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No more pasta-making fear - Handmade Linguine from scratch at home

November 26, 2012


Teaching myself to make things from scratch is always entertaining, sometimes funny, and occasionally awful. There are few things I've hesitated to at least attempt to make at home in the past few years, as the reward of being able to produce the things I love from my own kitchen is totally worth the effort.

But I've always been too scared to try making my own pasta. It's an irrational fear, I know, but for some reason it just always seemed too damn daunting, filled with machines and processors, and I've been comforted by TV chefs who assure me that dried, packaged pasta is just as good, and not to bother.

Until this weekend, when a craving for pasta hit, with none to be found in the cupboard. This is where new things always tempt me - will I drive to the store to pick some up, or will I head to the kitchen to try making it for the first time? Since I had more time on my hands than the desire to go out in the rain to buy one damn package of spaghetti, I decided to just go ahead and give making my own pasta a go.


I picked a very simple recipe from an old, dog-earred Sunset Pasta Cookbook - 2 cups of flour, 2 eggs and 3 or so tablespoons of water. A quick glance online showed me that there are many variations of what goes into pasta dough, so I figured I'd try an easy one to start, which might give me indications of what I'd change for the next time.


This simple dough needed a good 14 minutes of kneading before it really became smooth. I had an irritating moment around Minute Nine, with wrists and forearms burning, when my inner lazy person started wondering if a drive to the store for packaged pasta been such a bad idea after all. But then the gluten stopped fighting me and the dough came together in a smooth, beautiful pasta ball.


After being kneaded, the dough needed a 20 minute rest, so I put together a batch of the Easiest Mariana Sauce Ever (recipe below) and got it simmering . I love this sauce because it is basically fool-proof, inexpensive as hell with on-hand ingredients, and cooks start to finish in less than 20 minutes.


Rolling out the pasta with a rolling pin rather than a pasta machine was another yet arm workout, I started wondering at one point if homemade pasta might be calorie neutral, with all the kneaded and rolling and such (dare to dream). But it ended up only taking a few minutes to roll out half the dough (half went into the fridge for another day) out into thin sheets, then folding up and cutting the pasta into fettuccine-sized noodles.


As soon as the pasta began boiling I could tell I had a success on my hands, both due to the great Italian aroma that immediately filled the kitchen, and the fact that the noodles all held together and began happily cooking, instead of collapsing or disintegrating or any of the other nightmares I'd had about homemade pasta. It cooked for eight minutes in well-salted water (I had wondered about a no-seasoning pasta recipe, but the salted water gave it plenty of flavour), then topped it with the homemade marinara sauce which had been simmering away on the next stove burner.

The pasta turned out really great, I was shocked that I'd been able to create such an authentic flavour and texture in my own kitchen, but the proof was in my bowl. (Other than the size I cut it, which puffed out into larger ribbons during cooking - will try a smaller cut next time, but the large size still tasted great and held its shape)


After trying and succeeding with such a simple recipe, I'm now curious to try more pasta styles, finer-ground flour and different techniques. While I can't see myself rolling out a fresh batch every day, I do think a pasta making/freezing day once or twice a month is definitely worth the at-home kitchen effort.

Goodbye, fear of making homemade pasta - hello, tasty new skill!

While I'll be exploring other ingredient combinations for pasta, I  can't deny that this three ingredient version from this recipe from Sunset Book's Pasta Cookbook (1980, one of of those generic books on every grandma's bookshelf) works absolutely perfectly:

All-Purpose Handmade Pasta Dough

2 cups of all purpose flour
2 eggs
3-6 tbs water

Mound the flour on a work surface, or in a bowl and make a deep well in the centre.
Break eggs into the well, then beat gently with a fork, adding two tablespoons of the water.
Gently begin mixing flour into the wet ingredients, adding additional water one tablespoon at a time as needed to moisten flour.
When the dough comes together and becomes stiff, use your hands to form it into a ball.

On a floured surface, knead the dough for 10-15 minutes until it becomes smooth and elastic.
Cover and let dough rest for 20 minutes.

Divide the dough into four parts, then use a rolling pin to roll out the dough into very thin sheets.
Fold the sheets over four times, then cut across each 'roll' to slice off individual noodles.
Gentle toss the noodles between your hands to make sure none have stuck together.

Cook in boiling, salted water for approximately 8-10 minutes, drain and top with Simple Marinara Sauce.

Easiest Marinara Sauce Ever

2 cloves of garlic
1/2 onion, diced
1/2 tbs oil (canola or regular olive)
1 can of whole or diced tomatoes
dried and/or fresh Oregano, Basil, Parsley, Salt and Pepper - to taste

Heat oil and diced garlic and onion in a frying pan over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until softened
Add dried herbs of your choice to the pan, stirring for 30 seconds or so to release their oils (don't let them burn!)
Add the can of tomatoes and turn heat up to high
As soon as the sauce comes to a boil, turn heat to medium-low and let sauce simmer for 10 minutes.

After ten minutes of simmering, remove from heat and use a hand blender or food processor to carefully puree into a smooth sauce
(a hand blender set right in the pan is quickest, but use a low setting so the hot sauce doesn't splash out)
Return to heat and continue to simmer on low for another ten minutes.
Add more salt and fresh ground pepper to taste.
Serve over pasta with grated Parmesan cheese.

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