The pasta attachments I’m using were a Christmas present from my husband. I was excited at the idea of making my own pasta. I wasn’t aware of how steep the learning curve was, but it has been worth it. Here is what I’ve learned:
Finding Appropriate Flour: All purpose flour can be used to make pasta, but it isn’t quite as easy to work with as semolina. It also doesn’t taste as good as semolina. At first, the only place I could find it was the local health food store. I’m leery of going in there because I always come out with a lot more than the one item I wanted.
I looked at the regular supermarkets, but I couldn’t find it. I assumed (yes, I do know the alternate translation) that it would be on the pasta aisle. If not there, then surely it would be on the flour aisle. Then I assumed they didn’t sell it. I was wrong. It’s on the health food aisle, usually on the bottom or second from bottom shelf.
Choosing Flour: Now that I have a choice, I pick semolina most of the time. However, I will soon be experimenting with other flour. It might be interesting to try rye or whole wheat flour and see how it comes out.
Pasta Making Ingredients: The ingredient list is short. Three quarters of a cup of flour, one teaspoon salt, one egg and three tablespoons of water. Once in a while, I have to add additional fluids to get the dough to come together. My suspicion is that the egg is smaller than that used for creating the recipe.
Pasta Flavorings: Being fond of experiments, I have added many herbs and spices to the dough. Cayenne, chili powder and garlic are the most frequent additions. Marjoram, oregano, thyme and basil have also been used. This does change the liquid amounts needed, but be careful how much you add. I’d go a tablespoon at a time.
Mix: I’ve never tried to make pasta without a mixer. I imagine it would be rather difficult. I mix it in my Kitchenaid Artisan Pro Mixer, which (conveniently enough) is where the pasta attachments go.
Add all ingredients to the mixer and use the regular beater for about 30 seconds. Change beaters to the dough hook and beat until the dough begins to come together. If you do it right, it’ll form a ball. If you don’t do it right, you haven’t killed it yet. The ball can be created during the kneading process.
Knead: Spread some of the flour on a cutting board, and then put the dough on the flour. If the dough hasn’t quite become a ball yet, dampen your hands with olive oil and begin (trying) to knead. This will take a while, but eventually you will get the ball required. You may have to repeat the oil on hands bit.
If it did become a ball, carefully knead it for about five minutes. In both cases, the next step is to cover it with a damp cloth or paper towel and let it rest for twenty minutes. If you’re like me, you’ll need that rest as much as the dough does.
Roller: The next step is cutting the pasta…but wait! You have to get it flat first! That’s where the roller comes in. If this is your first batch of pasta, be prepared. Several things can happen that will frustrate the daylights out of you. However, you still haven’t killed it yet.
Make sure that the roller is set to one. If you’re trying to put a bit of pasta through for the first time on four, you are not going to be pleased at the pasta shreds that float gently to the cutting board.
There are a couple of things that can make rolling pasta difficult. One goes back to the earlier problem with the dough. If it’s still crumbly when you handle it, it’s going to be crumbly when it goes through the roller. That’s why the oil-on-hands routine was needed.
Trying to shove a thick ball of pasta through the roller is also going to be frustrating. I know the recipe booklet that comes with the attachments says “flatten with hands.” I’ve got pretty strong hands and that does not work. I highly recommend a rolling pin.
Once you get the sheet to go through, you can begin to tighten the roller. It will take several trips through before it’s done. When you’re satisfied at level four that it will hold up when going through the cutter, let the pasta dry for about ten minutes. It will hold up better in the cutter.
Cut: Here is one location where you can kill the pasta very easily. They don’t even mention this part in the recipe booklet. The cut pasta had to be separated immediately after cutting. Do not wait. Do not pass “go.” Don *not* cut another sheet. I separate mine on cooling racks. Do this with each sheet, or you will have a real mess on your hands. (Been there, done that…)
Once again, the pasta has to dry a bit before boiling. If you don’t let it dry, when it hits the boiling water, it will turn into a mass of gooey dough, not the tasty pasta you’ve worked so hard for. If this happens, you’ve killed the pasta. There isn’t a solution (at least not that I’ve found yet.)
It takes about four minutes to get homemade semolina pasta to al dente. If you boil it longer, it will not get any better than al dente until it’s “al ruined.” Once it’s done, pull it out; it’s ready to eat. Congratulations! (Or, if your first batch turned out like my first batch, my consolations.)