Monday, March 15, 2010

Hand-Crank Pasta

While you can spend an hour rolling and cutting your own pasta, a $35 machine can make your pasta in a fraction of the time. (Elizabeth will share later about how a more expensive gadget can make the process even faster-- but I'm happy with the cheap-easy version ;)).

A hand-crank pasta machine clips to your table, pull-out cutting board, or countertop. It rolls your pasta through one part of the machine, and cuts it through another.

Here is how it works:

Step 1: Take your rested dough and knead it in your hands to work in any remaining bits of flour. Flatten with your hands and roll dough through the rollers set to "1," the thickest setting. The rolling process kneads your dough, works in any flour, and flattens it. You will want to roll it on this setting 4-5 times, folding the dough in half (alternate length-wise and width-wise) between each roll. If your dough feels too wet (i.e. it is sticking to itself), lightly dust the whole surface with flour before you fold and re-roll it.

Step 2: When your dough has enough flour, set the rollers to "2" and roll through once. Set to "3" and roll again. You will want to hold your dough taunt and flat as you feed it through the roller so it doesn't bunch up. Keep rolling until you reach "7." If you want thicker pasta, you can stop at "5" or "6." If your dough still feels to wet at this point, let it air dry for a few minutes.

Step 3: Attach your pasta cutter. Roll the dough slowly through this attachment. I like to roll mine from the table and let the noodles hang down to the floor. You can run your fingers through it to make sure it is dry, sprinkling with a tiny bit of flour if necessary. Cut your noodles to your desired length with kitchen scissors.

You can cook your pasta now, or let it dry on the counter until dinner time. Again, it freezes well, if you want to keep it longer. Enjoy!

A note on dough consistency. It will take a few tries to get the dough to the right consistency. The good news is that your noodles will taste fine, even if the dough has too little or too much flour.  It just may be hard to work with your dough in either case. Here are a few tips:
1) Start with one or two eggs until you get the hang of it (more than that is just too hard to handle, unless you have an obliging small child who will stand still long enough to hold the extra for you while you roll ;)). 
2) Work in as much flour as you can, as long as your dough is still pliable.
3) If your dough is sticking to itself, dust it lightly with flour and let it sit for 15 minutes and come back to it later. It'll air dry some, and you'll save yourself some frustration.
3) Use the linguine setting first--thicker pasta is easier to pull apart if it sticks.

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