Pasta i Basta …. or , How I got my carb-groove back

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Being a Brit , my memories of Pasta stem from the mid 80’s ; it was first offered to me as Spaghetti Bolognese made by my ” adventurous ” cook of a Dad . The two foot long blue and yellow paper package had me tingling with awe and excitement …. Napolina , it was called , like the canned peeled plum tomatoes in tomato juice. Unfortunately for us the tomatoes found no place in the “Bolognese” part of the dish….none of that tomato or “herbs” nonesense in our Spag Bol; boiled spaghetti with a dry, crumbly, peppery, garlicky minced beef ‘streusel’ was how Dad liked his hip new carbs. Moistened with copious amounts of Tesco tomato ketchup I adored this diversion from the standard fare of the average UK household, my ignorance was bliss and my years of pastaphilia commenced. The Yuppy superfood was better for you than potatoes, less fattening than bread and could be served with fries at your local Pub . How on Earth these assumptions came to be defies imagination.

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At some point , I dont know quite when exactly, I became far to important and sophisticated to want pasta on my plate “Oh , God ! Pasta?!” …… “I don’t like Pasta”….. “Pasta is Passée ” . This went on for a good few years, I jumped on the no carb bandwagon with the rest of them and that was that.

Well, in the past year I have rediscovered the satisfying joy of a bowl of steaming golden “maccheroni”; it’s like a down comforter for your tummy. My significant other disappeared during one of our frequent “Happy Hours” this summer and returned with a couple dishes of “oh, seriously?!” . My wine induced apetite was the key back into the kingdom! The Penne was perfectly cooked, tender with that slightest hint of bite, the colour was warm gold speckled with chopped basil and garlic, glistening with melted butter and olive oil…. between greasy lipped sips of red wine I devoured the mountain and held up my bowl with a timid ” is there any more?” Pasta is awesome! there… I said it … I’m back!

Admittedly the level of OMG is very much dependent on the quality of the pasta and what you put on it…. nevertheless if the pasta ain’t good it doesn’t matter how much crap you put on it… it’s not going to shine. A good quality product should stand up on its own, just a drizzle of butter/oil, some fresh herbs and a scattering of parmesan should be the Clothing , the Pasta should be the body, the main attraction.

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So if you want that beautiful body you can better make it yourself; trust me, the result is not like anything you’ll buy from the store and dump from a plastic plastic pack into hot water.

I have a Pasta roller but I wanted to see how easy it would be to roll and cut the dough by hand and I have to say, if you have time to kill it’s a really calming activity…. mixing , kneading, rolling , folding , rolling , folding …………..

  • 2 to 2 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (plus more for dusting the work surface and the dough)
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
  • 3 extra-large eggs
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Mix all the ingredients together in a large bowl … I chopped it through with a regular dinner knife.

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When it’s all nice and together in one lump , tip it out onto a lightly floured surface and knead the hell out of it… I’m talking like a good 20 minutes. If it becomes sticky just sprinkle a little more flour on the surface and it should be fine.

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When the dough is silky smooth , not sticky and stands in a nice firm ball , cover it and let it  relax for about half an hour.

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When the strength has returned to your arms, scatter a little more flour onto a large surface and roll out the dough into a long oval strip. fold one side into the middle and the other side over that. you’ll then have a square/rectangular piece of dough open at two ends.

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Roll with the open ends vertically placed until you have a long rectangular strip and fold like you did the first time. then again roll with the open ends vertically placed only rolling in one direction …up and down. keep on doing this until you’re totally over it.. roll , fold , roll, fold.; you get the picture.

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Allow the dough to relax again for 10 to 15 minutes with a piece of cling film or baking paper over it to prevent drying out. Then you can roll it out into a BIG thin square… and i mean    t h i n   .

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take a knife or pasta /pizza cutter and cut shapes. I did thin fettuccini-ish noodles and with the leftover cuttings I rolled a square and cut it into little oblongs then pinched the middles to make cute kitschy little bow tie “farfale”.

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to cook? boil a BIG pan of salted water. throw in the pasta and bring back to a rolling boil and cook for 5 minutes or “al dente” if you want to get all fancy.

I finished my Fettuccini with melted butter and EVOO which I had sizzled together with two unnervingly large garlic cloves, chopped, fresh oregano ( HANDFULS of it ) black pepper , and of course FRESH grated Parmesan. Heaven on a plate …

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oh yeah and remember to boil the pasta uncovered, unless you want a tsunami of goopy starchy water all over the stove which in turn dries and because it’s Saturday evening you can’t get your wine head around the prospect of cleaning the stove now so decide to leave it to mature overnight and then on Sunday it has petrified and takes explosives to get it off……………

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