Sunday, October 31, 2010
Homemade Pasta and Sauce with Meatyballs
For my birthday this year, my mom gave me a pasta machine. Last night, I decided that I was going to finally utilize the machine. I had just finished my book I was reading earlier in the evening, a tale of violence and murder, and I wanted to temper that with something completely different.
I have been collecting food and cookbooks for some time, and I wanted to start actually reading them, so what did catch my eye as I was browsing through our stacks but James Beard's "Beard on Pasta," which is kind of a funny title if you think about things like I do. A more appropriate title for me, though, might be "Pasta on Beard," as I sometimes find myself with reminders of earlier meals still stuck to the hair on my chin. James Beard himself stated "...truly the best way, the only classical and true way, to eat pasta is with gusto," and I agree. Let the sauce fly.
Making pasta is not entirely new to me. Once I made ravioli, and they were edible enough, though some fell apart from lack of good and proper tools and technique. I could not justify the effort and time involved in hand making pasta again. Pasta in a box is just fine generally--I love it--but freshly made pasta is a challenge. I read enough of the Beard book to give me a good start, learning that the best kind of flour to use is durham-wheat flour, which is a hard-wheat flour, though at this time I am not sure exactly what that means.
I have seen it done before, and I vaguely remember trying it once myself, but one technique for creating dough is to mound the flour, create a well, and drop your eggs into the well. One egg, two eggs, three eggs, and my wall of flour held up so well. The fourth egg presented a new challenge, as the flour levee broke, and the egg spilled forth. I scrambled to mix the flour and egg first with my fork and then with my hands, and I contained that spill.
Here comes the hard part. Pasta dough is not like pizza dough. It is tough, thick, and hard to knead. I knew I was doing a good job of it, though, because the counter was creaking and I broke a sweat after about 10 minutes of kneading. Occasionally, a crystal of salt in what was now a ball of dough glinted in the sunlight coming through the window, and I enjoyed seeing that.
I let the dough rest for about two hours. In the meantime, I rough chopped a big bag of very ripe tomatoes I bought at HT today from the bargain produce rack. I also diced a little onion and garlic and sauteed that in olive oil. Smells good, if you can imagine. After the onions softened, I threw in the tomatoes, some salt, and a handful of Pasta Sprinkle. I let that cook a good amount of time, then I squished the tomatoes with a masher before running the mix through a fine-mesh strainer. I need a food mill for this type of work, as straining the tomatoes was inefficient and time consuming. After all of this, I threw a bunch of meatballs into the sauce where they imparted another element of flavor to the sauce.
By now, the dough is well rested and ready to roll. In my zeal, I bumped the pasta machine, and it was falling, so I grabbed it before it fell to the floor. Unfortunately, the part I grabbed was quite sharp, and I sliced rather cleanly a half-inch cut in my finger. I decided it was a good time to take a break, as my finger was bleeding nicely.
Bleeding stopped and finger bandaged now, I started to roll my dough. This process was not bad at all as the pasta machine and its quick action performed most of the work. Now I have what looks like fettuccine. Nice. I am happy with the results so far, but my finger has started to bleed again. Bwahahaha.
I threw the noodles into a pot of boiling water and they cooked a few minutes. Mixed them with some of my sauce, topped the dish with some basil I tore apart and some grated Parm-Reg, and it's time to eat. I must say that I enjoyed the noodles and sauce quite a lot, as did the wife. The noodles had a nice chew to them, and some of them were a good two feet long. I am sold on fresh pasta. It is worth the effort, I am certain.