Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Homemade Pasta Part 1: the dough video

When Jamie Olive says that making pasta from scratch is almost as easy as opening a box, he is lying. Pasta from scratch is definitely a project, but a really fun one. It's just like playing with play dough.

Today, I am starting a mini-series on unfilled pasta that is shaped by hand. In Italy, there are hundreds of shapes that belong to this category. The ones I've mastered so far are cavatelli (top left), orecchiette (top right), trofie (bottom left), and pici (bottom right).
But before you start playing with dough, you need to make the dough.  The pasta that is shaped by hand instead of rolled into thin sheets is usually made from flour, water, and salt. No eggs.

9 oz flour mix (see the options below)
2 tsp kosher salt (or 1 tsp table salt)
5 oz warm water (about 100 degrees)

About the flour mix: I like to use 4.5 oz all-purpose and 4.5 oz semolina (but you can use 9 oz all-purpose). For an earthier taste, try 7 oz all-purpose and 2 oz farro or whole wheat flour.  Semolina and whole wheat flours are available at Whole Foods.  If you are looking for farro flour in the Boston area, try Formaggio's Kitchen or look for it on amazon.


YouTube Link: Pasta Dough (water based)

So what's the deal with weighing the ingredients?
Flour is a compressible ingredient and measuring it with cups can result in 25% variation from day to day, cook to cook, etc.  If you are not convinced, read this post.  But water is not compressible, so why ounces and not cups?  It's because I have watched hundreds of people make pasta dough in my classes and here is what I've observed.  If you tell someone to get 1/2 cup plus 2 Tbsp water (that's what 5oz of water is by volume), you never know exactly what you are going to get.  Some people don't bend down enough to have their eyes level with 1/2 cup mark.  Some don't realize that liquids are measured by the bottom of the meniscus.  Some don't fill the Tablespoon to the brim.  Some spill half of that Tablespoon while carrying it to the bowl.  In a small batch of pasta, these small differences are not all that small.  In the last 5 pasta classes, I have told students to weigh the water, and what do you know -- everyone's dough was perfect.  So, you got a scale for flour already, why not put it to use for water too.

What scale do you recommend?
I have used digital Escali scale for at least 5 years.  It is cheap (around $25), small, easy to store, and reliable.

Homemade Pasta Part 2: shaping video
Homemade Pasta Part 3: cooking and saucing

26 down / 24 more to go

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