I made my own pasta this week, something I haven’t done in a long time.
My sister and I have gotten together occasionally to make fettuccine or ravioli, and we’ve made pasta with our mom. When we were younger, we’d sometimes be part of our grandmother’s and mother’s cappelletti-making session…where Grandma would allow a coffee break, and then back to work!
Cappelletti are like tortellini, but, where my grandmother and mother are from in Italy, they’re called cappelletti, little hats.
I grew up in a family where the women make pasta. Certainly for holidays and large family gatherings, and sometimes just because.
I was talking with a friend at work recently who’s on the verge of giving it a go herself. She has a beautiful book on making artisanal pastas, and is looking forward to a free day where she can play with it at her leisure. Soon after our conversation, I bought homemade ravioli at the farmers market. Stuffed with an asparagus-cheese filling, it was very good.
And I began thinking maybe it was time for me to get back to this pasta-making thing. The ingredients are basic. I have the pasta machine.
So I pulled out flour, salt, and two eggs. I attached my pasta machine to the counter, draped a clean dish towel on the table. And I made fettuccine.
Proportions and directions abound on making pasta, so I’ll just do a recap here. I used two cups of flour, to which I’d added some salt. I shaped it into a well on my counter, and broke two eggs into that well. I used a fork to scramble them, and to begin pulling the flour in from around the edges until I could form the dough into a ball. At which time I used my hands to knead the dough for about ten minutes, using some of the remaining flour to dust the counter so the dough wouldn’t stick.
After ten minutes, when the dough was elastic and smoother, I shaped it into a ball and let it rest for about 30 minutes, wrapped in plastic wrap. Which gave me time to put on a pot of water to boil, and also to sauté, separately, collard greens and sugar snap peas (it’s farmers market time) for side dishes.
Back to my dough. I cut it in half, keeping one half under the plastic wrap, to keep it from drying out. I flattened the first half enough to fit into the widest setting of my machine, rolled it through three times, and then continued doing that through all the settings of the machine, from thickest to thinnest, putting the dough through two or three times, dusting with flour as needed. If it’s too sticky or you’re putting it through a setting it’s still too thick for, it may tear, or it may gather and kind of ribbon. I know this, because I experienced this! And when the sheet got too long, I took a knife, cut it in half, and kept going.
I know it’s as thin as I like it when I can hold my hand under it, and make out the shape of my hand through the dough.
As each sheet was complete, I draped it on the dish towel, and repeated all the above with the second half of the dough ball.
At this point, the sheets could be cut for lasagna, or they could be rolled up, and, by hand, cut into fettuccine or linguine. But since I have an attachment for my machine that cuts fettuccine, I used that. As each sheet of pasta I ran through became a nest of fettuccine, I transferred that nest to the dish towel, tossing with some flour to keep them from sticking, while I finished the rest.
When they were all done, I tossed them into the boiling water. They only take a few minutes. I heated up extra virgin olive in a pan with minced garlic, to which I added the fettuccine, adding more oil to coat, and salt and pepper to taste. Then slid that onto a serving plate, and sprinkled with grated cheese.
Cooking, in general, is a hands-on thing, and making pasta, I think, even more so. You are literally using your hands to shape something, and also to feel the dough, to read it. Is it sticky? Is it elastic? Is it too dry? Too wet?
And because of that, it was particularly satisfying to sit down to dinner and have fettuccine I’d made just minutes before.
And to be one of the women in my family who makes pasta.