Friday, July 15, 2011

July 2011 Daring Cooks' Challenge - Pasta


Sorry for the short posting but I'm on holiday so I don't have proper internet connections.

This month's wonderful challenge was home-made pasta. I really enjoyed this challenge a lot I really liked the way the pasta looked when dried so yellow and so tasty when cooked.

Blog-checking lines: Steph from Stephfood was our Daring Cooks' July hostess. Steph challenged us to make homemade noodles without the help of a motorized pasta machine. She provided us with recipes for Spätzle and Fresh Egg Pasta as well as a few delicious sauces to pair our noodles with!

Here is a PDF file of the challenge recipes.

Ravioli filled with basil pesto

I bought a pasta machine yesterday for only $10 and I have a dozen egg yolks in the fridge so this challenge was perfect timing. It is great to have such a quick, simple yet delicious and versatile challenge like noodles it took no time at all to complete this recipe. I like making ravioli so I decided to make a pesto filling using fresh basil, pine nuts, crushed garlic, grated Pecorino cheese and extra virgin olive oil (see here for the recipe I used 2 cups of “OO” flour (a finely-milled high-gluten flour) that is good for making pasta and 6 egg yolks instead of the 3 whole eggs since I like how yellow the pasta becomes also I found I had to add 2 tablespoons of olive oil to get the correct consistency. I kneaded the dough by hand about 10 minutes until smooth it is important that the dough is not sticky so it can be rolled through the pasta machine without clogging and let it rest about 15 minutes. A little trick is to laminate your dough when you start to roll it to the thinnest setting in the machine, that is you roll the dough at the widest setting and fold it over itself a couple of times like an envelope and roll it repeat this procedure six to eight times this improves the quality of the dough and makes the subsequent rolling much easier (see tip #8 below). I have a set of ravioli cutters I used the smallest to cut out the rounds from the rolled out pasta dough. I filled them with 1 teaspoon of pesto and formed the completed ravioli. I like this ravioli served with butter and a little salt.

New $10 pasta machine

The ravioli cutter and the cut-out rounds of pasta

How the filling is placed into the cut-out dough rounds

The finished ravioli

Home-made onion and garlic fettuccine and spaghetti made with “OO” Semolina Flour
I made a 6 egg yolk and 2 cups “OO” semolina flour pasta dough with 3 tablespoons of powdered onion and 3 tablespoons of powdered garlic, Semolina is a granular flour with a light yellow colour. It is produced from durum wheat, which is used almost exclusively for making pasta. Durum wheat has the ideal properties for making the best pasta. It is high in protein and gluten, which are necessary components for pasta making. Semolina flour is available coarsely ground or ground twice “OO” for a fine texture.

I wanted to make use of the new pasta machine and the cutters it came with so I made fettuccine and spaghetti. I made sure that the dough was very dry after kneading (10 minutes) and resting (15 minutes) so it would dry out very quickly. I laminated (i.e. folded the dough like an envelope and rolled it at the widest setting) eight times initially to condition the dough then I rolled it to the thinnest setting and then I cut half the dough into fettuccine and the other half into spaghetti it is important to lightly flour the dough just before cutting it flouring gives you very clean edges to your noodles. I hung these on broom handles (wrapped in plastic wrap) and let them dry for approximately 45 minutes to obtain touch dry noddles. My laundry is a proper drying room it has a duct in the floor and roof that allows a warm draft to always be present it really works well. I have to say the drying pasta smelt wonderful and the taste of the finished pasta was flavoursome. Also the look of the pasta is so beautiful its colour is so vibrant and yellow this is due to the use of egg yolks and semolina. I have a dinner to go to tomorrow and I will decide then what sauce to have with the finish fettuccine and spaghetti.

