For the longest time I’ve heard that fresh pasta will make you never want to eat boxed pasta ever again. Once you have the ability to make fresh pasta it makes the meal, not the sauce that covers it. I clearly recall Mario Batali saying that the sauce is simply an accompaniment to the real star of the dish, which is the pasta. In my extensive pasta eating past, the pasta has always been like an edible plate for the sauce covering it. Who really cares what it tastes like as long as I have a delicious marinara, vodka, or alfredo sauce covering it?
Well, Christmas time came and an Imperia pasta maker ended up under my tree. Time to end these years of breaking dry sticks of Kroger brand pasta and boiling them into submission. My kitchen was to be transformed from a cramped apartment kitchen into a cucina. That’s Italian for kitchen, by the way. I looked it up. In my mind, I felt like this was going to be a fairly simple task. Mix some eggs and flour with a few ingredients to add a little taste and we’ll be eating like the Corleones in no time. I was wrong.
Little did I know, making fresh pasta is a process. You can’t just make up dough, send it through the pasta maker, and invite Giorgio Napolitano over for dinner. He’s the president of Italy by the way. I looked that up too. Making pasta takes a few times to perfect. That is, I hope it only takes a few times. My first time was a complete failure. For some reason, I feel the need to share this failure with you.
To start off, I dumped three cups of flour on my clean kitchen counter. The initial pile made me look like I was Scarface in the kitchen or something. I was tempted to dump my face into it, but thought better of it. My Mother always said my biggest problem was always not thinking before I act. I am proud to say that I now have that problem under control. There will be no Tony Montana flour face pictures in this post.
Before my roommates starting thinking I had a problem, I turned this white pile into an egg volcano. The middle of the pile needs to have have a hole in the middle to fit four eggs, and then patted down so the eggs are enclosed in the middle and not seeping into the outsides. Kind of like an egg pocket.
After I had my eggs in the middle I added a pinch of salt and a drizzle of olive oil, and it was time to swirl them around with a fork, gradually mixing the egg with the flour. I guess this is supposed to be the hard part because you need to be able to judge how much of each ingredient you need until you have the perfect dough. This comes with experience because the wrong amount of either ingredient can completely ruin your dough. My guess is that this ended up being my downfall. At the time, I was thinking how easy this was and began using an accent when saying only certain Italian words, just like Giada(spaGHEEti). It was getting out of control. As you can see, my confidence was unjustified. What a mess.
The dough began to come together and after a while the fork becomes useless. It came time to use the most universal tool in the kitchen: My hands. The dough needs to be kneaded as much as possible, so there came a point when I was sitting in the living room kneading it while watching TV. This is a rough process. More flour needs to be added while the dough constantly sticks to your hands. This also requires experience on knowing how much of each needs to be added. I simply kept adding flour until the dough wasn’t completely stuck to my hands.
There came a point in the mixing process where I thought I had completely ruined the dough. It wouldn’t stop sticking to my hands and I kept adding flour. After a while I finally came to a point where I felt that the mixture was perfect. It was still a little sticky, but was firm enough to send through the pasta maker and not fall apart. After completing this I wrapped my ball of dough in some plastic wrap, which is one of the greatest inventions ever, and left it in the refrigerator for about 45 mins.
After the dough had its chill time, it was time to flatten it out. My pasta maker has 10 different “thickness” settings, so I decided to run it through a few times starting at 10, gradually moving it down to 1. This would continue the kneading process and ensure that we have nice, strong dough to cut into noodles.
Which ever process I did incorrectly is a mystery to me, but the pasta was terrible. In fact, it never reached a stage where it could be classified as pasta. It was was just flat dough with holes in. A Swiss cheese style dough, if you will.
For a while the process was looking OK, aside from the holes in the dough. When I felt the dough was ready to be cut into noodles, it felt the need to laugh in my face. This dough had a lifelong dream of becoming trash dough rather than noodles. That’s exactly what happened.
I may have failed this time, but I will not let it end my dream of having fresh pasta hanging everywhere in my kitchen. One day I will have a chandelier and there will be pasta hanging from it. I am going for attempt number two very soon, and I promise you will hear the results.