It is very easy to get misled by the media but after many hours of TV watching and magazine reading I was beginning to think that I must be the last woman on earth who did not make her own pasta. However, thanks to my lovely husband, who was clearly paying attention to my multiple hints, on Christmas morning I opened my very own, shiny, chrome plated pasta machine.
Now, I didn’t use it straight away (we had other food plans for Christmas day…) so I had a little time to research pasta recipes and to begin to get concerned about the multiple “right” methods there are out there.
In the end I settled on a Jamie Oliver recipe on the basis that he seems like a nice bloke and his recipes have always worked for me in the past. Plus I guess that Gennaro Contaldo might have taught him a thing or two about Italian food. Jamie’s recipe called for 600g / 1lb 6oz Tipo 00 pasta flour and 6 large, free range eggs.
I would like to tell you a tale of instant perfection but the truth is that I made my first dough on the work surface in the traditional manner, found it very difficult to work in all the flour, kneaded the dough until I had completely eradicated all sign of my bingo wings and then put it in the bin. The dough simply would not form into one big smooth lump and deep valleys refused to be incorporated into the whole. I contemplated adding water or olive oil but, in a crisis of confidence, decided that I did not have the experience to start experimenting at this stage.
By now I had also run out of eggs but, after a quick trip to the local shop and with my enthusiasm intact, I started again. This time I made the dough in the food processor. I also halved the amount of flour and eggs as the previous dough ball looked huge to me. After a little more work on my upper arms I had a reasonably smooth, silky dough (which still had a few, forgivable valleys) and was ready to rest both it and myself for half an hour.
Soon it was time to play with the shiny pasta machine. Jamie advocates using a small piece of disposable dough to clean the rollers of dust which sounds immensely sensible to me, so I did. He also suggests working the dough repeatedly through the two widest settings in order to produce really silky dough – I found that this extra effort was definitely worthwhile. Then the magic began and after producing long, thin sheets of pasta I used the cutting attachment to turn it into tagliatelle.
Ten minutes later we sat down to big bowls of pasta and homemade pesto. Yum. The pasta was lighter in texture than any bought pasta I have tried (including fresh pasta) and none of us experienced that bloated feeling you sometimes get when eating refined flour products, so that was a plus too. Just in case you were wondering, the halved recipe also produced far too much pasta for 3 hungry adults.
Afterwards, when talking to my friends about this, I discovered that I don’t actually know anyone else who makes their own pasta although many of them have pasta machines gathering dust on top of a cupboard. All I can say is, if you have a couple of hours to spare on a wet Sunday afternoon – give it a go. How else can you combine a good workout with a home cooked dinner for your family? Now to experiment – where’ s that semolina?