When it Rains, Part Deux

16 Mar

(Disclaimer: there is a harsh capital letter in this post… read with caution).

Holy cow, when will it stop raining?  So I know I’m fairly new to all these Northwest lifestyle changes, but this is just ridiculous.

The weatherman (the local TV guy, not the infamous bachelorette contestant) said we are in the “rainy season.”  I’m sorry, I know of only 4 seasons: Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter.  Is this “rainy season” the claimed 5th season?  Like the 5th taste – umami?  Can we actually even try to compare delicious umami with continual cold, sopping rain?  I think not.

For weeks (minus the brief relief of sun last Friday), the Oregon Coast has been cold, windy, and oh-so-rainy.  This is drenching rain.  The windshield wipers can’t move fast enough, rain.  Umbrellas are a joke, rain.  Rain, rain, bleeping rain.  And despite all the cold wetness, it’s still the start of Spring.  So along the sides of the roads, and among many gardens, bright and cheery daffodils are stubbornly sprouting and opening.  They stand beautiful, strong and tall on their thin stems during giant gusts of wind and rain, sort of like giving pretty little middle fingers to the evil rain gods.  If you listen close enough, you can even hear their “F-you, winter!  I’m gonna grow!” protests.

While I realize my tone, dripping with dreariness (pun and double entendre intended), is a downer, there are many things that I’ve realized can remedy the bad-weather-blues: sleep, eat, play Wii, cook, eat more, sleep more, run crazily around the house until an inevitable toe-stubbing, then sit by the fire.  Sigh.  Being that these options are about all that can be done (when it’s not exactly safe to leave the house and drive somewhere), it’s best to make the most of it.

So last night, I had a friend over to make the ultimate comfort food – pasta.  For Christmas, Tammy received the pasta-rolling/cutting attachments to her stand mixer, and at mid-March she had not yet ventured into the gluten-loving world of fresh pasta.  Being another rainy (yet not as treacherous) night, she came over to learn the tricks.

I must say, Tammy’s first time making pasta was much better than mine.  She did keep all eggs on the counter, and she did not get flour all over the kitchen.  She didn’t even start to sweat in the last 5 minutes of kneading, and her pasta rolled and thinned out beautifully (no stretchy holes!).  We chatted and caught up on life during our little carb-filled girls night, and enjoyed a humble dinner of fresh linguini with a creamy vodka vegetable ragu (good last night, but even better today at lunch).

There’s something amazing about freshly made pasta that just lightens even the heaviest sauce.  I’m a huge fresh pasta fan, and will almost always go the extra length to make my own.  I also find something so organic and earthy about forming, kneading, and rolling my own pasta dough, that really does make a difference in the taste.

Before I had my own pasta attachments, I would use wonton wrappers as a device to stuff ravioli filling in my mouth.  They are common, and work well (only boil for a minute or less, or saute or pan fry them in butter), and are understandably a great scaffolding step to creating and experimenting with new pasta flavors.  But now that I’m making my own, I don’t plan on using those wrappers for anything other than go-to dumplings anytime soon.

Almost every decent technique cookbook has a recipe for pasta, and over the years of studying recipes and techniques, I realize that while there may be a million and two different recipes for homemade pasta, they really are about all the same: flour and eggs.  These recipes also, many times lead to an end result of pounds of pasta.  While having oodles of fresh pasta is great, unless you have the space to dry it and store it, a smaller batch may be more suitable for everyday use.  So, I have experimented many times with my own recipes to scale down the serving size, and came up with one that houses a healthy ratio of flour to eggs, and yielding enough pasta for a hearty two-person meal (I’m referring to a basic cut of spaghetti, linguini, pappardelle, or ravioli sheets).  That way, if there are any mistakes, the frustrated guilty feeling of wasting pounds of flour and a dozen eggs doesn’t wash over.  Also, it’s good for small kitchens. 🙂

Enjoy the pasta recipes below, and hopefully you will find them as light, tasty, and satisfying to make as I do (and now Tammy, too!).

Pasta Dough (serves 2 after rolled and cut) 

  • 1 c all purpose flour, plus more for possible dusting
  • 1 whole large egg, and 1 egg white
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Whole Wheat Pasta Dough (serves 2 after rolled and cut)

  • 1 c whole wheat flour, plus more for possible dusting
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • a touch of water, if dough is feeling too dry and/or mealy when mixing.

Pour out the flour on a clean, dry surface, and form into a decent well-shape (like mashed potatoes awaiting gravy).  Gently pour in the egg and egg white, as well as the olive oil.  With a sturdy fork, lightly start beating the egg mixture while slowly incorporating the surrounding flour.  Once more and more flour is incorporated, you may need to wipe down the prongs of the fork.  Mix quickly – it’s OK to get a little messy (but try to keep all ingredients in a small surface area).

Once all of the loose flour is incorporated and it’s difficult to continue mixing with the fork, start kneading the dough.  It will feel sticky at first, but will quickly come together and feel tacky.  By the end of kneading the dough will feel springy and smooth.  Knead with a purpose (pushing away with the heel of your palm, and fold back; turn and repeat), for about 10 minutes.  Then cover dough with plastic wrap and let sit for about 30 minutes (the gluten have been stretched and aggravated, and need some time to relax.  And if it’s your first time kneading pasta dough, you may need to, as well).

Then, depending on your make of pasta rollers, set your roller to the first setting, lightly dust the dough with flour, and roll through until each time yields the same thickness (about 5-6 times).  Then change the setting to the next smallest setting, and roll through (about 3-4 times).  Continue until you get to desired thickness – I find with ravioli sheets, I go all the way up to the 7th or 8th setting for a thin dough, but for cutting spaghetti, I stop at 4.  But it is all your preference – that’s the great thing about cutting your own pasta!

Have boiling water ready (remember to heavily salt it!), and pour in pasta.  Remember, fresh pasta cooks much faster than commercially dried pasta, so don’t go call your BFF and start gossiping about last night’s Glee.  Cook until Al Dente (slightly toothsome – no one likes mushy pasta) and serve with sauce, or just barely undercook it and throw into your favorite sauce warming on the stove (the pasta will finish cooking in sauce pan).

It’s more than worth the time to make.  Please ENJOY!

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