Making Fresh Pasta at Home

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Sixteen years ago I designed a cooking school for kids with my then, 6 and 8-year-old daughters. They named it: Kids Culinary Adventures- where math, reading, science and art mix with kids. Although I’ve retired from teaching hands-on to children- and both my kids grew up and onto college. I do continue to food coach parents on picky eaters, on how to shop, and eat healthier.

Several classes at Kids Culinary Adventures were popular, many really stood out and we would need to continually teach them. The class I will be sharing with you today was always a success. It was called,”Have You Lost Your Noodle?”. KCA was popular for anchoring academic through the medium of cooking. This class was no expectation. Have you lost your noodle, was a vehicle to teach at home pasta making and an opportunity to discuss the beautiful history and geography of the noodle. As you might imagine it was a wonderful social studies course as a whole.

As the founder of KCA, my family and I have designed well over 400 culinary classes throughout the years. All  of those classes have been taught in our San Francisco, Bay Area location. Have you lost your Noodle, was no exception. The funny part was – THIS  was the class all the parents wanted to take. The demand was so high– we eventually designed an adult class that would also guide families away from fast, additive free, highly processed and pre- prepared foods. We named this class:”Cook Outside the Box”. Parents were learning how to and cook fresh– and, in as little time as possible.

Making pasta from scratch only seems like a huge undertaking. I’m here to tell you–making fresh homemade pasta can be done in under 30 minutes of hands on attention! (with the exception of the dough’s rest period.) It’s likely you will be spending more time reading about  pasta making— than you will be actually engaged hands-on.


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Before you approach the recipe– here are a few things I’d like to chat about before sending you off with a basic pasta dough recipe— here they are:

About the Flour :

The names, Doppio Zero ( double zero), 00 and 0 flour refer to specifically Italian milled flours used for pasta making.

The Italian grading system is used in many pasta making recipes—and is as follows: 2, 1, 0 or 00. These symbols indicate to how finely the flour is ground, and how much of the bran and germ has been removed in the process. American flour, on the other hand is graded by both– color included:  white, brown, whole meal and by gluten content, or strength. We read names such as:  all purpose, strong, extra strong or similar grammar. The basic rule rule of thumb among cooks is the stronger the flour, the better the bread. The less dense the flour is, the better the cake or pasta. All else being equal, stronger flour is good for stronger bread type textured items. We avoid these characteristics in our cakes and pastas.

If you are looking to make a better pasta, start with a finer flour– all purpose will work too, but 00 flour has been refined more so than the standard all purpose flour or bread flour– which is  higher in protein, and could result in your pasta tough to the bite and chewy.

The bottom line is : All this doesn’t refer to the flours ingredients, as much as it refers to how finely the flour has been ground down. Doppio- zero is great to work with — especially making pasta by hand. It is super-fine, like talcum-powder. Because it is so fine, the whole mixing, folding, rolling process is much easier, and result in a perfect textured product. Italian Grade 00 is a soft flour with around just 9% protein and best for cakes. I use it for pasta too.

Lower gluten = soft flour = cake, pasta, items soft and billowy baked goods
High gluten = hard flour = breads or yeasted items that expand with heat need to withstand the rise of the yeast without blowing the top off the loaves.

Variations: Some cooks like to add fresh chopped herbs. Fresh garlic, or powdered spices to the recipe before mixing and kneading — just make up for the variance of water content if there is one. Some people like to add liquified spinach, or other delicious vegetables. Experiment. The dough will tell you what it needs— by how sticky or dry it is. Listen to it. Start with a basic dough recipe below and gradually begin to add to your repertoire each time you make a new batch. Learn the basics first.

Making dough on a raining day is not for first time learners. The flour will absorb the moisture from the humid atmosphere and make things… well, a sticky situation. Making dough on these days become a bit more time-consuming, among other things. Stick to drier temperatures until you really have the pasta making method down.

Note of Filled Dough: Pasta can be filled with just about anything. The most important thing to remember is: How the dough is cooked and filled. Over-filled or under-fill can ruin your day. If you over-fill the dough, you risk the ravioli or the tortellini popping in the cooking liquid. If you under-fill the dough, you risk the mouth-feel at serving time will be just chewy gob of tasteless dough.

Chefs Secrets:
Adding any type of oil to the water is a no-no — this will stop the pasta from its absorption rate, and the sauce will run off of it instead of adhering the finished product.

