Making Fresh Pasta

Thomas Keller knows good food.  He may not be Italian but his recipe for fresh pasta in the The French Laundry cookbook is spot on.  I know this because at my very first attempt of making fresh pasta on my own, I quadrupled the recipe, made 4lbs of dough, and served over 20 people. Pasta making is not as hard as I thought it would be. The only thing that is require besides quality ingredients, is a good amount of space to work in. To get started, you will first need to make the pasta dough.

Ingredients: (yields 14 oz of dough, just under a 1lb)

  • 1 3/4 cups (8 ounces) all-purpose flour
  • 6 large egg yolks
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon milk

Directions by hand:  (for incredible easy directions in a mixer or food processor with a dough hook, scroll down to Incredible Easy Directions)

Mound the flour on a board or other surface and create a well in the center, pushing the flour to all sides to make a ring with sides about 1 inch wide. Make sure that the well is wide enough to hold all the eggs without spilling.

Pour the egg yolks, egg, oil, and milk into the well. Use your fingers to break the eggs up. Still using your fingers, begin turning the eggs in a circular motion, keeping them within the well and not allowing them to spill over the sides. This circular motion allows the eggs to gradually pull in flour from the sides of the well; it is important that the flour not be incorporated too rapidly, or your dough will be lumpy. Keep moving the eggs while slowly incorporating the flour. Using a pastry scraper, occasionally push the flour toward the eggs; the flour should be moved only enough to maintain the gradual incorporation of the flour, and the eggs should continue to be contained within the well. The mixture will thicken and eventually get too tight to keep turning with your fingers.

When the dough begins thickening and starts lifting itself from the board, begin incorporating the remaining flour with the pastry scraper by lifting the flour up and over the dough that’s beginning to form and cutting it into the dough. When the remaining flour from the sides of the well has been cut into the dough, the dough will still look shaggy. Bring the dough together with the palms of your hands and form it into a ball. It will look flaky but will hold together.

Knead the dough by pressing it, bit by bit, in a forward motion with the heels of your hands rather than folding it over on itself as you would with a bread dough. Re-form the dough into a ball and repeat the process several times. The dough should feel moist but not sticky. Let the dough rest for a few minutes while you clean the work surface.

Dust the clean work surface with a little flour. Knead the dough by pushing against it in a forward motion with the heels of your hands. Form the dough into a ball again and knead it again. Keep kneading in this forward motion until the dough becomes silky-smooth. The dough is ready when you can pull your finger through it and the dough wants to snap back into place. The kneading process can take anywhere from 10 to 15 minutes. Even if you think you are finished kneading, knead it for an extra ten minutes; you cannot overknead this dough. It is important to work the dough long enough to pass the pull test; otherwise, when it rests, it will collapse.

Double-wrap the dough in plastic wrap to ensure that it does not dry out. Let the dough rest for at least 30 minutes and up to 1 hour before rolling it through a pasta machine. The dough can be made a day ahead, wrapped and refrigerated; bring to room temperature before proceeding.

Incredible Easy Directions:

Using the paddle attachment, sift flour into the mixer, add egg and egg yolks, salt, milk and olive oil.  Mix until dough forms.  Swap out the paddle attachment for the dough hook, and knead in the mixer for 10 minutes. Check your pasta with the Window Pane method. The Window Pane method,  requires taking a small piece of dough and stretching it out, if the dough threads are clear and smooth then your pasta is done, if it is clumpy, continue to knead.

Double-wrap the dough in plastic wrap to ensure that it does not dry out. Let the dough rest for at least 30 minutes and up to 1 hour before rolling it through a pasta machine. The dough can be made a day ahead, wrapped and refrigerated; bring to room temperature before proceeding.

Rolling out pasta dough:

Unwrap the dough or the first portion of the dough from the plastic wrap.  If you made 4lbs like I did, then this will be done in sections.  If you made the exact recipe above, then you can do this in one fell swoop or insections you feel comfortable with. Anchor your pasta machine to the table and get whatever cutting attachment you would like to use.  In my case, I cut fettuccine. If you are using a powered kitchen mixer, you may have an automatic attachment you can use. On a well floured surface punch the dough down to roughly 1/2 inch thick.

Begin passing the dough through the roller at the widest setting.  Once passed through fold the dough in half and pass it again.  You should do this a few times, cranking down the setting to make the pasta thinner and thinner.

Here is a video from No Recipe Required to give you a better idea of what you should be doing: 

After you are finished thinning the dough to your liking, switch the attachments to cut the pasta.  I slid on the fettuccine  attachment. Using well floured, 1 foot segments of the rolled pasta dough, pass through the cutting roller.  Lay cut pasta on a parchment covered sheet tray to dry naturally or prepare boiling water to cook pasta right away.

It is good to note a few things while making pasta:

  1. Always flour your surfaces and the surface of the dough, this will prevent sticking and breaking.
  2. Make sure your cut pasta does not overlap each other, the pasta will stick together.
  3. Stick to the recipe measurements, this will ensure the right consistency.
  4. If you are not ready to roll pasta right away, wrap it tightly and store in the fridge for no longer than 2 days.  When you are ready to roll it out, let it reach room temp.

Have fun and I hope you enjoy! xo-G

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Japanese Lasagna… say what?

For years I’ve been cooking for one.  Ok fine, depending on relationship status, sometimes two.  But still, there are not many things I like to cook that don’t come with a good amount of leftovers.  I also am a self-proclaimed hater of leftovers, I don’t know why really.  I think my main argument against leftovers is that I’m not really tempted by eating or reheating food I just had within the last 24 hours.  It’s a good thing I have an office full of people who like and want to eat my food; it doesn’t make me feel as wasteful.   I can only think of a few leftover foods I will eat; thanksgiving dinner- no brainer, cold pizza always,  steak, heavy on the A1 in a baguette, and lasagna.  These dishes get even better with a night in the ice box, I think. 

In an effort to waste less, spend less and eat healthier, I tried to think up a few new ways to cook more individualized meals.  You see, now that I am back on my 7am to 7pm schedule, the absolute last thing I want to do when I finally get home at 7:30pm is continue to cook dinner for myself, so I must start to get along with leftovers.

My inspiration actually came from baking cupcakes a few weekends ago.  I started thinking about savory cupcake dishes, there’s gotta be more to this 12 slot pan than just baked goods?  [Lightbulb],  Lasagna!   With a few swipes on my iPad, I quickly discovered that this was not a new idea, shocker… Apparently it was quite popular to make individual lasagna’s in a cupcake tin. Nonetheless, this great idea, whomever’s it was,  would still be a fun project to take on, and fulfill my purpose of cooking on a smaller scale, eating well, and saving me time and energy.

By no means is this a culinary breakthrough, or what I am being taught in school, this is a simple, new package design, on an American favorite.  I am cooking and tasting so extravagantly in school most of the time that offal, veal, or fish are not what I want when I am hungry at the end of the day, nor would most.

After gathering some pointers from others who have done this, I decided to take a stab at it with ingredients I like in my lasagna.

Looks good right?

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