Continuing my my series, Cooking Through Ratio, I have moved on to the next topic under Doughs and Batters which brings me to pasta. Pasta usually comes in a box doesn’t it? Most of the pasta Americans are used to eating certainly does. The first time I had eaten handmade pasta was in the Back to Basics sauce class at the Cambridge School of Culinary Arts. It turned out great, although we used the a pasta cutting attachment, something I didn’t have which made me a bit nervous.
Pasta dough as it turns out is quite simple. 3 parts flour and 2 parts egg. Less variables are a blessing and a curse. The blessing is that there is less to think about and less to get wrong (perhaps this naive to think, experience will tell). The curse is that there is less to hide behind. Too much egg and my pasta probably would come out sticky. Too much flour and it would be dry and floury tasting and would not hold together. Reading over the basic ratio and instructions left me with these questions in mind. I also noted, that while the ratio was given, no indicators of “doneness” were provide nor was appropriate cooking time. Nevertheless, I charged forward with my dough.
According to the book, a large egg weighs about 2 ounces. I assumed that this was without the shell, and validated with my scaled. I used 2 eggs beaten lightly and then weighed out 6 ounces flour, all purpose this time and got to work. The flour was placed in a bowl as suggested for easy mixing and clean-up. I created a well in the flour and dumped the egg in the center and then combined it with the fork I used to beat the eggs. At this point, I became very aware experience is what determines success or failure. Unlike the bread dough I made previously, this dough required intimate tactile knowledge to know if enough flour had been incorporated. Experience through trial and error will have to be my teacher here especially since I don’t know anyone who makes their own dough. Once I incorporated all of the flour the egg would naturally absorb, I formed the dough into a disk and let it rest for 20 minutes as instructed.
While the dough was resting, I brought a heavily seasoned pot of water to a healthy boil. I had heard that freshly made pasta takes less time to cook than dry store bought pasta, so I figured less than 10 minutes would have to be my guide. Once the pasta had rested sufficiently, I rolled it out on wax paper then rolled it up and cut it ala the chiffonade method. Despite absorbing just about all of the weighed flour in the bowl, the I did experience problems with the dough sticking to the wax paper and rolling pin as I rolled it out even as I added more flour to the paper and dough.
I unraveled the dough and dumped it into the pot in what would become a cloudy mass of dough and boiling water. The water boiled on as I gently stirred the pasta with a wooden spoon to separate the strands. This stuff was not as easy to work with by any means; it was totally different than working with box pasta.
After about 5 minutes, the pasta was very limp and clumpy. I figured it would finish cooking through carry-over heat and dumped it out of the pot to strain in a colander. Not only did it look slimy, it was to the touch. It appeared that the outer coating of flour clumped up on the pasta immediately after I put it into the pot.
I plated the pasta and in a moment of purity I decided to only season it with salt and pepper so as to get an understanding of what it tastes like sans sauce. The taste overall was very good, different that what I was used to for sure, but that was to be expected.
This experience taught me that the method and experience are just as important as the ratio, and perhaps even more and the obvious knowledge that I did not make the best pasta in the world, I am left feeling accomplished by attempting something that so few people ever do. This ratio will require some more practice for sure.