Fresh Pasta Without a Machine

April 28, 2012

The current issue of Cook’s Illustrated promises to deliver one of my son’s favorite food; perfect fresh pasta. Unfortunately, for all my past efforts, I have never been able to surpass a $2.50 package of refrigerated Buitoni. So today I tried Chris Kimball’s technique, and was quite pleased with the ease with which the dough is mixed, rolled out and cut into linguine.  It was even easier than using the pasta machine, and cleaning a counter-top is much more straight-forward than trying to brush away the dough fragments stuck to the pasta machine. The key to obtaining the perfect al dente texture is to roll your dough out incredibly thin. The guidelines he gives by rolling out into a 20″x6″ sheet allowed me to understand just how thin the dough needed to be. In the end, the final pasta was perfectly cooked with great texture. So far so good.

Yellow color comes from egg yolks, not semolina flour.

Unfortunately, the recipe relies of egg yolks instead of double-zero flour to attain its soft, workable texture. While providing a beautiful yellow color, it also adds a slight but distinctive egg flavor that left my son liking, but not loving, his dinner. 3-1/2 stars.

Comments:

  1. I used Chris Kimball’s recommended rolling pin, but the tapered ends made it difficult to obtain an even thickness. I think non-tapered ends would have made the rolling process easier and more effective.
  2. I didn’t make any of his recommended sauces; Olive Oil Sauce with Anchovies and Parsley, Tomato-Brown Butter Sauce or Walnut Cream Sauce. I will definitely try one or two in the future, and it’s possible that the sauces would have been more effective at hiding the eggy flavor.
  3. The original recipe calls for folding the dough into 2″ folds, but I found 3″ folds easier to unfurl.
  4. Chris Kimball notes that if you use King Arthur flour you will need to use 7 egg yolks, to compensate for the extra protein.
  5. I allowed the dough to rest for 2 hours, and it rolled out fine. However, the longer the dough rests in step 2 (up to 4 hours) the easier the dough will roll out.
  6. Chris Kimball offers a few alternate shapes. I tried the bow ties, but it is much more work and in the future will stick to linguine.

Rating: 3-1/2 stars.
Cost: $1.40; 1 pound of fresh pasta.
How much work? Low/Medium.
How big of a mess?  Low/Medium.
Started: 4:00 PM.  Dinner:  7:00 PM.

Chris Kimball’s original recipe is here. My descriptions of how I prepare it today are given below:

2 cups all-purpose flour (10 ounces)
2 large eggs plus 6 large yolks
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon salt

  1. Add flour, eggs, yolks and olive oil to the bowl of a food processor. Mix for 45 seconds until it becomes cohesive. If the dough sticks to your fingers, add 1 tablespoon of flour at a time (up to 4 tablespoons) until the dough just becomes tacky. But if the dough doesn’t become cohesive then add 1 teaspoon of water (up to 3 teaspoons) until the dough just comes together. Process an extra 30 seconds to incorporate your adjustments.
  2. Empty the dough onto a dry, un-floured work surface. Knead by hand for 1 or 2 minutes until it becomes smooth. Roll into a 6″-long cylinder and wrap tightly with plastic wrap. Let the dough rest at room temperature for between 1 to 4 hours, the higher end will make the dough easier to roll out.
  3. Add 4 quarts of water to a large pot and place over medium burner. The water will slowly come up to a boil while you roll out the pasta.
  4. Cut into 6 equal pieces and re-wrap remaining dough. Dust both sides of 1 slice with flour, lay the slice on a dry, un-floured work surface. Use your fingers to press into a 3″ square. Use a rolling pin to roll into a 6″square. Lightly dust both sides with flour.  Maintaining the 6″ width, roll the dough into a 12″ by 6″ rectangle; start in the middle of the dough roll away from you, return the rolling pin to the center of the dough, and roll the closer half towards you. Repeat as necessary to obtain a 12″ by 6″ rectangle.
  5. Again lightly dust both sides with flour and continue the same rolling process until you obtain a 20″ by 6″ rectangle, which will become somewhat translucent. Lift the dough occasionally to ensure that it doesn’t stick to the counter-top, and if the dough sticks to the counter too frequently or wrinkles when you roll it out, then you should again lightly dust the dough with flour. Repeat the rolling process with the remaining slices of dough. Be careful not to add too much flour or the dough may snapback when you roll.
  6. Allow the pasta sheet to stand on clean kitchen towel for 15 minutes before cutting. To make linguine, loosely fold pasta sheet at 3″ intervals to form a flat roll. Use a chef’s knife to cut into 3/16″-wide noodles. Gently use your fingers to unfurl the cut pasta. Place on baking sheet while you prepare your sauce, but be sure to cook within 1 hour.
  7. Add 1 tablespoon of salt to the boiling water. Boil pasta for about 3 minutes. Reserve a cup of the pasta’s cooking water for later, drain and combine with sauce. If your sauce is not immediately ready, add back a little of the reserved pasta’s cooking water to re-loosen the sauce.
  8. If you don’t cook all the pasta tonight, lay your shaped pasta on a baking sheet freeze until it is firm. Once frozen you can put in zip-lock bags a freeze for up to 2 weeks.

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