Notice how yellow the pasta dough is if you use egg yolks and semolina, the flour is normal white flour

The fettuccine and spaghetti hanging to dry

How much pasta I obtained from a full batch of dough

A cool picture of hanging pasta

After 3/4 hour of air drying the pasta is touch dry

Home-made pasta looks so beautiful

Close up of pasta

Tips and hints
1. The traditional recipe for pasta dough – for each whole large egg use 100grams of flour (2/3 cup flour).
2. For a vegan version you can use 2 cups of flour and 1/2 cup less 1 tablespoon water to make pasta.
3. Let the dough rest before rolling it out.
4. It is best to laminate 6-8 times your dough when you make pasta. That is fold the dough like an envelope and rolled it at the widest setting and repeat 6-8 timees until the dough is smooth.
5. The dough should not be sticky so it can be rolled without clogging the machine.
6. Remember to lightly flour the dough just before cutting this will give you clean edges to your noodles.
7. You can flavour and colour your pasta see point 12 below for a link.
8. A great page for preparing pasta by machine and hand is here
9. A great page for cutting and shaping noodles by hand is here
10. A great page for drying pasta is here
11. A great page for shaping stuffed pasta shapes is here
12. A great guide for coloured and flavoured pasta is here
13. Here is a guide to 150 pasta shapes very interesting

Thank you so much Steph for a wonderful challenge it was so much fun to do and your recipe for the egg fettuccine is perfect. I can't wait to do some more versions.

Basil pesto filled ravioli with herb cheese sauce

I made a simple herb and cheese sauce to serve with the basil filled ravioli I made the other day. Ravioli is best when it has rested for a day so it will not explode when cooked. I made sure I sealed the ravioli with water and crimped the edges well. Not a single one fell apart. This is was intensely flavoured of basil pesto and very filling even a small serve was enough for me.

The ravioli cooking on a heat that was almost a boil

The finished dish

Home-made fettuccine and spaghetti

Fettuccine with red semi-dried tomato pesto sauce and Provolone cheese

I made a semi-dried tomato pesto sauce to serve with the onion/garlic fettuccine I made also I sprinkled some Provolone cheese on top. I liked how the sauce coloured and flavoured the fettuccine.


Spaghetti with a fresh green herb sauce and finely sliced semi-dried tomatoes

For the spaghetti I made a fresh green herb sauce using finely chopped parsley, basil, fennel tips, dill tips and a little basil with a load of good extra virgin olive oil the sauce was so refreshing and I topped the dish with finely sliced strips of semi-dried tomato for colour and flavour.


Baked four cheese sweet potato gnocchi

Today is the winter solstice, or the shortest day of the year I wanted something filling and tasty. Gnocchi is a special treat for me so I decided to make sweet potato gnocchi and for a extra indulgence I thought I would bake the gnocchi with a four cheese sauce. I made up the recipe on the fly I like to make very light airy gnocchi so I only use 20% by weight of flour to 100% potato. This ratio is for very experienced cooks most likely a first time cook will need about 30% flour, also normal potato is easier to make gnocchi with than sweet potato.

I just adored the colour of the gnocchi and the taste of the sweet potato came out strongly while the cheese sauce nicely balanced the final recipe.

Riced sweet potato rolled and waiting to be cut and formed into gnocchi

Freshly made sweet potato gnocchi

Finished dish

Baked four cheese sweet potato gnocchi
Sweet potato gnocchi
1 kg (2¼ lbs) sweet potatoes
200 gm (1⅓ cups) “OO” flour, may need up to 300 grams (2 cups) “OO” flour
1 large egg, lighten beaten
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 teaspoon brown sugar
optional 2 teaspoons of baking powder mixed into the flour
optional ¼ cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
Four cheese sauce
3 tablespoons olive oil or melted butter
5 tablespoons of cream
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 cup of grated cheeses; parmesan, Taleggio, blue, gorgonzola
Finely chopped herbs to garnish

