Hi there everyone, look at my new toy! I saved up a little bit from each paycheck all summer and bought this bad-ass, butcher block kitchen cart! I worked on Boos Block brand in a bakery while I was in college and really liked it; and now I really love my own butcher block island!
Anyway, on to the yummies. Now that I have a nice work surface, I’m going to try to make more fresh pastas. I just love how much better a fresh pasta tastes for those fancy times when you want to go all out and make something really amazing. It’s got simple ingredients and is simple enough, you just have to put in a little elbow grease. On today’s docket was a fresh herb pasta with some amazing herbs from my Daddy’s garden.
Fresh Herb Tagliatelle
Serves 6 as a ‘primo’ appetizer portion or serves 4 as an entre portion
Cost approx $1.25 per batch
- 1 cup fresh herbs ($0 for home grown!)
- 4 cups flour ($.45)
- 2 eggs ($.30)
- 4 Tbs olive oil ($.25)
- pinch salt
So, here’s the procedure for a fresh pasta. (Omit the herbs for a basic, plain pasta.) For the fresh herb part, pull the leaves off the herbs and puree them up in about 2/3 cup water. A light puree will make a pasta with more flecks while a longer puree will make a more uniform, green pasta. Let your heart decide.
Before you start, get all your ingredients together on a large work surface and also have a cup or two of water on hand.
Make a well in the center of the flour and crack the eggs inside, pour in the olive oil, a hearty pinch of salt and the herb puree.
Start to gently stir the goodies in the center and incorporate a little flour, while still keeping the well shape intact.
Now’s the time to get in there with you hands and start to knead. Knead until a ball of dough starts to form. Add water as necessary, a tablespoon or so at a time. I find it easier to start with a drier dough and add water as needed than to add a lot of water at the beginning and add flour as needed. You’ll know the consistency is right when a firm but kinda lumpy ball of pasta dough forms.
This is the not-so-fun part. Now you knead away for 15-25 minutes. I like to knead by hand; but I’ve never tried it in a mixer so if you want to give it a go, let me know how it turns out for you! I find that kneading by hand helps me feel in touch with my Italian heritage and gives me a little bit of an arm work-out while I watch a bit of TV.
The day we were doing pasta by hand (using this very method) in culinary school was quite a memorable one. All the little kids, fresh from high school, were complaining about how long it took and how hard it was. I had a nice time joking with them about how in Italy there are hundreds upon hundreds of 90-year-old grandmas doing this very thing and not complaining one little bit. As the minutes ticked by, the kids got more and more whiny, wondering when their pasta would ever be done. It was about then when one of my friends, who we all called X.O. (he was a military vet who was in culinary school to put a bow on his life-long love of cooking), spouted some of the best advice when it comes to kneading that I’ve ever heard. He said “You just keep kneading it until it’s as smooth as an 18-year-old girl’s butt!” Glancing down at the ball of pasta that the student next to him was working on, he added “That girl looks about 25, you still got some kneading to go.” Every time I make pasta at home I think of this little exchange and how the ball of pasta starts out looking like the worst sort of cottage cheese thighs on a 45-year-old, out of shape, mother of six. The trick is to keep working it until it looks like something you wouldn’t be ashamed of if it was your own backside.
Once you’ve had enough of kneading, wrap it up in a little plastic and let it rest on the counter top for an hour. This lets the pasta smooth out even more and relax.
Next, roll out the pasta (in a pasta machine preferably, I’ve used a rolling pin before, it’s a lot of work!) into long, thin sheets. Dust each sheet with flour so it doesn’t stick to other pasta or your work surface. Lay a few sheets on top of each other.
Cut the pasta lengthwise, into long strips and toss with a little more flour.
Now, pat yourself on the back, because you just made fresh pasta! From here you can freeze it or drop it in some boiling water and toss with your favorite sauce.