Always add a touch of the pasta’s cooking liquid to the sauce. The starch in the water will combine with your other ingredients and become sticky insurance— the results will be a better marriage between your pasta and your sauce.

If making any type of creamy egg-based pan sauce; always add the sauce while the pasta pan is completely off the flame. This reduces your risk of scrambling the eggs in the recipe and instead will result in a beautiful decadent base to blanket your glorious work.

Always cook pasta in boiling salted water.


Basic Pasta Recipe

Ingredients:

3 large egg yolks, room temperature
1 Tablespoon good quality olive oil
Pinch of salt
2 cups of low protein flour, such as Italian grade Doppio-Zero flour or American grade AP or cake flour, sifted.

Method:

Whisk eggs and oil in a medium bowl or if you don’t want any clean up in a large plastic food storage bag– but begin on the table if you want the authentic feel. Combine with your finger, the salt and 2 cups flour in a large bowl. Make a well in the center of the flour, and pour the egg mixture into well.

Gradually incorporate flour mixture into egg mixture with a fork or your fingers– (shaped in a claw ) mix until a shaggy type dough forms.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until it comes together as a smooth ball. About 5-8 minutes. If the dough is sticky, dust lightly with additional flour as needed. The dough will become family stiff because the protein in the dough is developing gluten strands. These strands are like rubber bands. If the dough becomes too difficult to knead cover it and give it a five-minute rest. This will relax the gluten strands and allow you to get back to work.

Once a smooth ball has been formed from your kneading efforts, shape the ball into a 1/2 inch disk. Wrap in plastic or in a gallon sized food storage bag. Allow to rest until the dough holds an indentation when pressed with your finger, minimum 30 minutes but up to 1–2 hours is fine.


When you are ready to roll—literally

Set a pasta maker to thickest setting. (If you do not have a pasta maker, skip this step and proceed to my notes below). Dust dough lightly with flour and divide into 4 pieces. Working with a single piece at a time and keeping remaining dough wrapped in plastic.

Flatten dough into a narrow rectangle no wider than mouth of machine and pass through the rollers on the highest setting. Alternatively, flatten the dough with a rolling pin.

Fold the outer most edges in from each side overlapping one another, then rotate the whole piece 90 degrees. Run through the rollers again and then repeat without folding or rotating , adjusting the machine to a thinner setting after each pass. Dust lightly with flour if the dough becomes sticky at any point. Continue until the pasta sheet is 1/16” thick— and you can almost see your hand through it, like a fine set of silky sheers, as in,“window treatment”. Usually about an #8 on the dial of most pasta making machines.

Place your newly formed sheets of pasta sheets on a lightly floured surface to dry. Or hang on a clean clothing hanger, covered with a clean lint free dishcloth. The dough can be rolled out into sheets 4 hours ahead. Stack on a baking sheet between pieces of parchment paper; covered. Cut into any shape or form.

Rolling the Dough by Hand
If you don’t have a machine, don’t worry. Use a rolling pin and your body weight to press the pasta as thin as possible. Just like described above—you need to build the pasta in layers, folding it back over itself, and flattening again and again, about 4-6 folds. You will know when its ready when it is very smooth to your sight and touch; and you can roll it out thin enough to see your hand on the other side of the sheet. This method will take a bit longer, but is very achievable. Now cut and shape the dough with a knife or a pizza fough cutter If you’re not making filled pasta. Or you can purchase a Eppicotispai “Chitarra” Pasta Cutter with 32cm/12.5-Inch Rolling Pin

Note: Below is a link to one of the best homemade pasta making website I think I’ve ever seen. Because I am not standing next to you and teaching you hands-on, take a good look at this website. If I was going to design a pasta making photo montage, this is exactly how it would look– scroll all the way through for the best benefit.

 Serious Eats Makes Pasta.

 

 

Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Fried Sage and a Chestnut Cream. Oh yeah! 

‘Tis the season! Old world Gnocchi made from sweet potatoes, paired with the crunchness of fried chestnut and sage. Delicious. I’ve also bumped up the flavor profile by serving it in a pool of brown butter chestnut cream sauce made with wholesome nut milk — this recipe is heartwarming belly satisfying! 
A bit of work, but worth all the flavor! 


Ingredients:

1 1/4 pounds russet baking potatoes

1 pound sweet potato

1 large egg

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon cloves

1/2 teaspoon ground sage

1/2 cup fine grated Parmigiano – Reggiano cheese, plus more for serving!

