Pasta Perfect in April
Usually, in April, I’m writing about happy spring thoughts and things, like Easter, big family dinners and refreshing the house. This April is different. I’m still going to write about happy things. The emphasis will be on what to do as we all are in some form of isolation or social distancing, and how do we fill our time?
My go-to is getting creative in the kitchen. It’s what we do on stormy winter days so why not do something similar now! If your family is home, and you want a way to entertain while preparing a meal, it might be the best time to order up a pasta machine.
Making pasta at home is easy, with a few tricks to master, and healthy. You control the ingredients. You can make so many different types of pasta from spaghetti to ravioli, and then create sauces (or open a can, your choice). We have two brands of pasta machines in the store. The first is your authentic made-in-Italy (and stocked last fall, long before the virus hit) version. The Atlas 150 is manufactured by Marcato in Italy, and has been for many, many generations. Guaranteed for 10 years against defects, you can make lasagna, fettuccini (tagliatelle), and spaghetti (tagliolini) with this machine, plus the wide, flat pasta you need to create ravioli.
The other pasta machine is from Danesco. While not made in Italy, it is perfect for occasional pasta creations, and has a lower price point. It makes all the same pasta styles as the Atlas 150. The construction is not quite as robust or precise. And it isn’t as heavy so the materials in the Atlas 150 are of a higher grade. Pasta machines are almost completely made of metal, with a plastic knob on the handle.
Making pasta at home is a bit time-consuming and well worth the effort in the final taste. First, you make a simple dough with three or four ingredients; eggs, flour, oil (optional) and salt. That’s it. After mixing and kneading, let it rest for 20 minutes. Now the fun begins. Quarter the dough, then feed a piece through the rollers on the pasta machine, starting at the thickest, or lowest number, usually 1. This process is repeated 4-5 times, folding the flattened piece each time before feeding it through again. The rollers work with a hand crank. That’s where the family action comes in as kids love to turn that crank. The machine works best when it is anchored to a table, with the clamp provided, as it takes some effort to crank it at first.
The flattened pasta is thinned by decreasing the gaps between rollers, using the numbered knob on the side of the machine. The final thinness depends on what type of pasta you wish to make. For example, lasagna is thicker than spaghetti. A pasta drying rack works well to hold the finished product, or put a floured tea towel over the back of a kitchen chair and use that. Make sure your dog isn’t interested in raw pasta dough. Fresh pasta cooks in about 1/3 of the time as packaged dry pasta so supper will be ready fast.
Add a sauce or make ravioli fillings, and enjoy the family effort that went into your creation. Eat and be safe!