Wednesday, 9 April 2008

How Not to Make Pasta

Today at lunch time I had to go out to the bank. On the way back, I walked past a charity shop and spotted in the window this Imperia pasta machine, unused and in the box, sparkling like brand new.

I had to go in and have a look and when I saw the price, only £5, I just had to buy it. I knew they were expensive, and checked on the internet later to find the Imperia Italian Double Cutter Pasta Machine SP150 retailing for £35 in Amazon. So I was well impressed with this.

I spoke to an Italian friend at work to get the basic recipe, 100 g of flour with 1 egg. She was incredibly jealous of my new purchase, reminiscing that every Italian child made pasta with their grandmother using one of these.

As soon as I got home, I got some flour and tried it out. Mixed together 2 eggs with 200 g flour, and made the dough. Then I had to clamp the machine to the work surface. The only way I could do this was opening a drawer and attaching the clamp inside. This turned out to be a big mistake, as what with all the flour everywhere, the majority of it ended up filling the drawer. When cleaning up the kitchen I had to then empty out all the cutlery and knives from the drawer and wash them all. Not impressed by this.

I then got round to rolling the dough down to make lasagne type sheets - all going ok so far. But I was fast running out of room to put all the sheets. Piles of pasta seemed to be appearing everywhere, along with a dusting of flour on me, the work surface, the floor and anywhere else it could settle in the kitchen!

Finally I got the dough thin enough to run through the tagliatelle cutter, and did this, but with no where to hang the pasta I ended up with a tangled mess of strands all over the work surfaces, on plates, dangling off my arms!

Next thing was to cook it, so I boiled some water, got the best strands separated out and then into the boiling water for a few minutes.

I have to admit the finished result was somewhat disappointing! Tough and chewy. I am not sure if this was attributable to the flour used (the cheapest plain flour - Tesco Value quality), or not rolling enough, or some other mistake, possibly undercooked, or maybe because it was all tangled up in a mess, so did not cook right through.

Anyway, at least I have learnt how not to cook pasta!

These are some things I will consider next time:
  • Space - lots of it!
  • Flour - 00 grade or top quality pasta flour
  • Somewhere to hang the pasta when making it
  • Learn about how to do it before actually starting
  • Read up about the science of pasta and see what is going on (geek!)
Any hints or tips will be welcomed on this! I have some ideas to make some nice ravioli, or maybe lasagne once I get the pasta making off to a tee.

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toontz said...

Keep at will get better! Try and get some semolina flour and mix it with white flour. I have made pasta with white flour, but it works better using the blended flour. Also the more you roll it out and mess with it, the tougher it will become. It is a learning experience, like bread making or anything else. As far as it taking over your kitchen, I do not have a remedy for that. I have a small kitchen and usually end up with pasta on the counters, table, hanging on the back of chairs, etc. See my post:
I used okara instead of an egg and it worked out o.k. Once you get the hang of regular pasta you will be able to experiment with different ingredients easily! Good Luck, and keep us posted with your progress.

ruthEbabes said...

What a great find!!!! I wish I found treats like a pasta machine in the charity shop! Great work making the pasta... even if you did have a few bumps while doing so.

I've tagged you for a meme, hope you don't mind. Check out the details here

Drew Kime said...

I've got a few ideas what might have gone wrong.

1. Start with just one egg like your friend said. It may not look like much, but that's all you're going to need to feed two people and possibly have leftovers.

2. The flour-to-egg ratio is not an exact science. You want to keep adding flour until the pasta is no longer sticky. Getting this right is just going to take practice. (But hey, it's one freaking egg, you can afford to practice.)

3. After running the pasta through on the widest setting, fold it in half and run it back through again. You want to do this at least three or four times, until it's coming out in a smooth sheet. Toontz is right that overworking it can make it tough, but underworking it will make it clumpy and uneven. Again, you'll just need to practice.

4. Get all the sheets rolled out, get the water boiling, and put the pasta into the water as soon as you cut it. Don't hang it to dry first. Unless you're storing it, there's no reason to dry it first. You'll want to work sort of fast, so it's all cooked at about the same time.

5. With fresh pasta, it's a little better to under-cook than to over-cook. Unless you like mushy pasta, then go ahead and cook it as long as you like.

Ben said...

I am looking around to find an inexpensive pasta maker. Maybe ebay? I bet next time your pasta will turn out a lot better.


Ryan said...

Thanks for your comments guys! Some really constructive help there, toontz and drew especially!

I think you are right it will come with practice! I will keep you updated as to how it goes with my next attempt. It won't be till next week at least. I think I am going to get the pasta working right, before I try anything fancy like ravioli or something.

It is only 1 egg and a bit of flour, so not much money wasted if it goes wrong which is good!

Ben - Amazon is not too expensive - they are £35 in the UK compared to about £45 in most shops. There are a few on ebay as well, I had a look to check that mine truly was a bargain at £5 - I don't think you will get one as cheap as me, sorry!

Roopa said...

this is quiet helpful for people like me who just jump to make new recipes without first getting reviews and details of the cooking process:)