Very humble, but satisfying…
I had so much fun making pasta with my friend Tobi. She has a beautiful and roomy kitchen and we put her Kitchen-Aid mixer to work. The pasta rolling and cutting attachments make pasta making easy. I love my little manual pasta maker that clamps to the edge of the counter, but using the Kitchen-Aid does free up your hands. For fun we decided to see just how far we could stretch a sheet of pasta! I think we’re at 4 1/2 feet!
The pasta recipe we used was Mario Batali’s very simple 4 extra-large eggs to 3 1/2 cups flour. I did not think the extreme low humidity in Arizona would alter the texture, but it did. I cut the flour to 3 cups, but still should’ve used 5 eggs instead of 4. The amount of eggs also depends on their size. Not all extra-large eggs are really that extra large! Here’s what happened…but first let me back up to the sauce.
Living on the Mexican border (half the year anyway) means lots of fresh produce and this year we were blessed with many cases of veg, but tomatoes in particular. That means I made many different kinds of red sauces and had them on the ‘ready’ in the freezer. The basic red sauce I make can be found in an earlier blog. Go to the Search box, front page top left of my blog and plug in Red Sauce and it should pop up under the recipe for Braciole. In this case because my tomatoes were fresh, I blanched them in boiling salted water, peeled and crushed them in the food processor rather than using canned.
Next I made the meatballs, also ahead of time and instead of beef or pork, made them with chicken–a first for me. Not that I am anti-chicken, but I really think meatballs should contain MEAT…not poultry. I am not a fan of dull meatballs so made these with lots of Italian herbs and garlic. They actually were delicious!
Tobi is overseeing the cooking of the meatballs with appropriate beverage in hand! Brown your meatballs in olive oil. Do not be too concerned about cooking all the way through. I like to finish the cooking of the meatballs in the tomato sauce.
4 big boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into chunks for grinding
1/2 large onion, cut into chunks for grinding
6-8 cloves garlic, peeled, smashed, ready for grinding
3/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 Tbsp. mixed Italian herbs
1 Tbsp. dried basil
1 Tsp. oregano
1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper
Salt/Pepper-do not skimp
1 cup Panko bread crumbs
2 Tbsp. red sauce
Flour for rolling balls after formed
Grind the chunks of chicken and all other ingredients up to the Panko bread crumbs thoroughly in a food processor or mini-max. Remove and place in a large mixing bowl. Using your hands blend in the bread crumbs, 2 eggs and 2 Tbsp. red sauce. By using your hands you are able to blend all ingredients thoroughly, but gently.
Overmixing can result in tough balls. Once all ingredients are thoroughly blended it is time to form the balls. I made rather large (2″) meatballs which resulted in 20 plump balls in total. Once the meatballs are formed roll them in a little flour. This helps keep them very moist inside and gives them a nice little crust on the outside. Francine taught me that trick. Thanks Francine!
Because I made the meatballs ahead of time, I froze the entire tray of meatballs and then bagged and froze them in smaller portions so they would separate easily while thawing. We only needed 12 meatballs for the big pasta extravaganza.
3 1/2 cups white flour
4 extra-large eggs
Mound the flour in the center of a large bowl or on a cutting board.
Make a well in the center of the flour and add the eggs. Using a fork start beating the eggs while also incorporating the edges of the flour. Make sure to maintain the shape of the well. Once most of the flour is incorporated (dough will be shaggy and not well formed yet) use your hands to knead the dough pulling in the rest of the flour. Add more flour in 1/2 cup increments if the dough is too sticky–definitely not the case with our pasta. Keep kneading for about 6 minutes. Wrap the dough in plastic and let sit on the counter for 20 minutes. Both the kneading and the resting are important to ensure tender pasta. Once the pasta has “rested” you can roll it out and cut into whatever shape you want.
Rolling and cutting can also be done by hand, but it is not easy to get the pasta dough to desired thinness. Our lump of dough was firm and quite dry, but we coaxed it with love to a wonderful tender thinness. Don’t worry if there are holes in your pasta as you begin to roll it out. It will come together after several times through the roller. Here’s the uncooked pasta all rolled and cut into spaghetti.
This meal was truely an abbondanza starting with a beautiful Anti Pasto which Tobi made and concluding with a delightful fruit compote she made by mulling berries in wine and topping with whipped cream. Perfect ending to a big Italian meal.
Even the dogs enjoyed the spaghetti and meatballs! Here’s Andy feeding Scruffy a big bite!
DON’T LET MAKING PASTA SCARE YOU.
EVEN IF YOU DON’T HAVE A BIG FANCY MACHINE, GIVE IT A TRY. IT’S FUN AND
TURNS A MEAL INTO A CELEBRATION.
CIAO! UNTIL NEXT TIME…
PLEASE ALWAYS HAVE FUN WITH YOUR FOOD!