The pasta challenge!

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Recently I determined that I would commit an unfeasible amount of time to perfecting my pasta making skills. I was working in Bosa in Sardinia for a month and during this trip I committed four hours a day to the pasta project and now I want to share the final recipe that I came out with as my winner.

Bosa, Sardinia

I armed myself with a mound of old cookbooks – especially ones about pasta making technique and sought local advice.

I knew what I wanted to achieve. I wanted a silky pasta, easy to manipulate and reasonably quick to make. I also wanted to understand the best way for me to make it and just how modern I wanted to go with the process. I was open minded about the use of technology. So for this reason I took all sorts of gadgets.

My twenty year old Kenwood chef complete with pasta dies, extruders and rollers.

I also took the classic little hand pasta and roller machine and at the bottom end of technology I took a 100cm rolling pin and a mixing bowl!

I wanted to produce a pasta suitable to make ravioli (but I didn’t need it robust enough to hold meat). I wanted to make linguine, farfalle and maybe if I got the time get onto some funky twisted shapes too.

But the main thing was to master the pasta itself.

So I set to work testing what felt like a million variations on a theme – make and throw – make and throw – make and throw and on and on it went!

So these are the basic principles I finally learned and absorbed in their most simple form:

The flour – flours are either labelled by their use, baking, bread, pasta etc or by a number which indicates the fineness of the grind – Tipo 00 for instance.

However it is the protein in the wheat that determines the characteristics of the flour. So the sturdier you want the pasta to be the more robust you want the protein to be. Because I wanted a silky feel I use Tipo 00. However if you want a sturdier more crunchy pasta make the flour mix 50% Tip 00 and 50% bread flour.

The water – the type of water you use has a big impact on the final pasta and I experimented with tap water, bottled water and even flavoured stocks. I settled on tap water but if you don’t get the result you want try changing the water type.

Eggs – You should use the freshest eggs in medium size. If you want the pasta to be a little stronger in colour and slightly firmer add another egg yolk to the recipe.

Oil – I use quite a tangy olive oil but you can use any oil you like especially if you want to change the flavour a bit – for instance by using lemon oil.

I played around with so many variations but came to the conclusion that my favourite recipe most versatile for pasta is as follows:

300g Tipo 00 flour

3 whole eggs (lightly whisked)

1 tablespoon of olive oil

1 tablespoon of tap water

This quantity serves four people.

I put all of the ingredients in my Kenwood Chef with the K beater on and put it on medium speed and run it until the ingredients first come together.

I then take it out and knead it on a floured board for about five minutes until it becomes silky and elastic.

I then flatten it a little, cover it with cling film and leave it to rest in the fridge for at least 40 minutes.

Take out of the Kenwood Chef as soon as the ingredients come together
Cover with cling film before resting in the fridge

Next I cut the pasta into four sections with a pasta scraper to make the size manageable and cover the rest with cling film whilst I work with one section at a time.

By the way I found this cling film dispenser made my life easier and I never got into my usual annoying tangle so thought I’d mention it.

After experimenting with the hand rollers and Kenwood Chef machine rollers I found that actually although there was a lot to be said for both of them in terms of speed and accuracy I just found the traditional rolling pin better.

I found that in many ways it was more flexible in terms of creating the shape you want to work with. For instance if you are making round ravioli then it is a better to roll out the pasta in a circle – it makes better use of the sheets – but you cannot do this on either machine.

Plus the cleaning up is simple. You never have to wash it, just scrape it down and put it away. I made a dust bag and hung it as I didn’t have a cupboard that long!

Rolling out for raviolli
Loved this traditional linguine cutter
Linguine drying – I found this worked better in the fridge
Stamping the ravioli
Had a go at making farafelle which was surprisingly easy
My first attempt……
and this is called rough cut…any leftovers you can cut like this and make with an arrabbiata sauce.

This pasta can be used with any sauce recipe you make.

Just boil it in salted water for three minutes. Start the timing after the water comes back to the boil when you have put the pasta back in.

Now a final note on salt. There is no salt in this recipe and the water it boils in and the sauce are what adds the salt. So make the water taste as salty as you want the pasta to be. This is more than you expect – often a few tablespoons.

I use de ionised Kosher salt which is perfect for cooking it has a less intense more natural taste.

Carole Mason

Food and Travel - Author of Mae's Ancient Thai Food

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Carole Mason

If you would like to work with me or try my food please get in touch with me at carole@carolemason.co.uk