Pasta making, it’s been a while! Time to dust off the pasta machine then, clamp it on, crank up the handle and get to grips with threads and shreds of long, very long, fresh egg tagliatelle. Here’s the after photo…
now for the ‘before’…
I’ve not tried my hand at homemade fresh pasta for a long while, mainly because it takes three hands and two to make. One person to feed the pasta in and turn the handle, the other to use both hands to guide it out, flat, uncrumpled and perfect. My machine tended to slew around on the kitchen surface til I rigged up another plank on my table and it gripped fast. Jamie Oliver’s Naked Chef book hints it’s easy, oh so easy, to knock up a batch of fresh, homemade pasta; quicker even than popping out to the corner shop for a packet of dried. Possible for one pro chef perhaps but what of the novice?
Cooler months make the process a whole lot easier as the hot temperatures of a Maltese summer are merciless when it comes to trial and error in man-handling dough of any kind. I’ve set myself the challenge in the next spring months of all shapes of fresh pasta: tagliatelle, linguini and lasagna (all of which require just one technique and getting used to the various, ever thinner and finer settings of the pasta-making machine) and tortellini and ravioli (a bit more time-consuming forming those packets and pockets).
This first session saw quite some progress, albeit with two of us. Anne, a friend and fellow photographer, came to my aid. I’d made up enough to feed five so the day after – pasta dough keeps fine in the fridge for 24 hours – I achieved a batch going solo. Quite some progress. I mastered the art of shifting those hands double quick from one side of the machine to the other.
Was it edible? The verdict, much later on in the afternoon once we’d strung all the chair backs with it, was that it was worth it. Believe me! Real fresh egg pasta is far lighter to eat than dried, strange though it might seem, and far tastier. It’s also possible to air-dry fresh-made pasta and bag up for later use. I found that out by chance as I snapped it off the chairs, and had to scrub them down! And, yes Jamie’s right, it isn’t such a hassle once you’ve done it a few times. Now for those ravioli, since I’m on a roll with fresh pasta.
All images © Liz Ayling 2013
Fresh Tagliatelle with Bacon & Mushrooms
I used Jamie Oliver’s rule-of-thumb amounts of flour and eggs (see either The Naked Chef or The Return of the Naked Chef) which says 100gm flour and 1 large egg or two eggs yolks per portion/person. I made up 500gm.
You can either make a well in the mound of flour and add the eggs breaking them up and mixing in first with a fork, then by hand. Or, place the ingredients in a food processor (a lot less messy) and whizz til they come together. Tip out on a floured surface and knead gently til the dough is smooth and elastic. Wrap in cling film and chill for half an hour in the fridge.
Cut the dough into tennis ball size pieces (if making 3 portions or over), and flatten each ball with a palm before rolling out a bit to a width that can be fed into the widest setting on the lasagna sheet roller of your pasta machine. You can make the whole lot by hand, rolling out ever thinner, and folding over and re-rolling, but the machine makes life easier. Tip: I find semolina far better than flour to roll out the pasta on and dust it liberally with while handling.
Follow the instructions of your pasta machine: mostly, this means rolling it through the settings from widest to narrowest on the lasagna sheet roller, doubling it over and re-feeding through. When the strip gets too long, cut in half and work that one through alone. For tagliatelle, I didn’t put it through the very narrowest setting. I then used the tagliatelle cutting roller. It’s a bit tricky to extricate the shreds of tagliatelle, so use a flat hand to guide it out, bit by bit. Hang somewhere like a towel rail or chair back, while you work the other balls through the machine.
Cook in boiling water for a bare three minutes, til just al dente. Undercook if possible, as you’ll be tossing it into the sauce of choice over a gentle heat anyway.
For my sauce, I simply fried up some bacon, anchovies, garlic and mushrooms in that order (no oil added) and tossed the fresh pasta in once cooked adding a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and a good handful of chopped, flat-leafed parsley and some grated Parmesan to serve. Delicious and simple.