Yes, I may be a little bit crazy. And, okay, I am a whole lot of obsessive. But making pasta from scratch is totally (in your head, say ‘totally’ with a Valley Girl accent) sane!
Let me explain my reasoning for making anything from scratch. First of all, it’s less expensive. I’m always looking to save money (aka: CHEAP!). Second of all, homemade tastes better, fresher, and has what you want or don’t want in it. Finally, (and here is the reason that might make me look a wee bit nutty…..OR, does it make me look completely rational, hmmm?) the more foods you’ve made yourself, the fewer strangers have handled your food. Even if you make a stew or salad yourself, if you’ve bought packaged cut-up veggies or lettuce, someone has touched that food. Of course, there’s a point where we have to accept someone handling our food – unless you want to grow your own wheat, grind your own flour, and grow all your own vegetables.
I like to limit the number of people whose disease ridden fingers have spread their filth over my family’s dinner. Is that crazy? Paranoid? Uh, yeah – maybe just a bit. BUT, that being said, homemade pasta is a treat you have to give to yourself at least once. As the old commercial goes: try it, you like it! It’s not hard – I promise.
One thing: use a food processor to make the dough. If you don’t have one: GET ONE!!! A food processor is a must-have for any kitchen. If you’re on a tight budget, check out the thrift stores. A food processor will save you so much time and energy!!! Without one, you’re more likely to not make certain food because it’s too much work. Ever tried making bread or pizza just using your hands to knead? The dough is sticky & gets in between your fingers. Flour is everywhere. It’s takes about 15 minutes to mix & knead. With a food processor, throw everything in the work bowl, turn it on for 45 SECONDS, and it’s done! And your hands are clean. GET ONE! Then USE IT!!!
So last night I decided to make fetticine with pesto sauce. I pulled out a hand-crank pasta maker I bought years ago and never used, watched a youtube how-to video (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-lMmUf2nqYA), then plunged in. If you have an electric pasta maker, you can use that – I’ve actually used one in the past, but it was noisy, the lid kept popping off, I had to make a lot of pasta at once, and cleaning was a pain. This time I did what the guy in the video did: put the ingredients in the food processor to knead, then used the hand crank pasta maker. I have to say, the fettucine was the BEST pasta I’ve ever had….if I do say so myself. Fresh. Delicate.
FETTUCINE – for about 3 people
- 1 cup flour (I used organic, all-purpose)
- 1 egg
- 1/4 tsp salt
- water, if needed
Put the flour, egg, and salt in a food processor. Mix. The goal is to get all the flour incorporated, but not be too wet. Add a little water at a time, if needed. If it gets too sticky, add a little more flour. Let the dough rest in the covered food processor for awhile (at least 15 minutes). Divide the dough into 3 portions. Make sure you keep the dough lightly coated with flour so it doesn’t stick. Run it through the pasta maker again and again, decreasing the width until you get to the width you want. I got it to #6 on my pasta maker. Then run the strips of dough through the cutting blades, if you have them. Or, fold up the dough to a small bundle and slice with a sharp knife. Watch the video I linked – he shows you how to do this. Toss the pasta in rapidly boiling, salted water, gently stirring. It only takes about 2 minutes – the pasta will float to the top when done. Immediately pour into a colander and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking.
I also made homemade pesto to go on the fettucine. Again, make your own! And make a lot! This is something that freezes well. I usually triple the recipe, then freeze it in dinner sized portions for future use. Why make more work for yourself – as long as you’re preparing ingredients, might as well do extra. That way you only have to dirty things once. PLUS, one those days when you can’t (or don’t want to) cook, your family has something homemade, healthy, and delicious to eat. Use a blender rather than a food processor for pesto – the funnel action sucks everything (like the garlic) down to the blades so you get a nice pureed pesto. Tweak the recipe to your taste.
PESTO – makes 1 cup
- 2 cups packed fresh basil
- 4 cloves of garlic (you don’t have to mince them, although I cut each one in half)
- 1 1/2 T lemon juice (I used bottled, but fresh is better)
- 1/2 cup Romano cheese, shredded
- 1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
- 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 tsp salt
Put all the ingredients in a blender. It’s going to take some time to get it pureed. Turn the machine on a low speed. Turn it off and smoosh the ingredients around. Turn it on again for a few seconds, then stop. Smoosh it around again. Keep doing this until it finally starts cycling on it’s own. IMPORTANT NOTE: don’t have the blender on when you’re smooshing down the ingredients. I’ve done that with a wooden spoon. More than once I’ve had the spoon get pushed down to the blades yielding wood chips in my pesto, which, of course, I had to throw out. So please take my advice – just turn the machine off each time you stir! Throwing out food is heart breaking….and a waste of time and money.
By the way, pesto makes a great pizza topping! Try it for a change of pace instead of tomato sauce.