Monday, 21 April 2008

How to Make Pasta

I posted a while ago about my lucky find of a bargain £5 pasta making machine in a local charity shop, and how the pasta making turned into something of a disaster. I have been a bit busy since then what with finding a new job, going away at the weekend for a stag party and just generally being too hectic to find time to do some cooking. Today, however, I snuck off work early and had another attempt at making pasta.

A few people gave some good advice and comments on the last attempt, especially Toontz of Okara Mountain, who directed me to his post on making okara pasta, and Drew of How to Cook Like Your Grandmother. I also did a bit of further reading around the subject as well and have attempted to combine all the learnings into this post.

It seems some people recommend using semolina and durum wheat flour, others just use ordinary plain flour. Semonlina and durum wheat flour have different hardness to regular flour due to the higher protein content, and some say this makes a better quality pasta. However, as I am pretty tight and did not want to waste money on expensive flour until getting the technique just right, I opted to use just regular plain white flour (Tesco value in fact).

Another interesting point is why salt is added to the cooking water. It is not only for flavouring the pasta, but actually raises the boiling temperature of the water. When water boils, it will not get any hotter. Adding salt to the water makes the boiling point higher, and the science behind this is described well over at this site. When you add the pasta, the water temperature will drop to probably around 80C or so. If the salt is added, the initial boiling temperature is higher than the normal 100C so, although some temperature will be lost on adding the pasta, it will be hotter.

Another interesting fact I picked up was that the rolling and to some extent the kneading process stretches out and lengthens the gluten molecules in the wheat, helping to improve the texture of the pasta. Too much kneading or rolling though can lead to problems like tough pasta.

After last times disaster of laying out the pasta and ending up with a rather tangled mess, I instead just cooked it straight away, although this was a lot easier since I only made enough for one today. I also did all the mixing of the flour and egg in a bowl, many places recommend putting the flour in a pile, pouring the egg into a well in the middle, and then mixing into a doughy ball but I thought this was going to end up far too messy.

Some of the pictures are not great unfortunately, but I was doing this single handedly and had no assistance in the form of a camera person! The good news is that it did work really well and I ended up with some great tagliatelle.

Ingredients (per person)
  • 1 egg
  • 100 g flour
  • Pinch salt

Beat the egg and salt together, then gradually mix in the flour. I added half initially, then kept adding a bit more until the consistency looked right and the pasta dough is no longer sticky. This is a sort of experimental process, and if you add to much flour and it becomes too dry and a few drops of water to get it back on track.

I used a fork to mix the flour and egg together, but a spoon or hands would work just as well.

Now I had a ball of dough, I put it onto a floured surface and kneaded for about 2 minutes.

And then it was run through the pasta machine on the widest setting.

This was the result of the first run through...

As you can see it is a bit holey and not at all smooth. This sheet was then folded in half and put back through the machine 6 times in total. I floured the pasta in between to stop it sticking to the surfaces and the machine itself.

The above picture is the pasta after being run through the machine 6 times. Now it looks nice and smooth and free of holes and lumps.

Next the roller width was reduced, one step at a time, running it through each setting once only. The pasta gets longer and thinner with each run through. I went down to the second finest setting as I wanted to make tagliatelle. Any thinner, and the result is rather soggy pasta.

The last step in the process is to run the pasta through the cutter.

Finally, the tagliatelle was put straight into boiling salted water and cooked for 6 minutes.

I served it up with some melted butter, chopped garlic and some herbs from the garden. This was just so that I could get a really good idea of what the pasta tastes like. The result was really good actually, and in total from start to eating took 40 minutes.

My next pasta will I think be some sort of ravioli or filled pasta. I am a bit put off the idea of making lasagne as the sheets would need to be pre-boiled before going into the oven dish and I can imagine this being a rather labour intensive (and messy) task.

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Drew Kime said...

No, you don't have ot cook the lasagna noodles first. That's one of the great advantages of making your own. Once you've had a little practice, you can make the noodles almost as fast as boiling the pre-made ones. See here and here for a couple of examples.

toontz said...

O.k., Ryan, first things first..I am a "hers" not a "his"

as in "A few people gave some good advice and comments on the last attempt, especially Toontz of Okara Mountain, who directed me to his post " lol

Now that I have gotten THAT out of the way -
Congrats on your pasta, it looks great! Mine is never that uniform on the edges!

Ditto on what Drew said-just use your lasagna noodles as is-place them right in your dish and bake. It will taste unbelievable with fresh pasta!

Ruth Elkin said...

What a great second attempt! It can only get better and better, right?

Roopa said...

That was really good step by step pics of pasta making. Can we do without the machine?

Drew Kime said...

You can do it without the machine, but it takes a ton of practice.

Edamame said...

There is pasta called "udon" in Japan. I am interested in the pasta which you made and the food culture of your country. And I support your site. If there is time, please come in my site.
From Japan