Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Fresh fettuccine for the Ratio Rally

Pasta! Like bread, pasta can be found in various forms around the world: from the dozens of Italian shapes and styles, to the tiny couscous of northern Africa, to the chewy hand-pulled noodles eaten throughout Asia, it's the foundation of countless familiar meals. There's something inherently satisfying and comforting about its texture and taste. And much of it (though not all of it!) is made from wheat. A lot of people say it is one of the things they miss most about eating wheat, in fact. Personally, I've been quite satisfied with most of the dry gluten-free pastas I've found; even some that are 100% brown rice can be very good - and I guess that's not entirely surprising, since some traditional Asian noodles are made from rice alone. However, aside from possibly as a component of ravioli or tortellini, I don't think I had ever tasted fresh pasta, the kind made with eggs. Because of that, I chose to dress my pasta simply, so I could really taste it. It would also be delicious with some bright, summery marinara sauce or a hearty ragù (which is traditional with a number of ribbon-cut fresh pastas like fettuccine and tagliatelle)! If you're feeling ambitious, you can even make ravioli. If you need inspiration, have a look at all of this month's Ratio Rally pasta creations, hosted by Jenn of Jenn Cuisine!
Sun-dried tomato, olive oil, garlic, & spices pair wonderfully with fresh pasta

As with last month's Ratio Rally post, you will need to start by weighing your eggs, and that will tell you how much flour you need. First of all, decide how much pasta you want to make. Each serving of pasta requires one egg - my example recipe is for two servings.

For fresh pasta, the ratio of flour:eggs is 3:2 (by weight).

My eggs weighed a total of 110 grams. Since the eggs' weight is 2 parts, I divide that number in two and find that each "part" equals 55 grams. That means that 3 parts = 165 grams; that is the amount of flour I need.

I got the best results using a blend of 60% starchy flours and 40% whole grain flours. You can vary your choice of flours as long as you keep that basic ratio the same.

This was the blend I liked best:

20% (33 g) millet flour 
20% (33 g) brown rice flour
20% (33 g) tapioca starch
20% (33 g) potato starch (not potato flour)
20% (33 g) sweet rice flour

The weights given are based on my total weight of 165 g flour - if you want to use this exact flour blend, adjust each amount according to whatever is 20% your total flour weight. You do not need any gums or other binding agents for this recipe! The eggs provide plenty of strength.

You will also need:
Parchment paper or pastry board, rolling pin, sharp metal bench scraper or knife, wire cooling rack to dry the pasta on, olive oil, and plenty of extra tapioca starch for rolling.

Weigh your eggs into a small bowl and determine how much flour you'll need, as explained above. Weigh your flour into a large bowl and mix in 1/4 tsp salt. Make a small well in the flour and tip the eggs in. Gently begin stirring the eggs to break the yolks, and then stir in larger circles to incorporate the flour. Knead by hand for a few minutes, until the dough is very smooth - expect that it will be sticky at first, though if the dough is still sticky after several minutes of kneading, work in a small amount of additional tapioca starch. Form the dough into a ball and rub the surface with olive oil, and let it rest in the bowl for ~30 minutes (refrigeration optional, but chilling might make the dough easier to work with).

Now, generously flour a pastry board or piece of parchment with tapioca starch, and reserve another piece of parchment to place on top. Divide the dough into smaller balls according to how many servings you are making (in other words, how many eggs you used) - place one ball on your floured work surface, and cover the remaining dough so it doesn't dry out. Pat the dough into a large, flat rectangle and dust the surface generously with more tapioca starch. Place the other piece of parchment on top of it, and roll it as thin as you can get it without tearing. Slice into strips with the bench scraper or knife, wiggling the blade slightly to separate the strips, but do not move them yet.
Separate them just enough that they won't stick together.
Let them dry slightly for ~15 minutes, then carefully slide the blade underneath them and use it to transfer them to a wire cooling rack to dry further. Repeat with remaining dough. Let the strips dry for ~45 minutes before placing them into heavily salted, boiling water.
This allows both sides to dry evenly.

If they do not dry long enough, the texture won't be right and they will taste doughy. If they dry too long, they may break, though it's OK if that does happen because the texture and taste will still be good. Boil for about 2 minutes - this time may vary slightly based on how thick and wide your pasta is, but it will cook very quickly! Drain the pasta, but do not rinse. Toss immediately with whatever sauce or oil you want to use, and enjoy!