Sunday, January 10, 2010

Homemade Pasta - easy, delicious and fun!

I was trying to decide what to eat last night, and was coasting around the grocery store. Asparagus was super on sale, so I picked that up and was thinking "I can't eat JUST asparagus, what else will I have for dinner?" when my mind started yelling "asparagus, cream, butter, pasta...Fettuccine Alfredo!!!!" Oh yes. I've been sick for the last week and was in need of a good, warm dinner full of cream and butter, and what is better than homemade fettuccine alfredo? So I got the ingredients I needed and headed home to make my treat of a dinner.

I pulled out my Cooks Illustrated "New Best Recipe" cookbook, usually the first place I check, and sure enough, they had Fettuccine Alfredo. "Fresh egg pasta is a must here; dried pasta can't stand up to the richness of the Alfredo ingredients". Well shoot. I own a pasta maker, which I should use more. It was barely 6 pm and I had no plans for the evening. No reason why I shouldn't make the pasta myself! So with all that running through my head, it was set, I was going to make myself some pasta. So easy. Homemade egg pasta is just eggs and flour, not hard at all. The recipe called for 3 eggs, so I did a 1/3 recipe, just using 1 egg, since I was making dinner for 1. I made the dough, let it rest, got the alfredo sauce ingredients ready to go, rolled out the dough, cut it and laid it out. Made the sauce while the pasta cooked, and before I knew it dinner was ready. And delicious. Obviously, fettuccine alfredo is a bit heavy for a regular dinner, but, once in a while, whooo boy it's delicious. On the other hand, homemade noodles are super easy (if you have a pasta roller) and taste delicious in dishes.

Fresh Egg Pasta (from Cook's Illustrated: The New Best Recipe) Makes about 1 pound.

Ingredients: 2 cups (10 ounces) unbleached all purpose flour, 3 large eggs, beaten.

Directions: Pulse the flour in a food processor fitted with a steel blade to distribute and aerate it evenly. Add the eggs; process until the dough forms a rough ball, about 30 seconds. (If the dough resembles small pebbles, add water, 1/2 t at a time; if the dough sticks to the side of hte workbowl, add flour, 1 T at a time, and process until the dough forms a rough ball.) Turn the dough ball and small bits out onto a dry work surface; knead until the dough is smooth, 1-2 m inutes. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside for at least 15 minutes, up to 2 hours, to relax. Using a manual pasta machine, roll out the dough. Leave the pasta as is for use in filled pastas. Cut the pasta sheets into long strands to make fettuccine.

Fettuccine Alfredo (from Cook's Illustrated: The New Best Recipe) Serves 6 as an appetizer, 3-4 as an entree.

Ingredients: 1 2/3 cups heavy cream, preferably not pasteurized, 5 T unsalted butter, salt, 1 recipe Fresh Egg Pasta, cut into fettuccine, 2 ounces (1 cup) Parmesan cheese, freshly grated, ground black pepper, pinch freshly grated nutmeg (optional). *

Directions: Bring 4 quarts water to a rolling boil in a large pot. Combine 1 1/3 cups of the cream and the butter in a saute pan large enough to accommodate the cooked pasta. Heat over low until the butter is melted and the cream comes to a bare simmer. Turn off the heat and set aside. When the water comes to a boil, add 1 T salt and the pasta to the boiling water and stir to separate the noodles. Cook until almost al dente. Drain the pasta and add it to the saute pan. Add the remaining 1/3 cup of cream, the Parmesan, 1/2 t salt, pepper to taste, and the nutmeg. Cook over very low heat, tossing to combine the ingredients, until the sauce is slightly thickened, 1 to 2 minutes. Serve the fettucine immediately in heated pasta bowls.

* I parboiled asparagus for 2 minutes, chopped it up, and added it to the sauce when I added the pasta...delicious! You can also add chicken to this of course, though it will need to be cooked ahead of time, poached or grilled is best.

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