Maureen Fraîche

Mixing Business and Pleasure in the Kitchen

Fresh Pasta

Fresh Pasta

It has been awhile, hasn’t it?  Funny how time can fly by between posts.  We’ve finally gotten into some warm weather, which makes it hard to stare at a computer screen.  Plus, we are now expecting our THIRD kiddo (due in November), and there’s nothing like a little first trimester funk to suck the motivation out of a would-be blogger.

In any case, and at long last, I’ve finally gotten around to the next installment in my series of posts on homemade, authentic Italian lasagne.  While you can certainly buy dried lasagne sheets or even fresh sheets for lasagne, for whatever reason, I had a sudden urge to make my own pasta from scratch.  Gotsta justify owning a pasta press, right?

The recipe for pasta is quite simple, though I’ll say right now that making pasta with a couple of ankle biters running around is a whoooooole lot different than the first time I made pasta back in college.  As I recall, the boyfriend and I made a date night out of it and I can still clearly picture the fettuccine he had wrapped around and around his neck in a serious effort to make the longest strand mankind has ever seen.  Now that I think on it, my future husband’s help may not have been that different than my 4-year-old’s…

Homemade pasta really is something else.  Though I don’t make it very often, it is always a memorable meal when I do.  Whether you’re making alfredo or a vodka tomato cream sauce, the taste and texture of the homemade stuff somehow takes the whole dish to a new level.  And that goes for lasagne, too.

As you’ll see, the recipe I used is quite simple and is an egg pasta dough.  What you end up with is a smooth dough that cranks beautifully through your press.  An adaptation from Saveur Cooks Authentic Italian, it is one of the four recipes I used from this excellent cookbook to make a pan of Lasagne al Forno.

Basic Egg Pasta

To make a batch to serve 4, use 1 cup all-purpose flour to 2 large eggs, plus more flour for dusting and such.

To make  a batch for Lasagne al Forno, use 2 cups all-purpose flour and 4 large eggs, plus more flour for dusting and such.

Sift your flour into a large mixing bowl and make a well in the center.  Crack in your eggs (or better, crack them into a small bowl first and then add them to the flour) and then lightly beat the eggs with a fork.  Using the fork, slowly begin to incorporate the flour surrounding the eggs until you have a sticky dough.  Once it is too stiff to work with a fork, dump the whole lot out onto a lightly floured surface and begin to knead the pasta dough until no longer sticky.  Form the dough into a ball and then cover with a damp kitchen towel or plastic wrap.  Clean your work surface and then dust with a bit more flour.

Unwrap your dough and knead with the heel of your hand until smooth, about 5 minutes, and then flatten to a large disk that can fit through the widest setting on your pasta press.  After making sure your press is at the widest setting, begin to feed your dough through the pasta press.  Do this 3 or 4 times, folding and turning the pasta before each go until it is smooth and the width of your pasta press.  Cut into 4 pieces.

Now you are ready to get specific to what you want for dinner.  For lasagne sheets, take one of your dough pieces and cover the rest with the damp towel or plastic wrap.  Begin rolling this dough through the pasta press, decreasing the setting one notch at a time, until you reach the second to last (thinnest) notch.  If the sheet is too long and unwieldy to deal with, you can certainly cut it into the lengths you need once you get to this point (or at any point, if exact length doesn’t matter).  I found it worked best to line my counters with tea towels or Silpats so I’d have a place to set my pasta once it was done.  As always, cover anything you aren’t immediately working with so it doesn’t dry out and have extra flour on hand for dusting as needed.

If you’re making other lengths or shapes, just have at it!  I find for most long pastas that first getting the sheets down to the second or third to last notch is a good thickness, but play with your particular press.  The lasagne sheets are also perfect for making ravioli or tortellini, by the way.

When it comes time to cook the pasta, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.  Some recipes will say to add a glug of olive oil, I’ll leave that up to you.  Add your pasta to the pot and boil for a minute or so.  The pasta will decidedly rise to the surface when it is done.  Toss with your favorite sauce and serve right away, or rinse under cold water and set aside for a batch of lasagne.  Enjoy!!

Nutrition information for 1/4 of batch that uses 1 cup of flour and 2 large eggs: 150 calories, 3 g total fat, 1 g saturated fat, 24 g carbohydrate, 1 g fiber, 6 g protein

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