Sunday, October 17, 2010

Country XI: Italy (Homemade Pasta!!)

Italy. When most people think of Italian food, they usually think of copious amounts of red sauce, cheese, alfredo, and pasta. I love all of that stuff, but I wanted to stay away from the heavier Italian dishes this time, and I also really wanted to try making homemade pasta. So, I was looking at Italian pasta dishes, and I was finding a lot of the same; red sauce and cheese. Until I finally stumbled upon a blog entry about Corzetti pasta. And I honestly cannot remember whose blog this was, and I forgot to bookmark it, otherwise I would share a link.
Anyway, it was all about there are special corzetti pasta cutters, that have handcarved designs on them that imprint onto the pasta, blah, blah. But they are hard to come by and will cost you an arm and a leg. So I decided that I could do pretty much same thing with a small round cookie cutter. My corzetti just wouldn't have any pretty pictures on them.
So the blog included an easy recipe for the pasta and a simple dressing of pine nuts and herbs. Nice and light, and no red sauce!
Now, I was a little worried about making my own pasta, because again, I've heard a ton about how it's so difficult and hard to do. But I forged on ahead because I seem to like cooking things that could turn out to be massive disasters.
So, all that you need to make this particular recipe is flour, egg yolks and white wine.

Take the flour and just dump it straight onto your (hopefully clean) counter-top. Use your fingers to make a little well in the center.

Put the egg yolks into the well.

Beat them gently with a fork and add in the wine, (and please make sure you own a corkscrew before you get started, unlike me. I had to leave the yolks and flour just sitting on my counter while I ran and bought a corkscrew) and muddle those together a bit.

Carefully incorporate the flour into the mixture in the well, and yes, this will be very, very messy. I suggest you wear an apron. A big one.
So mix it together until it forms a dough, adding flour until it's no longer sticky. Don't make too dry though, because then you would have to start all over.

Wrap the dough tightly in floured plastic wrap and let it sit for 20 minutes.  While it's sitting you can clean up the huge mess of flour that is now taking over your counter-tops. Also you can set up whatever pasta machine you are using. I have this one that my mom has owned for years and she was kind enough to let me borrow.

Yeah, it's pretty awesome. Now unwrap the dough and cut it in half. Set the pasta machine on the widest setting, and run the pasta through, folding it over thrice before each time through the runners. Flour as needed to keep the dough from sticking. Gradually set the rollers thinner, until you get the pasta to the desired thickness. (I went to setting 5 on my machine). This is what you should end up with:

Now I just used a small, round cookie cutter to cut the pasta. I ran the remaining back through the settings on the machine and re-cut it, but I couldn't do it more than twice, because the dough starts to get too tough.
Have a pot of salted, boiling water ready for when you're done cutting the pasta shapes.

These little darlings only have to cook for 2-3 minutes. Drain them in a colander (I ran just a little cold water over them to stop the cooking process). Now you can get the pine nut dressing ready!

Heat the olive oil in a small skillet and saute the minced garlic for one minute. Toss in the fresh, chopped parsley and pine nuts and cook that until the pine nuts reach a nice brown color.
Put your freshly cooked pasta in a serving dish, top with the pine nut mixture and top that with as much grated Parmesan cheese as you would like.
This stuff was sooo good, not heavy at all, and homemade pasta is massively different from the boxed variety. It's very tender and not as gummy as store bought. I think I may become addicted to making my own pasta. And to think I was afraid at the beginning! I think everybody should at least try making their own once in their life. It's too good not to!

Corzetti with Parmesan, Pine Nuts and Herbs

1 cup all purpose flour
4 egg yolks
1/4 cup white wine
1/3 cup olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/8 cup pine nuts
Handful of chopped parsley
Salt and pepper to taste
Grated Parmesan

Place flour on workspace and make a well in the center. Place egg yolks in well and beat lightly with a fork. Add wine to egg and mix. Slowly incorporate the flour with the fork until a dough forms. Knead and add flour till dough is no longer sticky. Wrap in floured plastic and let rest for 20 minutes. Cut in half and take each piece and run it through pasta rollers on the widest setting Fold in thirds and run it through rollers several more times. Adjust roller to next thinnest setting and pass pasta through (flour constantly to avoid sticking). Pass through till you get the thickness you want, usually #4 or #5 for corzetti. Lay pasta sheets on floured surface and cut out small round shapes. Place pasta shapes in boiling, salted water for 2 minutes. Drain and dress with sauce.
Heat oil in a small skillet and saute garlic 1 minute. Add pine nuts and herbs. Season with salt and pepper. Cook until pine nuts are nicely toasted. Pour over pasta and sprinkle with Parmesan.

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