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Saturday, October 13, 2012

Fresh Pasta with Pressed Fennel Sprigs

Have you ever made your own (fresh) pasta noodles?

I have.


The flavour is surprisingly different from dried noodles.  And totally worth the effort.

The recipes vary, and can include a bunch of different flavours and additions, but for the most part, the traditional recipe is just flour and eggs.

Even though all-purpose flour will work, I strongly suggest you use an extra fine flour (Tipo 00).  It makes a difference.

So, firstly, I got my fennel sprigs washed and trimmed, and chopped finely.  Because moisture plays a big part in pasta, if you're going to add things like fresh herbs, make sure you take any moisture balance into consideration.  So, for my fennel, I made extra sure they were dried on paper towels for a while before mixing them in.

Then, I cracked all my eggs.

You can use the full egg if you like, but using just the yolks makes for a very smooth, velvety and golden pasta noodle.

The ratio of egg to flour is roughly 2:3, but this varies slightly amongst environments.  Because I'm using yolks only I've bumped this ratio up to roughly 1:1.  Having a little extra flour on hand, and sprinkled on your work surface, is a must.

So, I had about 7 cups of tipo 00 flour.

I made a 'well' in the centre.

And then added the yolks.

Doesn't that look pretty?
I like that photo.
Don't steal it though.  It - like all my images - are copyrighted!!!  Heh heh heh.  Of course not all of them are as nice as this one.  :)

Then it is standard dough mixing practice.

Work, knead, and work that shit until you're in danger of over-moistening the dough from all your sweat.

Gorgeous stuff.

Now comes the FUN part!!!

Although I'm certain it is possible, I know that I wouldn't even think about attempting fresh pasta without my pasta maker.

Yet another valuable gift from my late Grandma.  It doesn't get much more authentic than this.
After all, the box is written entirely in Italian!

Heh heh heh.

While I am wholly certain that my Grandma in fact picked this up from somewhere like Woolworth's or some place like that, in small-town-Alberta, I nevertheless like to pretend that this came from the OLD COUNTRY (by steamship). Heh heh heh.

Seriously, though, it's not THAT old.  In fact you can get the same thing today, and it is pretty much the same thing.

Utterly simple, and yet seriously elegant, machine.

So, cut your dough into small (manageable) pieces, and then roll them out by hand.  I find it easiest to actually use a rolling pin for the first stage.  Bear in mind, this is not the FINAL rolling thinness.  Just a quick and dirty solution to getting it to fit nicely into the pasta maker.

Roll each piece through on the machine's widest setting first, obviously.

It was at THIS point when I chose to add my fennel sprigs.

Just sprinkle them out relatively evenly, and then fold in half, and roll through the machine again.

Keep rolling the dough through successively smaller and smaller (thinner) settings until you've a very thin sheet of dough.

At this point, the pasta is ready to be cut and shaped.

I've made different kinds of noodles before.  Something simple like orechiette is the easiest, because all you need to do is squish up little bits of it, and shove your thumb in the middle.  Ravioli is a little harder, but not too bad still.  You just need to cut into squares, add filling, and then pinch the sides.  Having a ravioli wheel (cutting wheel) gives the edges that cool ripply effect.

However... the least time consuming is to just use either the fettuccine or spaghetti cutters built into the machine (my machine, has these anyway...)

So, at this stage, I just swap the handle out from the rolling wheel to one of the cutting wheels, and feed the dough on through.

It really is that easy.

This fresh pasta can be refrigerated for days (sealed, obviously), and when 'preparing' it, it only requires about 3-4 minutes in boiling water before being fully cooked.

Now, I made a huge amount of pasta dough here.  I only rolled-out half of it.  I covered, and froze the other half, to be rolled-out another day.

And this particular fettuccine I chose to serve up with a deliciously rich garlic and fennel cream sauce.