Pasta From Scratch

My first attempt at pasta from scratch was a huge failure (except for getting engaged, that part rocked). I figure we did several things wrong, using bleached all purpose flour instead of unbleached or semolina flour, using eggs that were too cold and too small, and not having the correct moisture content. We made two attempts that night and they both wound up in the garbage.

Last night I tried again, this time with semolina flour and jumbo eggs -- which I left sit out on the counter for a good hour before cracking. It took two eggs because the first one just disappeared into the flour without a trace.

I kneaded the dough for a good long time and let it rest for 10 minutes or so. I came back to something that still wasn't right, but I wasn't willing to throw it out because semolina flour is so expensive. I wetted my hands and went back to kneading, wetted them once more and kneaded... finally the dough starting taking on the right consistency.

I cut a small amount of the dough ball and started to run it through the pasta machine. My god what a huge fucking pain in the ass! That damn thing needs to be bolted down to keep it from sliding all over the counter. I finally managed to make to headway by bracing the top of the machine with my left forearm while feeding the dough in with that hand, my right hand operated the crank which constantly came out of its little guide hole.

Oh my did I swear a lot!

But damn it! I was getting something that resembled pasta!

The second third went better, but it was still an exercise in frustration, especially with the machine sliding all over the place. The third batch went about as well as I could expect! The moisture content was perfect (well, damn good anyway) and I wound up with a strip of pasta that was long and wide.

Lesson learned so far: let the dough rest longer. Those flour molecules need time to absorb all the moisture they can before you start manipulating them.

My filling rocked, but still needed a little spice. I took a chicken breast, braised it in vegetable stock, ground it, added an Italian five cheese blend and some chopped cashews, and added a little of the veggie stock I'd used to give it some moisture. I built a piping bag out of a zip-lock with one of the corners cut out and went to work making ravioli.

The second lesson I learned is that ravioli should be small, I made some things that were gargantuan and boiled them in a pot that was too small. Still, they came out really nice.

So next time I'll know what to do: mix the pasta dough, WAIT until the moisture is fully absorbed before manipulating it, spice the filling a little more, make my ravioli smaller and boil them in a larger pot. If I follow my own advice I'll come up with something really tasty!


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