The weight of tradition

Scones and jamSomething guaranteed to make me a nervous cook is when I have the temerity to attempt something from another culinary tradition – I can feel the astral plane opening up and all the mothers of preceding generations start to watch me to see if I am doing it right, lol!!  Of course, for some things – like making scones – the pressure is on even when they ARE from my culinary tradition!  So with a yawning chasm to that astral plane and all the Italian mothers congregated there, some time back it was with almost shaking hands that I made pasta from scratch for the first time. Pfft!  Should have done it sooner – if only because it was great fun.  Like a true heathen, I used a pasta machine, and have since bent the pasta machine to my will for kneading other doughs.  What a marvellous invention.

So here is a quick guide to making pasta at home – start with one egg and 100g of plain flour for each person coming to dinner.   Follow the method shown – use a fork to gradually introduce the flour to the egg, and get it all in one lump.  Kneading? Let the machine do the work – that lump will readily smooth out and start to look gorgeous.  Start with the dial set to a very thick width, then gradually reduce as the dough refines into a nice looking sheet (that gets longer as it gets thinner, so a good one for the junior cooks to help with).  Our machine has a cutting head, so here I went for fettuccine.

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Hints? Best advice I ever got on this was keep the dough simple – and, indeed, this simple version has never yet failed me.  Also, make your pasta early and hang it up to dry while getting a sauce organised.  The point is not to dry the pasta per se, but to keep it separated (not clumped and stuck together) so it is nice when you drop it in the boiling water at dinner time.  This kind of fresh pasta literally takes a couple of minutes to cook, so don’t over do it.  Again, the best advice was to add just a drop or two of good olive oil to your boiling salted water for cooking the pasta – helps it to stay separated.

For a low stress meal with visitors, make a whole swag of pasta and a few sauces early in the day, then leave the sauces to bubble very, very gently until your guests arrive (or get all the ingredients ready for a cream sauce, as these are usually best made close to dinner time).  Meanwhile, run some paper towel through the pasta machine to clean it, then put your feet up!

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