1 1/2 -2 cups of all purpose flour or gluten free flour

1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1 cup sage leaves, fried.  (see method below)

Method:

Preheat your oven to 450° with the rack in the center of the oven pierce the potatoes in several places with a fork. Bake on a rimmed baking sheet until tender about 60 minutes or until a knife slides through. Remove and set-aside to cool.

 
Prepare your baking sheet with either a sheet of parchment or silicon baking mat. Once potatoes are cool, peel and run through a ricer back into the prepare the  baking sheet and spread out evenly and allow to throughly cool.

 

While potatoes are cooling, lightly flour 2 to 3 large baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Set aside.

 

In a small bowl, beat together the egg nutmeg, cloves, ground sage, salt and pepper.

 

Gather the cooled potatoes in a mound on the baking sheet and form a volcanic with a large well in the center.

 

Pour the beaten egg mixture into the well. With your hands, knead the mixture into the potatoes until combine. Add the cheese and 1 1/2 cups of flour continue to knead adding more flour as necessary until the mixture forms a smooth but slightly sticky dough ball.

 

Dust the top of the ball  with additional flour and cut into six wedges. Like a pizza.

 

Form each wedge of the dough into a 1/2 inch thick rope; on a lightly floured surface. Cut each rope into half inch pieces. Gently roll each piece into a cylinder type ball and lightly dust with more flour. Set cylinder balls aside in the flour on the baking sheet and repeat with all the remaining dough.

Once all the little cylindrical shapes are complete, turn a fork over– and hold it at a 45° angle with the tips of the tins touching the worksurface. Work with one cylinder ball at a time, and roll it down the tims of the fork pressing with your thumb to make the ridges on one side to form a Gnocchi.

 
Transfer back to the floured baking sheets till you have completed the same action with all the dough. Clean up and fry the sage leaves,  and make sauce. See recipes below.

 

Fill an 8 to 12 cup large stock pot with water and 2 tablespoons of salt. Bring to roaring boil. Add gnocchi in batches and cook until they float to the surface. About three minutes per batch. Remove with a slotted spoon straight into the sauce pan and cover.

Transfer sauced gnocchi to a large serving bowl and top with  additional finally grated Parmesan cheese, top with fried sage and chestnuts. Squeeze an additional swirl of chestnut, sage oil on the putter rim of the bowl before serving.

Enjoy!

Fried Sage Leaves  

Ingredients:

1 cup very dry whole sage leaves, removed from stems

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
Method:

In a 10 inch heavy skillet over medium heat- heat oil until it shimmers.
Fry sage leaves in 3-4 batches stirring until they turn one shade lighter and crisp up only about 30 seconds per batch. Quickly remove from oil as soon as color changes and drain on a paper towel.
Season with salt. Set aside. Save pan and oil to fry chestnuts and make sauce.



Chestnut Cream Sauce 

Ingredients:

1/3 cup olive oil

2 Tablespoons butter
2 Tablespoons flour or GF flour

1 cup good quality chicken stock, warmed

1/2 cup nut milk, warmed

1 clove garlic, smashed

1/3 cup bottled seasonal roasted chestnuts, very thinly sliced with a garlic slicer or vegetable peeler

Pinch of nutmeg

Pinch brown sugar

Kosher Salt and fresh ground pepper for seasoning

Method:

Using the same pan as the fried sage leaves, heat the additional oil with what is ever left over. Add the smashed clove of garlic, heat until shimmering. Remove the garlic clove once it it is cooked golden brown, and discard.
Add the sliced chestnut slices (patting dry with a paper towel before adding to the hot oil.) Again, working quickly in batches and careful not to get splattered. Chestnuts contain a large content of water, which will splatter when they come in contact with oil.
Fry chestnuts in three batches stirring until crisp and golden, about 20-30 seconds per batch. Remove with a slotted spoon and transfer to papertowel to drain. Lightly seasoned with salt.
Cool the oil and strain. Save for additional purposes- this oil will be fragrant and very flavorful. Use to top off soups oruse in a salad dressing, or garnish your gnocchi plate!
Once oil is strained, and discarded from the pan- wipe the pan out with a paper towel. Add butter and flour. On low heat cook butter until
It is turning brown and  nutty, add flour  and whisk together to make a Roux. (This will help thicken your sauce) once the butter and flour combination has been cooked for about 1 minute and has formed a paste like consistency -remove from heat.  While wisking constantly, add the warm stock,  and nut milk. Whisk to remove  any lumps that might form. Sprinkle in a tablespoon of cooked chestnuts.
Return to heat and thicken sauce until the sauce coats the back of a spoon. Adjust consistency with additional liquid if needed.
Season with spices, brown sugar and pepper. Set aside. Use sauce to coat cooked Gnocchi.