1. Bake, steam, boil or microwave the whole potatoes (or sweet potatoes) with their skins on until fork tender. I find microwaving or baking is best since it gives the driest mixture.
2. Peel and rice the potatoes. The hotter the potatoes are when they are peeled and riced, the lighter the gnocchi will be. A ricer makes fluffier potatoes and therefore lighter gnocchi. If you don't have a ricer pass the cooked potato through a fine metal sieve using a metal spoon to push the potato make sure that the mixture is light and airy do not compact the potato mixture.
3. Spread the riced potatoes into a thin, even layer on the work surface, without pressing them or compacting them. Let them cool completely.
4. In a small bowl, beat the egg, salt, cinnamon and brown sugar together. Gather the cold riced potatoes into a mound and form a well in the centre. Pour the egg mixture (and optional cheese if using) into the well.
5. Lightly knead the potato and egg mixture together with both hands (or a plastic dough scraper), gradually adding enough of the flour, to form a soft smooth but slightly sticky dough (it should stick to your hands, but stick to itself more...if that makes sense). It should take no longer than 1-2 minutes to work the flour into the potato mixture; remember, the longer the dough is kneaded, the more flour it will require and the heavier it will become. As you knead the dough, it will stick to your hands and to the work surface: Repeatedly rub this rough dough from your hands and scrape it with a knife or dough scraper from the work surface back into the dough as you knead.
6. Wash and dry your hands. Dust the dough, your hands, and the work surface lightly with some flour. Cut the dough into six equal pieces and set off to one side of the work surface. Place one piece of dough in front of you and pat it into a rough oblong. Using both hands, in a smooth back-and-forth motion and exerting light downward pressure, roll the dough into a rope 1/2 inch (12 mm) thick, flouring the dough if necessary as you roll to keep it from sticking. (When you first begin making gnocchi, until your hands get the feel of the dough, you may find it easier to cut each piece of dough in half to roll it). You can if you wish place the mixture into a piping bag and pipe out the ropes.
7. Slice the ropes into 1/2-inch-thick (12 mm) rounds. Sprinkle the rounds lightly with flour and roll each piece quickly between your palms into a rough ball, flouring the dough and your hands as needed to prevent sticking. Hold the tines of a fork at a 45-degree angle to the table with the concave part facing up. Dip the tip of your thumb in flour. Take one ball of dough and with the tip of your thumb, press the dough lightly against the tines of the fork as you roll it downward toward the tips of the tines. As the dough wraps around the tip of your thumb, it will form into a dumpling with a deep indentation on one side and a ridged surface on the other. Set on a baking sheet lined with a floured kitchen towel and continue forming gnocchi from the remaining dough balls. Repeat the whole process with the remaining pieces of dough. At this point the gnocchi must be cooked immediately or frozen.
8. Bring a large pot of salted water to a gentle boil add the gnocchi and cook for about 3 minutes until the gnoccchi float to the surface.
9. In a small bowl mix the olive oil, cream, nutmeg and mustard until well combined.
10. Add the cooked gnocchi to a baking dish cover with the oil/cream/nutmeg/mustard mixture then sprinkle with the cheese bake at 180ºC (350ºF/gas 4) until the cheese is melted and browned about 15 minutes. Garnish with finely chopped herbs.



Anna said...

As always Audax - KUDOS! Have the same ravioli maker but my Hubby hates it... got him a pasta machine this month adn for ravioli - a ravioli tray which is fantastic.
You def have to finally(!) try and make those dumplings from my Aug'10 challenge - russian style dumplings - as I'm sure you'll love them!
Pozdrowienia. Anula.

Wendy said...

This all looks amazing!!! I bet it taste amazing as well seeing as nothing can beat something that's fresh! I doubt I'll be making my own pasta but I will be trying out a few of those dishes.

Renata said...

As always, you were fantastic, Audax! I specially love how you made your raviolli. I have seen this gadget in the stores and always wondered if it would work. Next time I see it I'll buy it and make raviolis just like yours ( I hope...) ;) One more amazing challenge, congratulations!

Andy said...

your photos and instructions are amazing!

Barbara Bakes said...

Fabulous pastas! The gnocchi looks like perfect comfort food for the winter.

Kat said...

Wow! Your pasta is wonderful, and I hope you get as much use and joy form your pasta maker as I do from mine! I love fresh pasta, and you've given me lots and lots of ideas....

Jo said...

Fabulous job Audax, I love the ravioli. I have the same dough presses, I just never thought to use them for stuffed pasta, I will have to give it a try!

Anonymous said...

Your raviolis remind me a lot of pierogies}:P

It all looks great though!

Lisa said...

I LOVE IT ALL, from your perfect pasta to the basil filled ravioli, baked cheese gnocchi, dried tomato pesto etc. I wish I could have been close by when you made these beautiful and amazing pasta dishes. I would have scrounged for an invite!

MyMacaroniPie said...

Great job - your sweet potato gnocchi look so pillowy soft and delicious. Well done!

Anonymous said...

I was just thinking of making pasta today and then I looked here and-voila! Love the shots of the pasta drying. Best, Sandie

Faery said...