While Julia Child, one of the greatest and my favorite chefs, was mastering the art of French cooking, I've been mastering the art of Italian cooking lately. I think the fact that I was born about 600 miles East from Italy has something to do with my tastes and preferences, specifically in pasta department. See for yourself: I grew up on polenta, different types of homemade pasta, lots of vegetables, homemade breads and cheese. Those Southern European countries, kissed by the sun, have many similarities in their cuisines. Since I discovered lately that I do love pasta, homemade and fresh, I went on a quest to find out more.
"Remember to stay away from mass-produced cheap pasta, you will just be disappointed come dinnertime" warned Justin Demetri.
Well, I know that the hard way, ten-years-of-hating-anything-pasta-way.
I was disappointed and I didn't eat pasta until mother came to the rescue: during her visit last winter she made some pasta and I fell in love with it again.
Then mother showed me the family recipe and I've been rolling since. Making pasta is a fun process and is considered to be a meditation, especially the kneading part (I do it by hands).
I've read that semolina flour is quite tricky to work with so I decided to try it slowly: I made the first batch with two parts of regular flour (unbleached unbromide wheat flour) and two parts of semolina flour. I did add 4 eggs and four tablespoons of water.
How did it go? Here is the evidence:
|I let it rest with hope that gluten will develop and it would be easier to work with...|
Not exactly the way I wanted it to go.
Something was wrong: a) not enough moisture or b) not enough kneading. I think it's both. If you have another idea, please, do let me know.
It had to be fixed by more kneading, I thought... 15 minutes later still the same results.
And the dough was though to knead, at some point I would jump and press on it with all my weight , then jump and press again... My arms were getting sore but the dough was still stubborn and not elastic.
Then I decided to add more water. That's a very tricky part, it's easier (and better) to add flour than to add water.
|Roll, pat with some water, fold and repeat... (my way of fixing the dough)|
What I did was I ran the small pieces of dough through pasta roller, then I would rinse my hands and pat the dough with my hands, then I would fold the dough in half and pat again, repeating this process a few time until I had a perfect elastic dough coming through.
|...until it came out just perfect.|
I spent five (!) hours doing this but the result was totally worth it.
Now, don't get discouraged by my experience. I experimented without researching first (semolina flour needs more water, and I know it now! - the hard way, though), and my first college degree in food microbiology helps me to get things done most of the time.
|Over sized bow ties :)|
Do your homework, find a recipe you like and be patient: dough loves attention. Allow yourself plenty of time to knead the dough, turn on some music (Italian maybe?!) and relax during the process. I assure you, the result is fantastic.
I make both fresh and dry pasta (which is fresh pasta that is let to dry for about 50 hours or so), and this pasta I certainly can eat every day, cooked al dente!
|I was playing with different shapes of pasta...:)|
I think I found out why I can't eat store bought pasta: the taste of pasta enhances if you air dry it, preferably on the sun (that's how I remember grandmother and mother made it). I've seen pictures with rows of pasta drying outside in Italian towns, a very fascinating view. And the best flour to make dry pasta is semolina flour.
My next challenge will be a pasta dough made with 100% semolina and water (which is required by Italian law for dry pastas!), then dried outside on the sun.
However, it won't be in the next post. :)
|The Pasta Eater, Pasta Agnesi Museum, Oneglia|
I sure NEED to go to Italy to learn to make pasta from the best!