Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Pasta And You!

Pasta ... of COURSE you're excited about home-made pasta ... and you're going to learn how to do it right every single time.

To start , use good 'strong' flour ... in Canada use what is known as "All-Purpose" flour, either never bleached (unbleached) or white. Use the freshest eggs you can possibly buy ... try a farmers' market. Use the best olive oil you can afford. Follow this recipe:

Start by making the pasta on a clean dry counter. I tell my students NOT to use a cutting-board of any sort, as it will move around on them. Put the flour on the counter after weighing, and in a bowl put the opened 3 eggs and the extra yolk and the olive oil (the EVO). Make the well in the centre by heaping up the flour so it looks like a little volcano, then use three fingers in a circular motion plunged into the flour to push the flour aside and make a well in the middle with 'walls' evenly all around.
Some chefs then start the mixing with a fork, others (I am one) just use bare fingers from the get-go. As the eggs and oil are mixed, start to incorporate the flour by flicking the OUTSIDE of the walls over the top and into the developing mixture. Do this so the egg mixture does not run away on you and dribble along, or off, the counter! As soon as you can, move from using a mixing motion to a kneading motion. Try not to incorporate all the flour at once ... up to 10% should be left aside, and it may (or may not) get finally incorporated into the pasta you are making. Knead and knead with a circular rocking motion until the result is butter-smooth and a deep yellow colour. Try to knead with your full body-weight supported only on your toes as you rock forward and, with fairly stiff shoulders and elbows, transfer all your weight onto the pasta, kneading with the heels of the hands to develop long, strong glutens. When it is ready, wrap it in plastic for about 15 - 30 minutes and reserve in the frig.

BEFORE rolling out the pasta, right after it has gone into the refrigerator, heat a generous amount of good olive oil in a heavy sauté pan. Do not heat to actually brown; instead, heat to extract flavour, which means low heat ... you just want the garlic and onion (if you use any) to relax in a hot bath and let all their flavours go into the oil. This creates an infusion. We usually add a little fresh-ground pepper (large grind, not powder) to the hot oil. Have this ready in the pan right next to where you will boil the pasta.

We boil the pasta in well-salted water and when it is al dente we get it quickly out of the water and into the sauté pan for a fast turn or two (no more) in the infusion. Then, immediately into pre-heated individual bowls, and top with a little parmegiano, and maybe a some freshly-torn cilantro or basil.

We sometimes add a little basil and thyme mixed and chopped into a chiffonade.

Do not put cheese on or in pastas with fish. Instead, finish with fresh lemon juice squeezed right over the dish just before presentation, as the diner watches. Do this also with clams and mussels. Artistic tip:

Roll pasta out very thin, and lay a fresh parsley or basil or cilantro leaf (washed) onto part of the pasta. Fold another part over the leaf, and re-roll to make a long noodle with whole leaves showing through both sides of the pasta. Use these noodles to make an open ravioli, for instance, or a very elegant pasta con olio e aglio.

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