Pasta – comfort food that’s easy to make

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Pasta is so easy to make — and the fresh product is so superior to the aged store-shelf kind — that in recent years even yuppies who would be aghast at the idea of homesteading have been making their own. They have also made pasta machines popular kitchen appliances.

Homesteaders on a budget can do just as well.

Pasta dough is nothing more than flour and eggs. Start with about 11/3 cups flour and two large eggs: add a bit more flour if needed, but don’t overdo it. The dough should be somewhat sticky, but not moist.

Most people add a small amount of salt (1/4 teaspoon) and 2 teaspoons of olive (or other) oil, but these are neither traditional nor necessary.

Mound the flour on your kneading surface, make a well in the center, and break the eggs into it. Gradually mix the flour from the edges in toward the center with a fork, and mix it lightly. Let it rest for a few minutes while the flour absorbs the egg. Then knead it for 6-8 minutes or until the dough is smooth and silky. Cover the dough with a damp towel and let it rest another 10-30 minutes to make it easier to roll out.

Then lightly dust your breadboard and hands with flour — again, don’t overdo it, even if the dough seems somewhat damp — and flatten it out with your hands. Then roll it out with a rolling pin, from the center to the edges. Work quickly so the dough doesn’t dry out. Try for a circle about 24 inches in diameter or a square about 21 inches on a side. (Lasagna or ravioli can be a little bit thicker than long flat noodles like fettuccine or spaghetti… about the thickness of a dime.)

Let the rolled-out dough rest, uncovered, just long enough for it to begin to dry without the edges becoming brittle, about 10 minutes with average humidity.

To make flat noodles (the easiest kind), lightly dust the thin sheet with flour, loosely roll it up, and cut it in the thickness you want, with a sharp knife.

You don’t have to roll the dough, which can sometimes be difficult. You can just cut strips of the desired width. Although these are likely to be wavy, some people appreciate the “hand-made” look.

Let the noodles dry for 30 minutes on a lightly floured towel, or on a pasta rack. (This can be a clothes rack, or even a broom handle propped between two chairs.) If you’re going to store them for later use, let them dry completely.

To cook, bring three quarts of water to a boil. Add 2 teaspoons of salt. Add the pasta, all at once. Stir just enough to keep it from sticking together. Bring the water back to a boil then cook the pasta at a light boil until al dente, or just firm to the bite. Fresh homemade pasta cooks faster than dried, and thin noodles may take only 2-3 minutes.

Once you master this simple recipe, you can move on to lasgna, ravioli, cannelloni, manicotti, tortellini — and spinach, beet, tomato or pesto flavored pasta — and with the dozens of different fillings and sauces you could have easy-to-make homemade pasta for weeks without duplication.

http://www.countrysidemag.com/issues/83/83-2/Countryside_Staff.html

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