Pasta 101 – How Hard Can It Be!

“Honey, I think I’d like to try making our own pasta”. Thus began my latest adventure.  The comment came from my husband, not me. I am half Sicilian and grew up in an area with a large Italian and Sicilian population. Only rarely did I hear of anyone making their own pasta and then it was for ravioli or lasagna. Everyone else headed to the “Italian store”, often on a Saturday or Sunday, to select from the glass bins of pasta of all sizes and shapes or, as we did, buy the blue wrapped De Cecco spaghetti.

Perhaps my Aunt in San Gabriel made pasta at home, although I never saw her do so. BShe passed on some years ago. My Sicilian grandmother died before I was born. Older relatives who might have had advice were all gone. But really, how hard can it be? I should know better by this age. “How hard can it be” is that famous phrase that gets you into all sorts of “why did I ever start this” experience?

Nevertheless, perhaps it would be a fun thing for us to try together and rather than rushing out and buying any equipment I went to my newest location for getting things at a good price, my local “Buy Nothing” page on Facebook.  This was my post: “ISO – a pasta maker. Manual hand crank is fine, or an electric. Hubby wants to try making his own spaghetti and noodles.”

Twenty minutes later a post popped up with a photo of a Cuccina Pro manual pasta maker with molds for spaghetti, linguini, lasagna noodles, ravioli, and flat sheets. The person offering lived nearby and 20 minutes later it was in my hands. Then it sat, in the kitchen, on the counter, for several weeks until finally, I, noting that hubby had not made a move to make pasta, got the unit out and started reading.  The recipe looked simple enough – flour, egg, salt, and maybe a little oil. Then I watched video after video on YouTube. Feeling well educated and armed with the right information I was sure I had the process down pat. OK. Let’s get started.

 Mixing was easy. A mound of flour, a hole in the center, add one egg at a time and mix with a fork and then your fingers. Yuck! Sticky dough. You tube said to knead 8 to 10 times and then wrap in plastic and leave on the counter or in the fridge.  Dough went into a plastic bag, air was squeezed out, and into the fridge. Counter was cleaned, things put away, and then the pasta maker came out.  Challenge one.

The pasta maker is designed to be clamped onto something that won’t move, securing the unit and making it stable while the cook cranks out the pasta. I have ceramic tile. No edge to clamp to. A sturdy, old-fashioned bread board would was pressed into service. I clamped on the main unit, took the dough from the refrigerator, divided it into 3 pieces, flattened it a bit, and began to feed it into the rollers.

So there I am, leaning against the cutting board to keep it from moving on the counter, cranking with one hand, and trying to catch the, I hope, perfectly flat and smooth pasta as it comes out of the rollers.  You can begin laughing here. The board moved all over the place, the cranking wasn’t smooth, and the pasta, even on the thickest setting came out uneven and with holes. Had I been making swiss cheese it would have been ideal. I humbled myself and did something I prefer not to do. I asked hubby for help. It was his idea after all, so it only seemed right that he should share in the frustration. Still though, I heard my father’s voice, “help me, the baby needs help” mocking me when I wasn’t able to do something. Hmmmm, after my years of therapy that should have gone away.

Hubby was more than happy to help. He felt the dough. “I think it needs more flour. How much flour did it call for? Get the flour.” He added some flour and rolled the dough around a bit. He thought it felt “better”. He held the board with one hand, cranked with another, and had me catch the dough coming out of the unit.

The directions say to start making the flat pieces using a level 7 thickness, then send it through again on a 6 and so on until you get to a 1 or 2, depending on which type of pasta you are making. But hubby thought it was OK as it was. Thick. Let’s make linguine! I attached the linguini roller and we ran the flat pasta through the rollers.  It vaguely looked like linguini, but the individual noodles seemed to glob together. Hubby thought it was great. I suggested making the dough thinner, but hubby was happy and I was tired, and so we put the, let’s say, globs of dough, into a container with cornmeal on the bottom, per directions, sealed it well, and put it in the refrigerator for use in a couple of hours.

Cleanup. Did you know that you don’t wash the pasta maker?  You crank the rollers to get all the dough out, and then use a pointed item such as a chopstick to get out any left over dough bits, waiting until it has dried some. The pasta maker went back into the box and we rested.

Hubby was sure that when we cooked the linguini it would separate into magically perfect strands. I wasn’t so sure. This time I was right. In boiling water we got globs of thick dough with a few strands peeking out here and there.

 Nevertheless it was one of those “We made it and by g_d we are going to eat it” moments as the globs were put over roasted vegetables and topped with olive oil and seasoning.

And that is it.

Pasta day 1.

It wasn’t the most awful, but it was pretty bad. I felt defeated. I had read and watched and checked recipes and directions. What all did I do wrong?

Hubby? He was elated. “We made pasta!!!”, said with as much enthusiasm as Tom Hanks character in Castaways when he makes fire. Hubby is looking forward to trying again. Me? I went back and watched more videos and heard things differently. I wasn’t to knead the dough 8 to 10 times. It was 8 to 10 minutes. Big difference, but seriously if I wanted to knead something that long I would make loaves of sourdough bread.  Be sure to dust and board and the rollers in the machine with flour. Be sure to keep running the dough through the basic rollers to get a thinner dough.  Yikes. Maybe I’ll look for a cooking class on pasta. No, wait, all that stuff is on hold during the pandemic. Anyone want to tutor me?

Have you made pasta? Do tell!

Every Day Is A Good Day.

VJ


One thought on “Pasta 101 – How Hard Can It Be!

  1. VJ bring your pasta maker over here and we can try. Maybe together we can figure it out… I have always wanted to learn how to make my own pasta but I do not want to buy another gadget that I will not use.. also my renter that makes his has a stand to allow the pasta to dry on I imagine we could fashion one kinda like a mini clothing dry rack. I have a cutting board that we can secure the pasta machine to or even my solid surface counters if it is the suction cup kind Trisha Gutierrez tgutz216@gmail.com

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