique, etc. I’m sure that I will have a steep learning curve as I go, but to get started I figured I would go the idiot proof as possible route and refer to my Better Homes and Garden’s cookbook. I actually have 2 editions of this book, the first was a wedding gift and the second I purchased about ten years later. If you were only to own a single cookbook this would be the one, it has everything. I don’t even know if they still print them, my mom had one when I was growing up-that she still has. The recipes change a little each edition to reflect what’s popular, but seriously it was the basis of all of my cooking knowledge and it’s my go to when I’m short on creativity and need something dependable.
The basic recipe for beginner pasta dough (mixed in a food processor):
2 1/3 cups of all purpose flour
1 tsp basil
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp oil
1/3 cup water
Place the flour, eggs, basil, and salt in the food processor with the metal blade attachment. Process the mixture until it resembles fine crumbs similar to cornmeal. Add the oil and water through the top while blending and stop once the ingredients form a dough ball.
Place the ball on a lightly floured surface, cover it, and let it sit for ten minutes. You may need to add more flour if the dough is sticky, a tiny bit of water if it is too dry.
After ten minutes cut the ball into quarters and feed a section through the pasta maker adding a light dusting of flour if necessary. Start at the largest setting and gradually decrease thickness by increments until you reach the desired thickness. I wanted to make fettuccine and the cookbook recommend the “5” setting so I decreased it until I got to that thickness and then ran the sheet through the pasta cutter on the back of the machine. You have to use something long and straight to catch the noodles coming out of the back so they stay separate. I don’t have a pasta dryer, but made do very well with chopsticks, hanging them across cabinet knobs. Necessity is the mother of invention right?
If you don’t have a pasta maker you could absolutely use a rolling pin and roll the dough out before cutting it by hand (roll thin, non-sticky dough into a roll and slice it). Noodles will keep in the fridge for a number of days if you can’t cook them right away, otherwise boil them for 2.5 to 3 minutes, drain and serve.
The first time I made these I used only butter and Parmesan cheese as a topping. Delicious. The second time I rolled the noodles out, but instead of cutting them I prepared them as lasagna noodles. Discerning family members declared it to be the best lasagna they had ever eaten.
The third time around I made the fettuccine noodles. In a pan I heated a bit of olive oil, then I quickly sauteed some garlic and about four or five thinly sliced roasted red peppers that you buy in a giant jar at Costco for $5.99. Once heated I tossed it with the noodles and them let people add Parmesan to their preference as the table. They hoovered it up pretty quickly.
So there you have it, my beginners guide to homemade pasta.
Pretty sure I’m going to need that Fitbit sooner than later.