Tuesday, January 31, 2012

How To Make Fresh Pasta. Finally.

   When I was younger, I never thought I'd be making pasta. I grew up in an Italian American household, an old school Italian American household. We ate Italian, we vacationed at Italian American resorts where we danced Italian dances to Italian music. I'm Italian on both sides with the exception of a Frenchman and an Irishwoman mixed in there somewhere. Even though my mother's family arrived in New Orleans in 1832 and moved on to California for the Gold Rush in 1849, my dad's family was fresh off the boat from Italy.

   He was born in San Francisco but grew up with Italian as his first language. Wanting me to speak English was a big deal, and so even though both my parents speak Italian, we grew up in an English only house. As a result there was one whole side of the family I was barely able to communicate with. They spoke limited English, I spoke only a few words of Italian. Of course I had the idea that if I spoke English s-l-o-w-l-y and LOUDLY they'd be able to understand me. I must have been a pain in the ass. A small child  yelling slowly to a group of befuddled Italians. The easiest solution to me was to shove a Stella'd'Oro  cookie in my mouth.

   As I grew older, I grew more appreciative of my Italian roots, and when I moved away from home for the first time to Los Angeles in the 1970s, my Great-Aunt Pallagina gave me what she thought were the essentials for a young woman going off to the big big city for the first time: A lecture on the evils of "mens" and a hand cranked pasta machine. Yeah, just what I needed in LA in the 1970's on my own for the first time. "Men's", I thought I understood, and the last thing I was planning for my evenings was hand cranking pasta. I didn't know which to chuck out first, but the pasta machine wasn't far behind.

   Boy, was I sorry. On a lot of levels. Let me say that again. Boy, was I sorry. The hand cranked Imperia pasta machine made in Italy joined a long list of gift appliances from relatives that found their way to the Salvation Army. The cappuchino machine, the slow cooker, the Cuisinart, all of them wound up having to be replaced once I really started my cooking life. The last one to find its way back to me was the pasta machine.

   I'd been wanting to get a pasta machine for the last couple of months. Ever since I home-cured my own guanciale (Roman bacon) last year I've been wanting to make pasta A'matriciana. The way I figured it, if I was going to go to all the trouble of curing my own meat, I may as well make my own fresh pasta to go with it. So I've been doing research trying to figure out which machine would be best for me. Even though I want to make pasta, I'm not planning on turning into an Italian chef. Then a very very weird thing happened. Two months ago I had no pasta machine. Today I have two pasta machines, a hand cranked and an electric model.
   When our friend Irving Ong came up from LA to spend Christmas, he brought me a hand cranked pasta machine, exactly what I was planning on getting for myself. Less then two weeks later I was getting a haircut and my stylist said he had something for me... a pasta machine. I told him I'd already gotten a machine but he said "why not take two?" Why not indeed! His was electric, and he was putting it on permanent loan to me. Suddenly I found myself with the best of both worlds. It looked like I was going to be making some pasta, and soon. I was going to make my A'matriciana , the first step was to make the fresh pasta.

Fresh Pasta

This Is What You Need:

A Food Processor
A Pasta Machine
A Pasta Drying Rack
3 Cups of semolina flour, (I used Bob's Red Mill )
1 tsp of salt
4 eggs
4 Tbs olive oil

This Is What To Do:

 In the food processor mix together the semolina and salt.
 Add the eggs to the flour mixture along with the olive oil, and water.

Mix it in the food processor for about 2 minutes or until the dough is all blended and pulls away from the side of the bowl.

 Put the dough on a lightly floured surface and knead it for a bit.

Since you've already blended it in the food processor it won't take very long.

It needs to be elastic.

Fold the dough into a round disc.
Wrap the dough in plastic and let it rest for about 20 minutes.
Unwrap the dough round and cut it into quarters.
Roll each quarter out to about 1/4 inch thick, dust it lightly with flour so nothing sticks, and begin feeding it into the rollers of the pasta machine which should be set on the thickest setting.

Roll it out, fold it over and then run it through again.
Set the machine dial for the next thickness then run it through again.

Keep rolling and thinning until the dough is thin enough to start cutting. If you start to run it too thin the dough will break apart. I found that the 4 setting was about as thin as I was willing to go on my machine.
Put the spaghetti cutting rollers on the pasta machine.
Feed the thin strip of dough through the machine.

When the dough begins to emerge in strips.

Lightly flour it, and hang it on a pasta drying rack.

There it is! Fresh pasta! Homemade!

Let the pasta dry for a bit then fill a pot with boiling lightly salted water.
When the water is boiling. Drop the pasta in. When the fresh pasta floats to the top it's done. This should take about 2 to 3 minutes as fresh pasta cooks a lot faster then dry pasta.

So, you may ask, how did it taste?

Pretty damn good. I'm now convinced that fresh pasta is my new favorite thing. So I lost 20 years of pasta making and had some rather "unusual" experiences in LA. Did I regret giving away that lovely old machine years ago? I came to the conclusion that Great Aunt Pallagina was wrong about "the mens" but oh so right about the magic of fresh pasta!

   Coming up next, the perfect A'mitriciana sauce even if you don;t cure your own guanciale.
Follow along on Twitter @kathygori  


  1. Yum! What a nice way to celebrate your heritage, to celebrate its cuisine. Your pasta looks perfect!

  2. You make Pasta making sound easy!! I am sure your hard work paid off. Loved reading about your Italian roots.

  3. Wow ..that is a dream machine for pasta lovers. The machine came to the right hands at last :-)

  4. I want a pasta maker so badly!! Jealous! Great post :)

  5. I guess there is no going back, huh? Pasta machine and evils of men...love that.

  6. Your Zia sounds just like my Serbian grandmother, except that I received a rolling pin instead of a pasta machine:)
    Making my own pasta is extremely rewarding - even more therapeutic for me than baking bread. One of these days I'll get a pasta machine - using my rolling pin is getting too tedious:)

  7. A beautiful read Kathy! I still have moms hand cranker. Its been years since I've used it. My mom made spaghetti in large amounts. So much so sbe used to cover the cabinet doors with wax paper and hang the pasta!

  8. The pasta looks so perfect and the photos are stunning! It was so much fun reading about your family. I love pasta .. like anytime.

  9. Brava! Good for you for tackling fresh pasta. There is nothing like it. I love my old hand crank machine. I've never made pasta with only semolina flour. I'm curious about the texture. It looks gorgeous. Cheers, D

  10. @domenicacooks,
    Thanks so much! I'm so glad I finally did it!

  11. @kankana,
    I'll tell my husband you enjoyed the photos, I love the pictures he takes for me.

  12. @redkathy,
    I'm so glad i finally got not just one but two machines! I'm sorry I waited so long.

  13. @domenicacooks,
    The semolina was bobs red mill semolina forvpasta and it was perfect!

  14. @lana,
    I think those old country ladies had a lot in common. Did you get a "mens" lecture too?

  15. @liam@is butter a carb,
    You've got to get yourself one! There's no going back.

  16. Kathy, this is a touching account of your personal history that many can identify with. I love your pasta making skills it is evident Italian is in your blood!



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