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Lucy Mercer

Lucy Mercer
Location
Atlanta, Georgia, USA
Birthday
December 31
Bio
I cook, I write, I carpool. You may also find my words at A Cook and Her Books. Email acookandherbooks@gmail.com. Thanks for visiting!

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SEPTEMBER 5, 2010 11:13PM

A labor of love: Homemade egg pasta

Rate: 14 Flag

pasta

 Homemade pasta is one of those "many hands make for light work" kitchen projects. Sure, it can be made alone, and it's a pleasant task, and with the sunlight streaming through the window and NPR on the radio, a pasta project can make for a soothing and satisfying afternoon. In my house, though, I pull out the Atlas pasta machine and the girls come running, and crafting linguine becomes "mini hands make for light work."

Part of my motivation for writing about food is to leave a record for my children, so they will have recipes and recorded memories of our family life. I want my daughters to be competent in the kitchen, to know good food and feel comfortable preparing it - that's why I make homemade pasta and let my girls join in.

I wish I could say that I learned to make pasta from a nonna, one of the Italian grandmothers that Carol Field writes about in "In Nonna's Kitchen." My Alabama grandmother was a society lady who wore Italian leather pumps and could make a mean tomato aspic from Campbell's soup. For my own kitchen education, I turn to books, like those of Carol Field and Marcella Hazan. When I first started making pasta, I used the detailed instructions in Marcella’s “Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking.” I recommend it as the premier primer on homemade egg pasta.

Here is how I make pasta and a tasty clam sauce to accompany. To quell the anti-authentic hue and cry in the comment section, I will state first off that this is how a Scotch-Irish-German girl from Georgia makes pasta. I use a food processor to mix and knead it and I use salt and olive oil in the pasta dough. Marcella doesn’t do this - but my pasta turns out fine, so that’s all I can say. I’ve watched many times while TV chefs make a crater out of flour, crack eggs into it and mix all together with a fork. My experience with this method is a gunky countertop. The processor is super-fast and the clean-up is easy.

Homemade egg pasta for linguine

This is a double recipe of pasta, yielding about 1 ½ pounds. It’s too much for the accompanying clam sauce, unless you’re a serious carbo-phile. Toss noodles lightly in flour and arrange in nests on baking sheet. Let dry for an hour or so, place in plastic container and freeze. When it’s time to cook, frozen pasta can go directly into the boiling pot of pasta water.

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

4 large eggs, organic if possible

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1. In the bowl of a food processor, place flour and salt and pulse a few times to combine. Add eggs and olive oil and pulse until dough forms into a solid ball. Let knead by running processor for two minutes. The dough should be firm and smooth like a baby's bum.

2. Turn dough ball into an oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let rest for a half hour. You can also place dough in an oiled plastic bag, squish out the air, seal it and refrigerate for up to a day.

pasta dough

3. When you’re ready to roll, make sure to have plenty of counter space and kitchen helpers. Divide dough into 12 equal-ish pieces and flatten each into a round. Dust your work area with flour and set a willing worker to roll the dough. Have a drying rack ready, or half-sheet pans dusted with flour, ready to receive noodles. Also handy to have around - a damp tea cloth or paper towel to spread over the pasta lumps as each waits its turn at the press.

4. With the pasta roller adjusted to the widest setting, feed the first flattened piece of dough through the pasta roller. Fold the remainder letter style, that is, top third and bottom third over middle. Feed this piece through. Repeat once more, for a total of three passes through the widest setting of the machine. Repeat with remaining 11 dough pieces.

5. Thinning: reduce the setting one notch and feed each piece through, setting each thinned piece on a floured countertop or across the drying rack. When each piece has been thinned, reduce the setting size to the next smallest number and run each piece through again. Repeat: reducing the setting and running a piece through until you reach the thinnest setting. After the final pass, the pasta sheets will be as long as a child’s winter scarf and as thin as a sheet of paper.

lindsey pasta 1


6. Attach the cutter to the pasta machine. Feed each sheet through the cutter, watching your child’s face as she sees the noodles take shape. If you do not have a pasta drying rack, you may set nests of the noodles on a lightly floured baking sheet.

lindsey pasta 2

7. Let noodles dry while the water in the pasta pot comes to a boil. If you’ve never worked with fresh pasta, you will be amazed at how quickly it cooks - just a minute or two to toothsome noodles. Uncooked noodles may be stored in an airtight container in the freezer. They will cook easily in boiling water, no need to defrost.

  clams

Clam Sauce

In my house this dish is simply called “clams.” If I use dried pasta, it’s a pantry meal that can be put together in about 30 minutes, while the water is boiling for the pasta. With homemade fresh pasta, it’s worthy of company.


½ medium onion, minced

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 cloves garlic, minced

3 (6 ½ oz.) cans chopped clams, drain and reserve liquid

½ cup dry white wine, or vermouth

A handful of fresh herbs such as oregano, basil and thyme, minced (in winter, start with ½ teaspoon Italian seasoning or a mixture of appropriate dried herbs in your cabinet, to taste)

Freshly ground black pepper

1 pound linguine, dried or fresh, cooked

1. In a skillet over medium heat, saute onion in olive oil until softened. Add garlic and stir for about 30 seconds.

2. Add wine and let cook until reduced by half. Add reserved clam liquid and allow to cook down.

3. Add clams, herbs and freshly ground pepper to taste. It’s tempting to add salt, but be very careful - it’s easy to over-salt this dish.
 
