Thursday, January 19, 2012

Adventures in Pasta Making

I asked for and received for Christmas the pasta making attachments for my Kitchenaid Stand Mixer. Why would I want to go through the trouble of making my own pasta, you may ask? For one thing, I have tried several whole wheat pastas at the grocery store and don't like them much at all. We eat a lot of pasta at my house, and I want us to be able to eat "healthier" pasta. I figured if I make my own, I can experiment with several whole-wheat recipes until I find one I like. Also, making pasta reminds of playing with play-doh when I was little.

I finally had the time this week to give this pasta making thing a whirl. One of the reviews I read of the pasta making attachments discussed running a batch of "practice" dough through the attachments to clean out any residual oils, metal shavings, etc. that might still be left on the attachments from manufacturing. This seemed to make sense to me, and if I screwed up the pasta on my first time out, it wouldn't be a batch I intended to eat anyway.

This is the attachment set that I got for Christmas. It contains the pasta roller and two cutter attachments, one for fettuccine and one for spaghetti.

I used a Basic Pasta recipe I found online because this particular recipe only called for one cup of flour. Since I knew I wasn't going to eat this first batch, I didn't want to waste a lot of flour. A couple days later, I made a second batch and doubled this same Basic Pasta recipe so I could make more than the first practice batch yielded. The instructions for the pasta attachments said to mix the dough using the flat beater for about 30 seconds then use the dough hook on it for another 2 minutes.

I next had to hand knead the dough for about 2 minutes on a floured board. I bought this nice big board specifically for pasta making, and the fact that I only had a really tiny cutting board previously. Although, I'm thinking that I will only use this side that has the pastry markings on it for dry ingredients and may use the other side for non-raw meat cutting. I like my plastic cutting board for meat because I can just spray the hell out of it with bleach to clean all the germies. But I digress. After I kneaded the dough, it had to rest for 20 minutes. Not sure why the dough had to rest when I did all the hard work!

Next it was time to attach the roller. There is a lever I twist to unscrew the Kitchenaid logo cap on the front and then insert the roller and tighten it up. After I turned the mixer on, I was a bit confused because the part where you usually put the beater was still going around. I guess I thought it would stop and only the attachment on the front would run. But when I looked at the roller, it was indeed running. Whatever.

Switching between the different roller and cutter attachments was pretty easy.  The reviews I read about the attachments said that being able to make pasta with the Kitchenaid attachments versus a hand-roller pasta maker is that you can use both hands to guide the dough in and out of the roller or cutter. I fully understand this now, especially when I was trying to use one hand to take photos with my iPhone while I was guiding the dough in and out. I can't imagine trying to do this with a hand-roller.

The dough gets put through the roller several times on 1, then I start increasing it until I reach the desired thinness of the dough, which for fettuccine was 5, for the spaghetti I went to 6. I apologize for any blurriness in these photos. Like I said earlier, trying to take photos and guide the dough at the same time was not easy. And, my photo taking abilities leave a lot to be desired.

This is the fettuccine going through the cutter. 

This is the spaghetti. 

I also got this nifty drying rack for drying the pasta. The instructions said that you don't need to dry it if you're going to cook it right away. Otherwise, if you want to use it later, then dry for an hour.



I cooked the fettuccine (I guess I didn't really have to dry it after all, but whatever) so I could have it for dinner. With the spaghetti, I used my handy dandy food sealer to put the pasta in an airtight package and put it in the fridge. The directions say it can stay in the fridge for a month or for a year in the freezer. I found when taking the pasta off the bars of the rack, it sometimes broke. Not sure if there is a better method for removal so as not to break the pasta in half. If I figure out a better way, I'll update in a subsequent post.

The fettuccine took about 8 minutes to cook. I don't like my pasta al dente, otherwise it probably would have been done in about 5 - 6 minutes.

I made a simple Alfredo Sauce then added a couple tablespoons of jar pesto that I had in the fridge. I LOVE pesto!! Once I get my herb garden going again (my hydroponic herb garden will be the subject of subsequent posts), then I'll have more basil to make my own pesto. I digress again, I got distracted by the pesto. I have whipped up this Alfredo Sauce before. It's quite yummy and quick to put together. I did not use evaporated milk or whipping cream (I didn't have any) as the recipe calls for; I used 2% milk instead which I think would make the sauce lighter in calories and fat. If I was making this sauce for someone besides myself, I would use heavy cream and fresh-grated parmigiano reggiano rather than the Kraft Parmesan Cheese I had on hand. But even the ghetto version still tasted good though.

Voila! Finished product!

Next time I will start to experiment with different whole wheat pasta recipes until I come up with a recipe that I like. I also want to experiment with making ravioli, but I'll need to buy a ravioli cutter. I saw a nifty one in the SkyMall magazine on a flight to Virginia last month, but I can't find it on their website. I fly again in a couple weeks, maybe I'll find it this time and actually write down the name of it. 

Overall, I have to say making pasta was really pretty easy and painless. I will likely make up large batches on weekends and then seal them up and refrigerate and/or freeze them. So, the next time I invite you to dinner, you may just be eating some of my homemade pasta!

ADDENDUM: As I was editing this post and adding in the hyperlinks, I found the attachment that makes rigatoni, macaroni, etc. WooHoo!!! I know what's going on my Amazon Wish List next!!!

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