Most of you might think that all this cooking and photography stuff is my full-time job. Well, it’s not. I have been blogging for just over a year and showcasing my pics @thegardenofeatin on instagram. My real job is in the public sector. I work for one of the most “honest politicians” in the universe and his name is Alan. Our team looks after one of the largest constituencies in the municipality. After working together for the past 11 years we have really become good friends. Alan and his wife Francine have traveled to so many wonderful spots in the world. One in particular was Tuscany, Italy. A dream of mine to visit.
He is a wine connoisseur while I’m…… well…..a juice and water kinda gal. Yep, that’s right. It drives him insane that I only like wine with as much sugar as grape juice. We may have different tastes in booze but one thing we both have in common is our love of fabulous food. How cute are those “eat local” plates above? That’s another thing about this boss of mine – he is very much an advocate of supporting local farmers and buying organic produce.
For his birthday this year, his family gave him a marcato pasta maker. Apparently, he has always wanted one. When he mentioned that he received this as a gift I was super excited to see what he could do with this gizmo. One Sunday, I found him aimlessly walking through a local bulk food store seeking out just the right blends of flour for his new adventure in pasta making. The next day, he came into the office and told me that he made one of the best meals he has ever had in his life. It consisted of his homemade PASTA.
Ding, Ding! This was a perfect opportunity to book a photo shoot to watch my boss roll in dough. We scheduled a date, his wife invited us to stay for dinner and this is what transpired…..
But before I go on, I must tell you that Francine is both an amazing cook and entertainer. She has one of the most awesome collections of dishes, serving pieces, knicks, knacks and stacks of chachkas/stuff that I’ve ever seen. One line in particular that she is partial to is MacKenzie-Childs. Check out all the checkers and florals! I LOVE!
The recipe that Alan used for his fresh pasta is a classic Jamie Oliver one which seemed very easy peasy to me. His wife threw together all the sides and fixins. Menu: Bruschetta, Guacamole, Fresh Buffalo Mozzarella and tomato salad, asparagus (which were as tall as trees!) She also made a simple fresh tomato sauce which was light and spiced to perfection. I was elected to sit on the dessert committee and ended up bringing two desserts. I’m saving the details of my dessert disaster (and success)for the next blog. Stay tuned. It’s a doozie.
This is not a quick process but if you’re a pasta aficionado and want to give this a whirl, it’s a heck of a lot of fun. My boss seemed to be enjoying this so much I have a fear of him dumping his political hat and opening up his own pasta bar. I think it may be his next career because clearly this guy is one smart noodle.
Ready to get our pasta on? Let’s go.
- 600 gms tipo "00" flour
- 6 large eggs
- Try to get hold of Tipo '00' flour – this is a very finely sieved flour, which is normally used for making egg pasta or cakes. In Italy it's called farina di grano tenero, which means 'tender' or 'soft' flour.
- Place the flour on a board or in a bowl. Make a well in the centre and crack the eggs into it. Beat the eggs with a fork until smooth. Using the tips of your fingers, mix the eggs with the flour, incorporating a little at a time, until everything is combined. Knead the pieces of dough together – with a bit of work and some love and attention they'll all bind together to give you one big, smooth lump of dough!
- You can also make your dough in a food processor if you've got one. Just bung everything in, whiz until the flour looks like breadcrumbs, then tip the mixture on to your work surface and bring the dough together into one lump, using your hands.
- Once you've made your dough you need to knead and work it with your hands to develop the gluten in the flour, otherwise your pasta will be flabby and soft when you cook it, instead of springy and al dente.
- There's no secret to kneading. You just have to bash the dough about a bit with your hands, squashing it into the table, reshaping it, pulling it, stretching it, squashing it again. It's quite hard work. You'll know when to stop – it's when your pasta starts to feel smooth and silky instead of rough and floury. Then all you need to do is place it in plastic wrap and put it in the fridge to rest for at least half an hour before you use it. Make sure the plastic wrap covers it well or it will dry out and go crusty round the edges (this will give you crusty lumps through your pasta when you roll it out, and nobody likes crusty lumps!).
- How to roll your pasta using a pasta machine:
- Make sure the machine is clamped firmly to a clean work surface before you start (use the longest available work surface you have). You will need lots of space.
- Dust your work surface with some Tipo '00' flour, take a lump of pasta dough the size of a large orange and press it out flat with your fingertips. Set the pasta machine at its widest setting - and roll the lump of pasta dough through it. Lightly dust the pasta with flour if it sticks at all. Click the machine down a setting and roll the pasta dough through again. Fold the pasta in half, click the pasta machine back up to the widest setting and roll the dough through again. Repeat this process five or six times. It might seem like you're getting nowhere, but in fact you're working the dough, and once you've folded it and fed it through the rollers a few times, you'll feel the difference. It'll be smooth as silk and this means you're making wicked pasta!
- Now it's time to roll the dough out properly, working it through all the settings on the machine, from the widest down to around the narrowest. Lightly dust both sides of the pasta with a little flour every time you run it through. When you've got down to the narrowest setting, to give yourself a tidy sheet of pasta, fold the pasta in half lengthways, then in half again, then in half again once more until you've got a square-ish piece of dough. Turn it 90 degrees and feed it through the machine at the widest setting. As you roll it down through the settings for the last time, you should end up with a lovely rectangular silky sheet of dough with straight sides - just like a real pro! If your dough is a little cracked at the edges, fold it in half just once, click the machine back two settings and feed it through again. That should sort things out. Whether you're rolling by hand or by machine you'll need to know when to stop. If you're making pasta like tagliatelle, lasagne or stracchi you'll need to roll the pasta down to between the thickness of a beer mat and a playing card; if you're making a stuffed pasta like ravioli or tortellini, you'll need to roll it down slightly thinner or to the point where you can clearly see your hand or lines of newsprint through it.
- Once you've rolled your pasta the way you want it, you need to shape or cut it straight away. Pasta dries much quicker than you think, so whatever recipe you're doing, don't leave it more than a minute or two before cutting or shaping it. You can lay over a damp clean tea towel which will stop it from drying. Alan had a cool drying rack for the pasta ....it was perfect.
Just as a side-note….I have never seen anyone happier with a plate of pasta….have you? Buon Appetito!