Sunday, March 29, 2009
Sunday Cooking -- Fresh Arugula Pasta!
Lately my Sunday cooking endeavors have begun to spiral out of control. I've gone from tortillas to artisan bread to yogurt, and this weekend I got bit by the Italian bug...so I had to try to make my own fresh pasta. Having just been blessed by a fresh harvest of organic baby arugula, I figured it would be exciting to experiment with making a fresh green pasta. I have never made pasta before so this was all a learning experience!
My sister was kind enough to lend me a spare hand-crank Italian pasta maker like this one. We tried hand-cutting some of the pasta we had rolled out, but getting the noodles to a uniform thickness and length was difficult, though I'm sure experienced pasta makers are able to do it. The machine is definitely worth the money if you want to make pasta more than once or twice.
We used the Joy of Cooking pasta recipe and doubled it. The recipe is as follows:
2/3 cup all-purpose flour (when I doubled the recipe I did 2/3 white flour and 2/3 whole wheat)
1 tablespoon water
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon olive oil
(optional) 2-4 tablespoons blended cooked spinach or other fresh green; make sure to drain the greens quite well before using.
Mix egg with water, salt and olive oil. Make a well in the flour and pour liquid into it. Work dough with hands until sticky and blended. Add greens into dough and work in. Knead for about 10 minutes, the way you would bread, then allow dough to rest for up to 1 hour. We chopped our arugula instead of blending it, and it turned out to be too coarse, so I recommend putting it in the food processer and making it the consistency of pesto before incorporating in the dough.
Cut the dough into sections. We did a preliminary rolling with a rolling pin, to form the dough into the right shape...then we passed it through the flattening part of the pasta maker. The machine has different settings for thinness, depending on what kind of pasta you want to make. Start on the thickest setting, then gradually roll the dough through on thinner and thinner settings until you get to the one you want. It got really long and we kept dividing the pieces into shorter chunks so we could manage them as we fed them into the rollers! Throughout, it's important to keep everything -- the work surface, your hands, the machine, the rolling pin and the pasta itself -- well dusted with flour. We also spread a sheet of parchment paper on the counter as a resting place for chunks of dough and finished pasta.
Cutting the flattened dough was fun, and took the least amount of time out of all the steps to the finished product. We slid on the cutting attachment and fed pieces through, careful to keep them well floured. Without enough flour, noodles tended to stick together. They also stuck together where larger chunks of arugula were lodged in the dough -- definitely a reason to puree the greens.
Finally, we cooked some pasta up and ate it, simultaneously strategizing about how to store the rest. We decided to create loose bundles and freeze them in a ziploc bag, hoping they do not re-form into a blob of dough. I'm hoping we can just take them out of the freezer and throw them right into a pot of boiling water. And the fresh pasta we tried? It was SO GOOD! Salt, pepper and a little pat of butter was all I needed. I am not a huge fan of 'normal' pasta and I can't remember the last time I was willing to eat plain spaghetti, but I could have eaten a mountain of this stuff. You could really taste the egg (organic & free range definitely helps with this...we are so lucky to have access to good eggs.), though the arugula was for all rights and purposes undetectable. Good for you though in terms of nutrients, and the pasta was pretty!! I'm looking forward to making some egg noodles and also roasted red pepper pasta this summer. I hope you are inspired to try your own round of pasta making, and readers who have advice on pasta or questions are highly encouraged to comment.
That's all for now...the verdict is still out on what I ought to try next, though I do have a notion to experiment with crepes...