BREAKING OUT THE PASTA MACHINE

Posted on 14th December, 2018

I’ve never been someone who has to have the latest kitchen gadget or appliance. Most have appeared in my kitchen through necessity, as a gift or as a random purchase. One such is a pasta machine that was given to me by lovely ex-colleagues a few years ago. I have to be honest it scared me to death after seeing contestants on Masterchef , including professionals, fall at the first hurdle. My first attempt at making pasta came pretty quickly after I had it, the results were indescribable. More akin to the stuff you put windows in with than any kind of culinary triumph. The experts make it look simple but it takes practice and patience, and for anyone who knows me patience isn’t my middle name (there are some rare exceptions to this rule).

Anyway time moved on and a few weeks ago I rescued the abandoned device from the depths of the kitchen drawer and had another go. Never one to make life simple I decided to use wholemeal spelt instead of 00 Pasta flour, this worked well but I had to include eggs so not vegan friendly. The beauty of using wholemeal spelt is that the pasta has a rougher texture which makes the sauce stick better, however I have since used white spelt and this works just as well. Anyway my efforts this time were satisfactory, perfectly good but not Masterchef standards. Do I care about that? Not a jot. Food doesn’t have to be perfect to make it delicious. The recipe is below.

To match my new found skill with the pasta machine I made a straightforward tomato sauce. Using tomatoes from the garden that I ripened in the kitchen,  plus a few ripe cherry tomatoes from my neighbours greenhouse. Made in batches, I froze several containers for use over the winter.

My neighbour and I have swapped veggies over the years and this summer, he grew peppers and cucumbers and I swapped some of those for courgettes & chard. Sadly though our mutual produce sharing has now ceased as he unexpectedly passed away recently. I’ll miss our chats across the fence, he was a fellow veggie, with a keen interest in nature, travelling all over the world bird-watching. R.I.P Nick Bird it was a pleasure knowing you.

 

The recipe for the sauce is below too.

 

Spelt tagliatelle:

280 grams of spelt flour (wholemeal or white or a mixture of both)

2 eggs

2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil (or try extra virgin rape seed oil for a nutty twist)

2 level teaspoons of fine sea salt

Cold water (amounts will vary but 3-5 tablespoons usually does it)

Method:

Pasta purists like to mix their dough on a flat surface, it looks good but makes a mess, but I used a very large mixing bowl as it’s easier to clean up afterwards (although be aware pasta making is not a tidy past-time).

Combine the dry ingredients in a bowl, making a well in the centre. Whisk the eggs and oil together in a jug or bowl and pour into the well. Add a little of the water and bring together the ingredients with a flat knife or spatula. Flour your hands and adding more water if needed draw the dough into a ball, kneading gently until smooth. You don’t want to knead it like bread because we don’t want to overwork it, nor do we want to add to much water or it will lose its elasticity and become too hard.

When smooth cover and let it rest in the fridge as this makes it easier to roll out to put through the pasta machine. Fear not if you don’t have one as the dough can be rolled out thinly and cut into strips with a sharp knife. For my first few efforts I only used the machine to roll out the dough, advancing to using the cutting rollers when I was happy with the consistency of the dough. Trial and error makes many a good cook.

When you have rolled and cut the pasta you can hang it over a pasta dryer rack if you have one lurking about (who does?) or improvise as I did.

Cook in plenty of rolling boiling salted water for around 5 minutes for white spelt or 8 minutes for wholemeal. Test it before draining because you may prefer it cooked less or more than me.

 

Fresh Tomato Pasta Sauce:

Fresh tomatoes (in all states of ripeness and colour)

Fresh garlic cloves or wild garlic leaves when in season (or any kind of lazy garlic)

Onions-finely chopped

Handfuls of garden herbs-I used basil, oregano and a little rosemary from the garden plus the ubiquitous rocket for that peppery zing

Olive oil

Salt & pepper to taste.

 

Method:

Chop tomatoes and onions and sauté in olive oil in a large pan, skin the tomatoes first if you prefer but I don’t. Add the crushed/chopped garlic and rosemary (if using) and when these ingredients have softened add a little vegetable stock or water, not too much as the tomatoes provide most of the required liquid. Simmer until it thickens slightly. Add the chopped soft leaf herbs and season to taste. Don’t overcook the softer leaf herbs as you want to be able to taste their freshness.

Set aside any excess sauce to freeze when cold.

 

When the pasta is cooked to your taste stir in the sauce, the Italian way is to coat the pasta rather than letting it swim in too much sauce.

Grate parmesan or strong cheddar over the top and add a few grinds of black pepper and a swirl of olive oil.

Simple, tasty, economic-what more do you need.

On this occasion I only took photographs of the making rather than the finished dish-it was delicious-what can I say. Give it a go, splash out on a pasta machine if you fancy, or simply hand-make it because it really is worth it.

 

Spelt pasta tagliatelle

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