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Thursday, May 5, 2016

pasta! pasta!

We have a child that loves pasta. Like REALLY loves pasta. As in when you ask if she wants anything special to eat over the weekend she says, "Pasta." When you ask what she wants for Christmas she says, "Pasta." And when you say you have a surprise for her later she says, "Is it a pasta party?"

Well, the joke was on her that day because it WAS a pasta party. I just didn't think she would guess it. 

I have been wanting to make homemade pasta ever since I inherited my friend Martha's pasta maker five years ago. When we moved I decided not to pack it away with all of my other non-essential kitchen items because this was the year I would make pasta. This was the year the pasta maker joined the ranks of essential kitchen items.

(I mean, when you have a child that feels this way about pasta, isn't it sort of inevitable?)

I researched some pasta dough recipes and randomly picked one that seemed simple (the only ingredients were eggs and flour) and had good ratings. The success seemed to be in the execution. You place your flour on a wooden board, make a well in the flour and then crack the eggs into it, beating them and slowly incorporating the flour until you have a "shaggy" dough. (No you do not use the dough hook on your Kitchenaide mixer. I really wanted to but no recipes I read said that was okay and I wasn't going to be a wuss on my first attempt.)

Let me tell you, my dough was shaggy. It was a shaggy with a capital Shag. No amount of kneading by hand was making my shaggy mess into a cohesive dough. I added another egg in case mine "extra large" eggs hadn't, in fact, been large enough. I looked up another recipe and saw it called for adding water a teaspoon at a time if the dough was too dry. That sounded good so I did that. 

The directions said the dough should be soft and silky. Mine was tough like leather and still crumbling around the edges. I wrapped it as instructed and waited the requisite 20 minutes. I think my dough recipe had some ratio issues.

Turns out 20 minutes can really work wonders. What I unwrapped wasn't exactly supple but it was at least dough. I pressed it into an oval-shaped disc and got ready to roll it through the pasta cranker. 

You take several passes through the rollers, narrowing the passage each time until you have a thin line of dough. Then you can either pass it through the spaghetti or fettuccine setting or you can leave it as a thin sheet and then cut it with the super fun cutters.
I threw together some ravioli and a few random curly q's because they were fun.

But by far the spaghetti was where there real fun was. It was like playing with a Play Dough maker but way better. After all, we were going to eat this stuff!
Maya was as excited as...well, as you would expect a pasta devotee to be.

Honestly, it wasn't nearly as labor intensive as I had expected. For sure, the rolled pasta took a lot longer. But once you make the dough, the spaghetti was super fast. From what I gather, you can  make the dough ahead and keep it in the fridge for a bit as long as you let it come to room temperature before you roll it.

And it was crazy delicious. Ella had hers with marinara sauce but the rest of us loved the simplicity of butter, salt, pepper and fresh Parmesan cheese.

It turns out pasta makers aren't at all expensive. I saw some online for less than $30.00. If I were going to purchase one, though, I would buy one that attaches to the table or counter. I didn't have the three hands I needed to hold the pasta maker so it wouldn't flip over, turn the crank and guide the dough as it came through. It was far easier when I had a helper.

Mother's Day calls for another pasta party for sure. I am going to find a new recipe (there are some that have you add different flavorings- purees or herbs- to the beaten eggs before you incorporate them into the flour). I also really want to try my hand at one of my favorite things to eat, squash ravioli.

For Maya, it will always be about the pasta. She had the stomach flu last weekend and when she finally turned the corner, she asked for pasta. As she gobbled it down, I asked how her belly felt. She rubbed her tubby and said, all satisfied and contented, "Pasta fixes everything."
Gotta love the t-shirt. So Maya.

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