One of the best adventures you can have in Rome is to take a cooking class. You meet interesting people from around the globe, have a wonderful shared experience, and you get to eat what you make. WARNING: It can be addictive!
One of the most intimidating foods for me was pasta. It is an investment of time and you need the proper equipment. Like most things the investment is worth it! I had tried and tried at home but to no avail. I am a visual learner and will always be grateful to Andrea for showing me the proper way to prepare delicious pasta. The following recipe is easy to make and I know you will not only enjoy the experience but you will also impress your friends. Once you get the hang of it you can make pasta in about 30 minutes.
Ingredients for pasta for four people:
– 4 cups of flour (Important to get flour that is tipo 00 – this is a very finely sieved flour, In Italy it’s called farina di grano tenero, which means ‘tender’ or ‘soft’ flour. Most Italian speciality stores carry this item)
– 4 eggs and a pinch of salt
– Pasta Maker (I recommend the Imperia Pasta Machine)
– Bowl, Fork, Pastry Scraper, large plastic pan/tray filled with semolina flour
Mix 4 cups/400gr tipo 00 flour with 4 eggs. Pour the flour on a flat stable surface, I prefer the countertop, and create a well in the middle of the flour about the size of your fist. It should look like a squat volcano. Crack the eggs into a bowl to ensure that you don’t get any egg shells in your pasta. Pour the eggs into the well you have created in the flour. Add a pinch of salt. Carefully and slowly begin to whisk the eggs with a fork incorporating flour from the sides of the well. You can also pick up some of the flour between your fingers and slowly drop into the egg mixture from about 4 or 5 inches above – keep whisking. Continue doing this until the flour and egg mixture are well incorporated. If the well breaks it is ok just have a pastry scraper handy so you can keep pushing everything together. At some point you need to use your hands and knead the ingredients together. Don’t be intimidated. When you are finished you should have a ball of dough about the size of a baseball.
Now you are ready to crank the pasta through the pasta machine. Cut the dough into four equal size pieces with your pastry scraper. Pat the dough flat so you can feed it into the opening on the machine. Rub with some flour so the dough doesn’t get stuck in the machine. Begin cranking the pasta through the machine with the setting set to the widest width. Do this about three times and then reduce the width to about half and crank through three or four more times. The pasta will get thinner and longer – you may need to cut the resulting strip (4 inches wide and possibly 18 inches long) of pasta in half at some point and then feed both halves through. Reduce the width again to the slimmest setting and crank the pasta through again a few more times. You will be amazed at how the pasta “grows”. Andrea’s advice to me – “You know the pasta is perfect when it feels like a baby’s bottom” smooth smooth smooth. Once you achieve the desired thinness you can then use the cutting mechanism to make linguini, fettuccine, or spaghetti. One secret that Andrea showed me – have a large plastic pan/tray filled with semolina flour to put the cut pasta into. You can then shake the pasta around gently in the pan and the flour will keep the pasta from sticking together before you cook it. Let the pasta sit and rest for few minutes before cooking, then put a large pot of boiling water over high heat. When the water is boiling, toss in a tablespoon of salt with the pasta. Stir to keep the pasta from sticking. Cook for a few minutes (1 to 2 minutes, fresh pasta cooks much faster than dried) until a piece of pasta tastes cooked. You are now ready to serve your spectacular effort with a variety of choices for sauce, Bolognese, Marinara, Alfredo, etc.