4. Serve over pasta.

Text & images © 2010, Lucy Mercer.


"In Nonna's Kitchen" by Carol Field, published 1997 by Harper Collins.

 "Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking" by Marcella Hazan, published 1992 by Knopf.

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Comments

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Socialist pasta! You did it! Kudos, Lucy. Looks great.
Great idea for this week's SKC! I, too, have made homemade pasta, and having children to help does make it a bit easier (although it still seems VERY time consuming). I usually follow Mario Batali's methods with the pile of flour and the well and the eggs...quite messy, but delicious results. I'm going to give the food processor method a go the next time around, though, for sure.


Is your younger daughter more kitchen-inclined than her older sister? It seems that we see a lot of pictures of this one. (My younger one is much more interested in helping, too, although big brother does pitch in on occasion, typically for baked goods.) That's a very cute helper you've got!
Yum! Love my pasta machine!!
I used to have a hand crank pasta machine.

I have also seen Mario Batelli use the single egg in a "crater of flour" and will learn that someday. He was just goofing around on Emeril. I wish I had a slo mo video of it.

Your stuff sounds good.
Your daughter is adorable! I've got one of those Atlas pasta machines, too, and I love it. Pasta-making is a perfect project to share with little ones. Lucky little girls!
Kathy: Two posts in one day is a record for me. Thanks for reading!

Lisa: #1 is 12 now and will help out sometimes, especially if we're making cookies or chocolates. #2 will drop whatever she's doing, pull a chair up to the counter and get to work no matter what's involved. Neither one will set the table. Sigh.

o'stephanie: thanks for visiting! I'd love to read some homemade pasta stories!

Nick: I love Mario and Emeril both, but have never mastered their easy pasta method. Thanks for visiting!

Felicia: Thank you! I need to try stuffed pasta, or possibly your stuffed wontons with the girls - sometimes you have to sacrifice the kitchen for some good food.
Pasta may be my favorite thing that I love and pasta making is right up there with it. If I didn't already have plans to make it with a friend soon, I'd be on the phone after reading your post. Love, love, love. Rated.
Homemade pasta is indeed a labor of love, Lucy - especially seeing the little hands that help make it. I love the dish that contains your ball of dough. It's lovely as the recipe it will unfold.
I don't have a pasta machine, although I do own Marcella Hazan's classic book. After reading others' comments, as well as your delightful (as always) post - my decision has been made: I'm going pasta machine shopping. Thanks for the inspiration!
Lucy, what sweet pictures of your industrious little one! And great recipes.
"Part of my motivation for writing about food is to leave a record for my children, so they will have recipes and recorded memories of our family life." You've summed it up!

I've never made homemade pasta. Too scared after learning my high school English teacher lost a finger touching her parents' ravioli machine as a child.
Well, now I have no excuse. I actually have an Atlas pasta machine that I bought from Goodwill a few years ago and have never used. I feel totally unproductive! Your little one looks so industrious!
I wish I could keep you in my kitchen.
Lucy,

Amanda fed me the same line about wanting me in her kitchen.

Be very, very careful ... or have a lot of stamina

(R)
When I graduated from law school I received a gift certificate from Williams-Sonoma and I used it to buy my own pasta machine. I haven't made any in awhile, but there is no reason I shoduln't do some this week. Thanks for the reminder of how good (and easy) fresh pasta can be.
I have had a pasta maker like yours for years and never had a decent pasta dish that inspired me enough to go through the process...until NOW! Thank you!
Theresa: You are such a fantabulous cook, I’d love to know how you make pasta!

Fusun: I love the bowl: I have a few more pieces in that pattern.

Katrocada: Marcella will guide you. Incredibly lucid instructions.

Linda: The sweet little one started her last year of preschool this morning. 15 more years of early mornings. I’m not sure I’ll make it.

Grace: That’s horrifying! It must have been some sort of industrial machine. I think you’d really have to think about it to hurt yourself with an Atlas machine.

Bellwether: Oh, the vegetarian pastas you will make with your pasta machine - I can’t wait to read about what you’ve dreamed up!

Amanda: I’m sure you mean in the “Hazel, just call me Miss G” way, right? I’ll bring the pasta machine and your boys can fight over who gets to turn the crank.

CrazeCzar: Thanks for visiting!

Gavin: I’m going crazy thinking about the tamales you make. Will trade pasta for tamales.

Susan: The sauce is quite nice with dried pasta, but if you want to go to the trouble of homemade, it’s very special.

Thanks, everyone, for visiting and commenting!
Wonderful! DeeLish. Your daughter is undoubtedly a chef in the making.

Making fresh pasta is not so very hard at all. If you are energetic and have a rolling pin (or a Bordeaux bottle) you don't even need the crank roller machine, just some good shoulders and determination. When it's thin enough you can dust with flour, fold over and over on top of itself and take deep cuts according to the width of your pasta.

I might add that if one is making a stuffed pasta like a ravioli or tortellini freezing prior to cooking can actually be more desirable than "directly" fresh.

Nothing quite like it! Viva Italia!