Basic and Flavored Pasta

Homemade pasta may sound fancy and exotic at first, but it’s actually quite easy – and can be fun, too!

When we recently purchased a pasta machine, we went a bit nuts with it, churning out 7 different pasta doughs the first afternoon. SO much easier to run them through a machine, than to roll it with a pin.

Anyway, here’s the thing – because so many different things – humidity, the type of flour, etc – can affect how your pasta turns out, it’s the kind of thing that doesn’t need a real “recipe”, per se – you can more or less wing it, so long as you keep the basic concepts in mind. I’m intending this blog entry as a bit of an overview and inspiration, and hope you use it as a springboard for whatever crazy pasta idea you come up with!

First off, at its very basic, pasta is just flour and eggs. Mix the two ingredients together, knead it for about 10 minutes, let it rest for 30 minutes, and then.. you play.

That’s it! Simple, right?

First, let’s take a closer look at those ingredients.

1: Flour. We tend to just use all purpose flour, as we always have a ton of it on hand… but that’s not your only option. Many people will cut the all purpose flour with some semolina flour, or use ONLY semolina flour. If you want to get fancy with it, you can substitute other flours for part of the flour (you’ll want some regular gluten – I’ll experiment with gluten free pastas another time!). Oat flour, millet, barley – each will bring a unique taste and texture to your finished pasta.

2. Eggs. Use good quality, large eggs.

Now, in addition to those two ingredients, you can add other stuff to flavor it – usually in paste or dried form. Some ideas:

1. Finely ground pesto. (chunks of nuts will not go through the pasta machine well, so you want it a fine paste!)

2. Roasted and pureed vegetables. Think beets, winter squash, garlic, peppers, carrots. Roast them, peel them, and puree them into a fine paste.

3. Dried herbs and spices can be added to either of the above, for more complex flavors. Try roasted red peppers with a little bit of cayenne, for instance!

4. Leafy greens: Spinach can be boiled for a few minutes, strained VERY well, and then pureed… but think of the other possibilities! Beet greens, kale, mustard greens – when used sparingly – can produce interesting flavors as well!

Now, on to how to combine them.

First off, I like to start with about 1 egg for every 3/4 – 1 cup of flour.

As far as flavors go, I usually aim for about 1/4 cup of pureed flavor for every 1 1/2 – 2 cups of flour in the basic recipe, and then add a bit of extra flour to make up for the additional moisture from the paste. Sometimes, I’ll reduce the amount of egg, rather than add flour. Like I said – you can kinda wing it.

As an idea:

My basic pasta recipe:

3+ cups flour
4 eggs

My spinach pasta recipe:

5 oz fresh baby spinach (boiled, strained well, pureed)
2 cups flour
2 eggs

My beet pasta recipe:

2 small beets, roasted, peeled, and pureed
3 cups flour
3 eggs

My pesto pasta recipe:

1/2 cup pesto, finely pureed
2 + cups flour
2 eggs

So, once you have ingredients figured out, it’s just a matter of pulling them together into a dough. There are three main ways you can do this:

1. By hand. Stir your wet ingredients into the flour, use your hands to knead it into a dough.

2. By stand mixture: Dump everything in the bowl of your stand mixture, attach a dough hook, and let it do its thing.

3. In a food processor. Put all the ingredients into a food processor, let it rip.

For any of these three methods, you should adjust ingredients as you go. Once it comes together, pinch a piece of dough. If it’s sticky, add a little flour and blitz again, adjusting as necessary. When dough feels soft and a little moist, without actually being sticky, you’re good to go!

Dump dough out onto a floured surface, knead for 2-5 minutes, (~10 if nor using a mixer or food processor) until soft and elastic.

Shape the dough into a ball. Cover with plastic wrap and allow it to rest for 30 minutes, to relax the gluten.

Once time is up, run it through your pasta machine, following the manufacturer’s directions. Once your pasta is ready, boil it in a pot of salted water for a few minutes, and serve it however you’d like.

So there you go, a basic pasta overview. Expect a few fancier pasta recipes, coming up! (Ravioli and tortellini! Yum!)

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