Monday, February 22, 2010

Pasta Imperfection

How was your weekend? Did you spend it trying to make homemade pasta with your new stand mixer attachment? And did that finished homemade pasta resemble something a 4 year old might have made out of Play-Doh? No. Way. Me too! Well, me and my buddy Chad, whose fancy pasta attachment we were breaking in.

It seemed like such a good idea. Let’s make homemade pasta! It’ll be awesome! It’s like magic! You just turn on the machine and drop in the dough and...Ta-dah! You’ve got fresh pasta. I brought along my copy of Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking by Marcella Hazan because it includes a rather in depth discussion about how to make your own pasta (by hand).

The dough is simple: 2 large eggs, 1 cup of flour. Great. Perfect. Easy. We decided to make the dough in the stand mixer because, well, isn't it there to make things easier? You start by mixing the eggs and flour with the paddle and then switch to the dough hook. It worked pretty well...until we tried to crank out some bucatini. All of the strands stuck together as they were coming out of the pasta attachment. We regrouped and switched to the rigatoni plate figuring that the pasta shape would be more manageable. Well...yes and no. Our rigatoni lacked a certain...cylindrical quality. No worries! We’ll just make another batch of dough.

We repeated the dough making process but this time the dough turned out SUPER sticky. WTF?!? We used the same ingredients and measurements! We added additional flour which helped, but it was still sticky. We attempted to make the pasta anyway, but it was just too wet.

Finally (are you still with me??) I decided to go old school and made a third batch of dough on the counter by pouring the flour directly onto the surface, creating a well in the center of the flour, cracking the eggs into the well, and then slowly incorporating the flour into the eggs as I quickly stirred with a fork. My well leaked, but I ultimately made a really nice ball of pasta dough. After kneading it for about 8 minutes, it was the texture of a baby’s skin. (That’s a good thing! It's what Marcella said it should resemble.)

We tried to make another batch of rigatoni and, although we managed to eek out a few more pieces of “pasta,” they were still pretty sad looking. We ate them anyway. (We had also made a Bolognese that was simmering away so that we'd have something to top off our pasta making efforts.) The rigatoni weren’t...bad. But they weren’t good either.

Not to be defeated, we’ve decided that we will try again. "They" say that kitchen temperature, humidity, sifted vs. unsifted flour, and the size of eggs can all make a crucial
difference in the quality of pasta dough that you make. I'm thinking that it must have been the altitude. We were on the 24th floor after all...

1. Looking like actual rigatoni!

2. Our actual rigatoni!

3. Cooked store bought fusilli (background) with our homemade gnocchitoni. Rigagnocchi?


stacy said...

oh... i was going to compliment your fusilli and then i read the fine print! oh well, you get an A for effort and i'm sure it TASTED just fine!

spinney said...

I'm so glad to read this, because that same kitchenaid attachment has been whispering to me from the Williams Sonoma catalog.

I might tell it to shut up.


Jennifer said...

Did you ever eat it or did you order in? You're going to have to try again. Making pasta is some process, eh?

WendyB said...

In the Family Guy episode where Stewie is "married" to Olivia, there's a line something like: "Play-Doh spaghetti AGAIN?"

Tina said...

Stacy: Thanks for thinking we could have made pasta as perfect as the fusilli.

SP: Wait for that attachment until Chad and I figure out a recipe that will work with it.

Jen: We ate it.

Wendy: I haven't seen that one...will have to check it out!