Learning to Make Pasta

by on October 28th, 2010
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I’ve wanted a pasta maker for ages. I’ve watched with envy as chefs on the Food Channel whipped up various pasta dishes in under an hour. This year, my wish was granted. I received the roller and cutters for my pro style mixer.

It had its first outing yesterday. I had the book open to the instructions and recipes so that my first batch would be easy. There are a number of things they don’t mention in the guide on using these pieces of equipment.

I’d thought the directions quite thorough when I read them, if a bit intimidating. The part about having my hair pulled back and not to wear dangly earrings warned me that this particular batch of equipment might be a little on the dangerous side.

Making the dough was easy. I’d thought it would be the hard part, but with the mixer, it was done inside ten minutes. After the recommended resting time, I obediently divided the dough into four pieces.

This led to the first thing they neglected to mention. A regular batch of pasta dough divided into fourths will have an outcome exceeding two feet of finished dough each. That two feet, when fed through the cutter gives you two feet of multiple strands of wet dough waiting to ball back up just from the heat of your hands.

This leads to the second thing they didn’t mention. You have to separate the strands as soon as possible after cutting them or they meld together. They have to stay separated until they are dry. Otherwise, you end up with a mass of hard, dry dough with funny protuberances all over it.

I don’t have any idea how the folks on Iron Chef America can make pasta in under an hour. From making the dough to getting the last strands out of the cutter took about an hour and a half…without a break and not counting the cooking time afterwards.

The last thing they neglected to mention was precisely how many strands of dough in various stages of drying will come out of the machine. My kitchen is not set up for long strands of pasta drying in it.

If you had been watching, by now the muttered imprecations and long strands of dough drying all over the place would probably have you in stitches. Strands of pasta were draped over everything I could find in short notice, my apron was coated in flour and the kitchen will probably never be the same again. I suspect we’ll find dried up pasta in odd places for the next five or six years.

There are some changes I intend to make the next time I work with my machine. First, I’m going to divide the dough into a minimum of sixths. This should cut down on the length of the strands at cutting time.

If that doesn’t cut it down enough, once the sheets are done, I’m going to cut them into manageable sizes. It will make both handling the dough and finding suitable places to dry it much easier.

The finished pasta was actually quite good, despite the drama of its creation. I’ll be using this machine a lot, I think. With the changes above, I think it will be a lot of fun and much healthier than the store bought variety.

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