When we first bought our pasta machine, I debated it quite a bit internally. While it was inexpensive — we got it a thrift store for $5.43, even though it seemed as if it had been used only a couple of times — I just wasn’t sure that we’d use it. Would it end up collecting dust on a shelf until we finally donated back to a thrift store? I was so wrong.
It turns out that we love fresh pasta, and make it about once a week. We try new shapes, or we go with the easy fettuccine or pappardelle, and it always tastes far, far better than dried pasta. But, one of the things we like best is how we can customize the pasta flavor. We’ve mixed in whole-wheat flour, or rye flour, or even nut flours, and then we’ve added spices — as in today’s post — and it’s still just as easy as plain pasta, but adds more flavor to your meal, which to our mind is a no-brainer.
This pasta is based on one we saw in Kitchen Gypsy, by Joanne Weir; when we read the description, we just had to try something similar. Plus, a batch of pasta would use up a leftover egg white we had sitting in the refrigerator. We used that instead of the water in the instructions below.
We chose all-purpose flour to allow the flavors of the spices to shine through. We knew that, with the starches from the flour, the fat from the egg and oil, and the boiling of the pasta, the spiciness of the pepper would be reduced, and we didn’t want to have it compete with a more assertive flour, such as whole-wheat or rye. For the eggs, we get ours from pastured hens. We’ve seen the hens and they live in a healthy environment, and we think that means healthier eggs.
Procedure in detail:
Mix dry ingredients. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, salt, red pepper, cayenne, paprika, and black pepper, and either whisk it together, or do as we do, and use a finger to swirl everything around until the flour mixture is uniform in color. Pasta is such a hands-on dish, you might as well get your hands in it now.
Add egg and oil. Crack the egg and add it to the flour mixture, along with the olive oil. We don’t really measure the olive oil; we just estimate the amount. Now, use your finger to start swirling around the egg and oil, gradually incorporating flour. You could use a fork, but why? Your finger will be fine. The amount of liquid isn’t enough to make a dough, so, even after you have everything mixed, it’ll be dry and crumbly.
Add water. Add water, about a tablespoon at a time, kneading and mixing it in until you have a stiff but pliable dough. If it’s very stiff, add a bit more water; if you’ve added too much water, the dough will be sticky and you’ll need to add a bit of flour.
Knead. Turn out the dough onto a work surface and knead until smooth, about 5 minutes. We don’t really watch the time, but, we do keep a running count of how many times we’ve folded and pushed the dough together. We generally find that between 100 and 150 strokes are enough.
Rest. Wrap the pasta dough in plastic and let it sit on the counter for about 30 minutes. If you want to leave it longer, that’s fine. Sometimes we make the dough in the morning, place it in the refrigerator, and take it out 30 minutes before we want to shape.
Shape. We shaped ours using the pasta machine, as it was the easiest and fit with what we wanted to make. If you have a pasta machine, simply divide the dough into four pieces, set the machine to the widest setting, and, working with a piece at a time, run it through the machine about 4 or 5 times, folding the dough in thirds after each pass. Then run the dough through each successive narrower setting until you achieve the desired thickness. Run it through the last setting twice, then pass the dough through the cutters. If you don’t have a pasta machine, you can always make pici, trofie, orrechiette, or cavatelli, completely by hand. We do that when it fits our dish.
Dry. Transfer the shaped pasta to a rack covered with a clean dish towel and let dry for a while. Anywhere for 15 minutes to an hour is fine. We just find pasta easier to handle if it’s dried a bit.
Boil. Bring a large kettle of salted water to a boil and add the pasta. Fresh pasta cooks faster, and we can’t tell you how long yours will take, so test it often. Depending on the thickness and drying time, we’ve had pasta that cooked in about 2 minutes and some that took about 10 minutes.
We just love fresh pasta and we think that if there’s one thing you want to do to make a better meal, it’s to use fresh pasta. The dough is forgiving enough that you can make it several hours beforehand, and shape it later, or even let the shaped pasta dry for several hours before boiling. That way, you can fit the fresh pasta into your schedule. And, we think once you’ve had fresh pasta, you’ll be making it often. This pasta had just a slight amount of spiciness; it was more of a low background heat throughout the pasta, not a sharp and spicy bite, which worked well for our particular dish. Five stars.