Mac and Cheese surprise

All kids love macaroni and cheese. Well, not just kids… let’s be honest. Cheese and noodle casseroles started appearing in medieval cookbooks – so yeah, you’re not alone in a love for this wonderful dish. Even Thomas Jefferson was a fan, serving “macaroni pie” at a state dinner in 1802. The recipe by today’s moniker appeared in 1824.

But it doesn’t need to be a completely unhealthy meal. With this Food and Wine recipe there’s some good news: mixing carrot puree with the cheddar cheese creates a wonderful source of vitamin A while reducing the amount of fat in the recipe. And, it’s still tasty.

 

Ingredients

3/4 pound carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
Zest and juice of 1 navel orange, zest removed in strips with a vegetable peeler
Salt
3 cups penne rigate (9 ounces)
3 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, shredded (1 1/2 cups)
1 Tbsp. chopped tarragon
Freshly ground white pepper

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a medium saucepan, combine the carrots with the zest and juice and 1/4 cup of water. Season with salt and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer over moderate heat until the carrots are very soft, about 30 minutes. Discard the zest. Transfer the carrots and any liquid to a blender and puree until very smooth.
  2. Meanwhile, in a large saucepan of boiling salted water, cook the pasta until al dente. Drain the pasta, reserving 1 cup of the cooking water.
  3. Return the pasta to the pot. Add the reserved water and the carrot puree and cook over moderate heat, stirring frequently, until the pasta is coated with a thickened sauce, about 5 minutes. Stir in three-fourths of the cheese and cook, stirring, until very creamy, 2 to 3 minutes longer. Stir in the tarragon and season with salt and white pepper.
  4. Transfer the pasta to a medium baking dish and top with the remaining cheese. Bake until the cheese is melted and lightly browned, about 20 minutes. Let stand for 5 minutes before serving.

Pasta Rocket

You’re not launching food and starting a food fight. Nor are we advocating making food that will skyrocket the most-likely already energetic nature of your little one. This week we’re focused on arugula, which is also called rocket – no joke!

Names of leafy greens don’t get more kid friendly than rocket. Given the recent heat wave, we’re using this leaf green in a simple pasta dish. Adding a bit of rocket to the menu means an extra burst of vitamin C and potassium.

Plus, who wants to be in a hot kitchen for longer than necessary?

You’ll need to bring a large pot of salted water to boil then cook 8 ounces of penne pasta. You can substitute whole wheat for a healthier alternative.

While it’s cooking, crumble 5 ½ ounces of goat cheese into a large serving bowl. Add 2 cups of coarsely chopped arugula. It’s OK to use the stems. Arugula has a rich, peppery taste that isn’t as strong when mixed with olive oil. You’ll also want to add 1 cup of quartered cherry tomatoes, ¼ cup olive oil, 2 teaspoons of minced garlic, and a ½ teaspoon of each salt and pepper to the bowl.

Lastly, drain the pasta and toss it in the mixture.

Voila!

You have a nice, delicious, quick and family friendly dish to serve for dinner. It could also be a nice pasta salad for tomorrow’s lunch.

That little leafy plant giving a spot of green and a hint of peppery to the pasta traveled a far ways before ending up in your dinner bowl. Arugula has been grown in the Mediterranean area since Roman times and is often considered an aphrodisiac – although those properties are believed to have diminished over time. Now arugula’s added for the flavor and vitamin elements.

Arugula was collected in the wild until the 1990s when large-scale cultivation began. Today it’s grown in many places, specifically Veneto, Italy, but is available worldwide.

Cultures use the spicy veggie in different ways.

Many people simply add it to salads or use it instead of lettuce. Northern Italy uses arugula in pasta while those in Slovenia add it to cheese. There’s one island that creates an alcohol that aides in digestion from the plant. Arugula is part of a breakfast menu in Egypt, where they also pair it with seafood.