Nov 11, 2009

Homemade Spinach Pasta

Have you ever made your own pasta? No, I didn't think so. Because really - who makes their own pasta? That is not a retorical question. Until last weekend I would have never thought to make my own, but like most homemade dishes, it is well worth the effort. It's so good!

Over the weekend as I was doing my weekly ritual of scanning the cookbooks and magazines on the shelf to come up with new recipes for the week I came across an easy sounding pasta dish in a new cookbook, The Splendid Table by Lynne Rossetto Kasper. This gem was a gift from a friend earlier this year, however with the recipes coming out of the heartland of northern Italy I have saved looking through it seriously until the weather turned cold.

I'm sure other cookbooks I've looked through before have walked me through making pasta, but for some reason this one spoke to me. Maybe because there are no pictures, and so I couldn't get too scared. Or maybe because it offered a hand made variety vs. using a pasta maker (which I don't have). Whatever the reason, I can now say that I've made my own pasta.

It probably, no - it definitely, did not turn out perfectly, but that was part of the beauty of it. It wasn't form made, or uniform at all. There were holes where their shouldn't have been holes, and I didn't have the special tool to make ziti, which my sauce recipe called for, so I went with a basic spaghetti noodle instead.

I'll be trying this again, because I obviously have tons to learn. But for those who've ever thought about trying to make their own pasta - I say go for it, and maybe it will turn out like some of the picture's here, or maybe not...but I can almost assure you that it will taste good!

Spinach Egg Pasta
adapted from The Splendid Table

Serves 4-6, and makes about the same amount as 1 pound of dried boxed pasta

2 jumbo eggs (I used large eggs and added more water when mixing)
10 ounces fresh spinach, rinsed, stemmed, steamed, squeezed dry, and finely chopped; or 6 ounces frozen chopped spinach, defrosted and squeezed dry*
3 1/2 cups all-purpose unbleached flour

Mound the flour in the center of the work surface and make a well in the middle. Add the eggs, and chopped spinach to the middle of the well. Using a wooden spoon beat them together gradually incorporating shallow scrapings of flour from the sides of the well into the liquid. As more and more flour is worked into the liquid use a pastry scraper (or your hands) to keep the liquids from running off and to incorporate as much flour into the dough.

Once the dough has become a cohesive mass, use the pastry scraper (or a knife) to remove any bits of hard flour on the work surface - these will make the dough lumpy. Knead the dough about 3 minutes, so that the consistency is elastic and a little sticky. If it is too sticky to move easily, knead in a few more tablespoons of flour. Continue kneading 10 minutes, or until the dough has become satiny smooth, and very elastic. Don't shortcut this step. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and let it relax at room temperature for at least 30 minutes or up to three hours.

Using a regular size rolling pin, roll out a quarter of the dough at a time. Keep the rest of the dough wrapped. Lightly sprinkle a large work surface with flour. Shape it into a ball and being rolling out to form a circle, frequently turning the disc of dough a quarter turn. As it thins out start rolling and stretching the dough using your hands to pull the dough as you continue to turn it a quarter turn. Stretch the center of the disc by rolling the dough a quarter of the way, then gently pushing the rolling pin away from you with one hand while holding the dough in place with the other hand. Repeat these processes as the disc becomes larger and thinner.

The goal is a sheet of even thickness. For spaghetti and other flat ribbon pastas it should be thin enough to see your hand through it. Be careful to not take two long in thinning and stretching as the dough starts drying out, and then it can be difficult to stretch and will possibly cook unevenly.

Either lay the pasta sheets onto a flat surface, or drape them over the back of a chair covered with a dish towel to dry for 20 minutes, or until leathery in texture (turning several times to encourage even drying). Repeat with the remainder of the dough.

To cut, roll up the pasta and slice it to the desired width, then lay it out as necessary to continue drying or cook up in very salty water. This fresh pasta cooks very quickly, and is done in about a minute of cooking in boiling water.

Alison's Notes:
*I used one large bunch of organic spinach from Earthbound farms.
**Like I said this was my first go at it and I definitely struggled with the stretching of the dough. As I write up the instructions I'm already thinking of ways to make it easier and quicker next time.


Betsy Burroughs said...

This looks wonderful! I want to try it soon. Also I'd love to connect you up with a good friend of mine who used to work at Earthbound Farms. You guys are about the same age and are interested in a lot of the same thing.

Laura said...

I'm going to try it this weekend!
Also, if you had trouble stretching the dough, cover it and just let it rest to relax the gluten. Thanks for the info. I love the fact that you present things as less than perfect. Takes thepressure off the rest of us!

Alison said...

Betsy - I'd love to meet your friend. Will be in touch about the best way to set that up!

Laura - Thanks for the dough stretching tip. I'd love to hear your experience if you tried it, or any other pasta tips you have - like storing for example. I have a lot to learn : )