Why Pasta?

I know I have said in the past we will make pasta, with only two more weeks I thought I better get going. I am completely booked this weekend so this should get us started. Its two a.m. The picture of autumn on the river was too nice to keep for myself,
Best, Mike

The endeavor of learning how to make fresh pasta will give you a peephole into one of the sensory skills required to be a decent cook. That being the sense of touch and becoming familiar with how dough should feel when it is made properly. When I say endeavor I mean that this is a skill that can not be mastered by trying the given recipe one time and hopefully succeeding.

I would say if you practiced once a week for no less than 20 weeks you could become a capable pasta maker. It will be the mistakes you make along the way that will give you a better understanding of all the ingredients and what role they play in the final product.

     A question I would like to address, one that I find particularly annoying,

“What’s better, fresh or dried pasta?” I find the question patently unfair in that I consider them both different products entirely. An analogous question would be “What’s better, a raisin or a grape?”. Both the raisin and the grape can be quite satisfying given their different applications. The fact that they both originate from the same plant does not mean we compare them to each other in terms of quality. I am confident that if you can accomplish making good fresh pasta you will not look down on its dried cousin, but rather have a new found appreciation for it. I would imagine that answer begs the question, so why make fresh pasta? Lets avoid my proclivity towards tirades and get to the point.

  1. Versatility and flavor. You will notice if you look at my winter menu I have sage pasta with veal cheeks as an appetizer. I make the pasta fresh every day. The sage was grown in the garden, frozen, and chopped into a powder to make the pasta. Being proficient making pasta gives me the ability to take different flavors and pair them in a singular dish. The visual effect is entertaining and by having the herb in the pasta it permeates the entire flavor profile. Basil, rosemary, thyme, the list goes on. These can all be used to create something very unique and expressive in your cooking. One of the things I have learned at Antelao is that people come to the restaurant to be entertained by the cooking and the more specific it is to something that we have created, the happier they are. They already know how Mr. Barilla and Mr. Ronzoni can make pasta, they want to taste what I can do. I once worked with a waiter named Fedele that spoke five languages. I asked him one day why he learned so many. He told me it was like having change in his pocket. He was able to serve many more people than the pikers that only spoke two. That’s how it feels to be able to make good fresh pasta. I look at ingredients with a much bigger vocabulary. Curry powder, hot pepper paste, herbs, even fruit purees can be used. You get the picture. Now get hip.
  2. Geometry and Cracker Jacks. Cutting the pasta to the shapes desired can also put your own signature on a dish. Ravioli, cannelloni, or any stuffed pasta offers you even more choices in how to make a dish unique. Most folks get a little nervous when they stray from the traditional preparations, but did you like Cracker  Jacks for the flavor, or the prize inside instead?
  3. The Connection. I use this term because I feel there was a time when people had a sense  of connection to the food they enjoyed and even to how they associated with each other. This is not about nostalgia but a real observation of how we interact with each other. What does fresh pasta have to do with that? When you take basic ingredients and prepare food with your own hands, I believe there is enjoyment in a more visceral sense that you will never have when you open a can or a box. By becoming engaged in the process from the beginning, when you share this food with your family or friends you are sharing a part of yourself. Make soup, make pizza, make anything. People can taste that you care. Love is the only seasoning where you can never use enough.

Good Luck Chefs!

Mike

Recipe for Fresh Pasta

 

The following recipe and procedure will make enough pasta for 6 large portions or enough for four Italians.

 

Egg yolks                 9

Water                        3tablespoons

Semolina                   2.5 oz.

All purpose flour       8 oz

Olive oil                     1 tablespoon

 

This is a basic recipe from which you can make just about any type of pasta you want by adding ingredients and subtracting either the egg yolk or water. If I wanted to make sepia pasta I would add two tablespoons of sepia ink and subtract 2 egg yolks.

If I wanted hot pepper pasta I would add two tablespoons of hot pepper paste and subtract two tablespoons of water. The important thing is that you master the basic recipe to learn what it supposed to feel like, from there you will be your own boss. The photo I included shows the texture of the pasta when I take it out of the mixer and finish it by hand on a wooden board. The entire process can be done by hand. I like to start the process with my kitchen aid and finish it by hand. This simply expedites the process. The most important thing is to not make the pasta too dry in the initial mix. Keep it sticky and add flour as you knead the pasta until it comes to the proper firmness. Just for fun, if you tighten your ass muscles, if you have any left, that’s about how the pasta should feel. I will not do this for you. Let the pasta rest for minimum of

45 minutes before you roll it into sheets. It needs to be hung to dry

before you cut it. I will instruct on rolling and cutting next week.

Make some pasta…. We will talk next week.

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