Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Natural Goodness: Making Artisan Pasta

A recent undertaking was trying my hand at making handmade Artisan Pasta. This is something that I have always wanted to do. The idea of incorporating natural flavors and colors from vegetables right into my pasta noodles was especially appealing to me. So I set myself up with an Italian Pasta maker, a Marcato Atlas. This is a well constructed and very 'easy to work with' Pasta maker. A bonus is a number of available attachments to allow for a variety of pasta styles to be made. Kid in a candy shop time :)

With the Pasta maker, I purchased a book written by Aliza Green, who served as Executive Chef for Ristorante DiLullo and she has studied Pasta making extensively. She has worked with many chefs in Italy. For obvious reasons, I won't be sharing Ms. Green's recipes with you on my blog. But I would suggest to you, that if you are ever interested in trying your hand at Pasta making, certainly avail yourself of  Ms. Green's book, Making Artisan Pasta.

In Making Artisan Pasta, you are instructed in the Art of Pasta making from the basics of ingredients, to making dough, flavoring dough, and stylizing Pasta.

A mixture of Semolina, Durum and All Purpose Flours are at the heart of making pasta. Although Durum and Semolina are wheat based flours, both are milled differently; Durum being more finely ground, Semolina more coarsely ground. I purchase mine from King Arthur Flour, since both are generally not found in local groceries.
My first attempt was to make a basic pasta dough. In doing so, I learned several tips for success: humidity, proportion of flour to liquid, kneading, temperature of ingredients, and timing all affect the outcome of successfully making pasta.

If you adhere to the basic principles of successful pasta making, I'm telling you that it is not as difficult as you might think. A bit time consuming, yes... but if you enjoy cooking as much as I do, it is time well spent and great fun.

I also tried out the recipe for Pasta Verde, or Spinach Pasta.

   Special care must be taken to ensure that fresh Spinach leaves are properly prepared to be certain that there will be a lovely green distribution through the pasta noodles.

It also does not hurt to have your special kitchen supervisor on hand...  but only if well behaved, like my Hera, as she did not lift a paw to disturb the drying strands of pasta. :P
I also tested the recipe for Lemon Pepper Pasta dough. A decidedly aromatic pasta infused with Lemon juice, microplaned Lemon zest and freshly cracked Pepper. Beautiful with seafood, chicken or vegetables! Perhaps topped with olive oil and grated Parmigiano cheese... unbelievable..  
All doughs that I made were a joy to work with. Very easy to roll and to cut with my Pasta maker. I had no trouble at all. It is all in the gauging of how to balance the water and flour and letting the gluten in the dough 'rest' before rolling the dough out. This also allows the flour to become properly hydrated.

My final attempt at Pasta was the recipe for Roasted Red Pepper dough.  A lovely pasta that gets it's color from a puree of roasted red pepper and smokey sweet paprika. I often purchase more difficult to find spices at a local gourmet spice shop, or another wonderful source I have used is Penzeys.com. This Pasta is so wonderful when served with a light herb sauce.


I hope that you will try your hand at Homemade Pasta one day...  It is fun to make and with healthy rewards.

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