Yes, I do have a peroghy recipe for you. Do I ever. (So does Cheryl, who I made them with last week.) And I have been DIE-ING to settle down into a warm, soft (with crispy edges, of course) bowl of them. That was my biggest plan for this Sunday. Before, that is, I noticed “Daring Bakers Post” on my calendar this morning. Like all homework assignments I have left this one to the day we’re all supposed to post. And the monthly challenge wasn’t even cake or something I could save for dessert – it was fresh spinach pasta. (The March 2009 challenge is hosted by Mary of Beans and Caviar, Melinda of Melbourne Larder and Enza of Io Da Grande. They have chosen Lasagne of Emilia-Romagna from The Splendid Table by Lynne Rossetto Kasper as the challenge.) Not exactly something that fits into the same meal as potato-dough dumplings.
I almost came up with an excuse and bailed. Emailed in sick. But then… I should know better than this. Wasn’t this the whole point of taking on a monthly challenge? And couldn’t I make it easy enough to bother with?
Homemade pasta is a rarity, mostly because it is so cheap and readily available. But like any other dough-based product, it is pretty sublime when made from scratch, and easy to mix and knead together. (Note: you don’t have to do the mountain of flour on the counter thing – it just makes me feel more authentic. You could minimize clean-up by doing it all in a bowl.)
The speed bump is the pasta machine, which you don’t even really need to make fresh pasta. You can roll the dough out with a rolling pin into a rustic smear, and then cut it into strips (for fettuccine-type noodles) or leave them as is and layer with sauce, meat, veg and cheese to make the very best lasagna ever. Which was my plan. And being fresh, these are the ultimate no-boil lasagna noodles. Oh yes, I am really getting into this idea now.
The only part that’s sort of a hassle is kneading the dough for 10 minutes or so. (Then again, everything is relative.. if there was a product on the shelves that promised fresh pasta dough in under 15 minutes, it might seem like a steal.) But this is how I typically get around it – I call Mike into the kitchen and then say “knead this”, and then leave the room. He won’t stop until I come back, at which point it’s usually smooth and elastic, likely due to his superior upper-arm strength (being a drummer and all). Done.
I was just going to roll out some sheets and be done with it. But it was (yet another) snow day, and W was bored, so I decided to pull my pasta machine out of the basement, figuring it was really just the ultimate Play-Doh contraption. And then it occurred to me that I have my kids’ birthday gift solution for the next decade or so. Because wow, these are fun. I’ve made fresh pasta with teenagers and toddlers, to equal rapture.
It’s funny, how skewed our views are on things. Mike came into the kitchen and surveyed W (naked, as usual) and I cranking pasta sheets through, then threading the sheets through the noodle cutter, and said “wow, pasta making is such a hassle, isn’t it? I mean, why even bother?” Which is true, sort of – it is cheap and easy to find. Then again, once the dough is mixed up you can play Play-Doh with your kids for an hour or so and at the end of it have fresh spinach pasta for dinner. No one has ever called playing Play-Doh with your kids a waste of time.
And really, it’s fun for grown-ups too. How many kids’ activities can you enjoy as well? This was much more satisfying than playing Woody and Buzz, which tends to slow time virtually to a standstill. And requires a lot of crawling around on the floor.
You don’t even need to trim rolled-out dough into rectangles for your lasagna – it doesn’t matter if the thin sheets overlap, or if they have round edges. If you leave them on the countertop for a bit, they will get a little leathery and easy to trim, or stack, roll and cut into ribbons.
So here’s the recipe for pasta Verde – I, as always, adapted it a little. The original called for 2 jumbo eggs, but I see no reason to not use the large ones in your fridge. It also called for fresh (which you then cook) or frozen spinach, finely chopped – I went for a block of frozen, and gave it a pulse in the food processor but found it a bit tough to cut with bits of spinach in the dough – I think it would work better pureed completely, liquid and all. It does look cool with the chunks of spinach in there though.
Spinach Egg Pasta (Pasta Verde)
1 10 oz. pkg. frozen chopped spinach, thawed
2 large (or jumbo) eggs
3 1/2 cups (14 ounces/400g) unbleached all-purpose flour
In the bowl of a food processor, whiz the spinach (don’t bother squeezing it out) until relatively smooth. (Alternatively, you could chop it up finely by hand.) Mound the flour in the center of your work surface and make a well in the middle. Add the eggs and spinach. Use a fork to stir the eggs and spinach up a bit, then gradually start incorporating the flour from the sides of the well into the liquid. As you work more and more flour into the liquid, you could use a pastry scraper to keep the liquids from running off and to incorporate the last bits of flour into the dough. Just get in there with your hands and blend it all together. Don’t worry if it looks like a hopelessly rough and messy lump.
Start kneading the dough. Once it becomes a cohesive mass, use the scraper to remove any bits of hard flour on the work surface – these will make the dough lumpy. Knead the dough for about 3 minutes. Its consistency should be elastic and a little sticky. If it is too sticky to move easily, knead in a few more spoonfuls of flour. Continue kneading about 10 minutes, or until the dough has become satiny, smooth, and very elastic. Cover the dough with plastic wrap or a tea towel and let it relax on the counter for 30 minutes to 3 hours.
Roll the dough, in small pieces at a time if you like (or about a quarter of the dough at a time) as thinly as possible on a lightly floured surface. I took walnut-sized balls of dough and rolled them, and then ran some through the pasta machine.
If you cut it into ribbons, dry the pasta at room temperature by draping over the rolling pin or the back of a chair, or dust with flour and twist into loose nests. Store in a sealed container or bag, or freeze it fresh. Makes the equivalent to 1 lb. dried pasta (lots).
I froze a bunch and then layered the rest with ricotta and chunky tomato sauce, topped it with cheese and baked it for almost an hour.
While we’re on the topic of handmade pasta, I’m teaching a pasta class next weekend – or more accurately assisting Lina de Gaeta, master pasta maker and owner of Lina’s pasta – at The Cookbook Company Cooks. As good a way as any to spend a Saturday afternoon, I think.
And on the subject of sourdough, a) I am so excited that so many of you want some starter! b) what I meant by free-for-all was that I’m not going to draw for it, I’m going to share with whomever wants some. Since there is so much interest, I am starting to split and feed it already. AND – I read in one of my bread books that you can actually dry starter, then reconstitute it – which means it should be mailable!
How crazy will people think you are when you excitedly receive a small chunk of dried paste in the mail?
One Year Ago: Braised Lamb Shanks, Pavlova and Creme Brulee
March 29 2009 08:31 pm | pasta