We love both pasta and polenta for meals, but making polenta is time-consuming and there’s all that stirring, while pasta is fast and easy, so we thought, “hey, why not combine the two? Think that would work?” We figured the worst that could happen is that the pasta disintegrates during cooking, forming a polenta-flour soup. Probably not the best, but, when you think about it, in the grand scheme of things, that’s not too bad, either.
Besides, we once bought some expensive flavored pasta that did the same thing, and we were pretty disappointed as it was about $5 or $6 for a pound. Silly us; we think that if you sell pasta for that much, it better be some darn good pasta. Note we said “once bought.” Since we’re scratchin’ this up, it’s only a few pennies down the drain if it doesn’t turn out.
We based this recipe our basic pasta recipe, modifying it to include some cornmeal for texture. That’s it.
While polenta is cornmeal, it’s often a coarser and more varied grind. For pasta, we think you’ll want to have a finer, more uniform cornmeal, as it’ll make the dough easier to roll and shape. We use olive oil in our pasta, but any light oil will work, too. For the egg, though, we’d go with one from a happy hen. Happy hens are healthy hens, which means healthy eggs.
Procedure in detail:
Mix drys. In a medium mixing bowl, combine the flour, cornmeal, and salt. Give them a swirl or two with a spoon or fork. Yes, we’ve read that pasta should be made right on the counter, using a fork; however, we can tell you it doesn’t matter (and using the bowl makes for easier clean up).
Add oil and egg. Stir in the olive oil, or whatever oil you’re using, and the egg. This won’t be enough liquid to form a dough, so expect that you’ll have pockets of dry flour mixture. We like to add the oil, as it makes the dough just a bit less sticky. You can get by without, too.
Add water. How much water? We wish we knew; it might be just a bit, or as much as a quarter cup. So sprinkle a bit of water onto your pasta dough, and mix it in. If you want, you can switch to your fingers about now, so you get a better feel for the dough. If there are still dry spots, add a bit more water. You’ll have enough water when you have a stiff, but still flexible and kneadable dough without dry spots.
Knead. Turn the dough out onto your work surface and knead for about 5 minutes. You can knead longer, but 5 minutes is about the least amount of time to ensure that the dough is uniformly hydrated.
Rest. Wrap the dough in plastic and let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes to an hour. If you need to wait longer before rolling your pasta, pop the dough into the fridge, then take it out about 30 minutes before rolling.
Roll and cut. If you have a pasta machine, break it out and set it up. It does make rolling pasta so much easier. If not, use a rolling pin (we did for years). Whatever method you use, divide the dough into four pieces, roll to your desired thickness, and cut into linguine, pappardelle, squares, or whatever shape works for you.
Dry. Move the pasta to someplace to dry until you’re ready to cook. We place a towel over a cooling rack and put the pasta on that.
Boil. Bring a large kettle of salted water to a boil, and drop in the pasta. Check it often, as fresh pasta only takes a few minutes to cook.
Drain and serve. Drain your pasta, place it in warmed bowls, and serve with you favorite sauce, or maybe a new sauce to go with your new flavor of pasta.
Well, as you can see from the photos, the pasta held up. Adding the cornmeal changed the texture, making for a “rougher” pasta that held the sauce better; plus, it had a slight corn taste. It didn’t taste like polenta, but we didn’t really expect that it would; after all, it’s just 25% corneal, and the cooking method is so different. Instead, it’s a nice change to your pasta when you want something a bit different. Five stars.