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Monday, April 20, 2009

Homemade wholemeal pasta

by Julie
Towards Sustainability

At home, making our own pasta from scratch not only saves us money, we can control what is in it (organic and/or local ingredients where possible), it tastes better than the bought stuff, and it's ridiculously easy to make.

I like to use a 50:50 mix of white and wholemeal (wholewheat) flour because I've found that using straight wholemeal flour tends to be a bit gluggy for my family's taste buds; half and half makes for a pasta which everyone will eat, although I use straight wholemeal if it just for myself and my husband. Traditionally, white pasta dough is made with just eggs and flour, but I feel that wholemeal pasta needs a little olive oil too.

The basic recipe we use is:

450g/ 1 pound wholemeal (wholewheat) plain flour (or a mixture of white and wholemeal)
4 eggs
2 tablespoons olive oil

It's traditional to make the pasta dough on the bench top - make a well in the centre of the flour and add the eggs and the olive oil to the well, then slowly mix the dough by hand, gradually incorporating the eggs and oil into the flour as you go.

My 3 year old daughter likes to help though, so for the sake of us retaining at least some of the flour while mixing, we use a bowl ;-)

Once incorporated, knead the dough for around five minutes until it is smooth and elastic. Cover with a damp towel or wrap in cling-film and leave to rest for around an hour. When you use wholemeal flour you don't tend to get as smooth a dough as you would using all-white flour, but I quite like the "rustic" look.

Once rested, roll it out very thinly using a pasta machine or rolling pin. Folding the dough in half over itself several times as you roll it out will help the final texture of the pasta. If you are using a pasta machine, roll it through the largest setting several times, folding it over on itself in between rolling. Then roll it progressively through the smaller settings until you reach the desired thickness.

Once I've finished rolling, I cut it into strips for fettuccine using the cutter on the pasta machine, but using a knife or pizza cutter is just as quick. Leave it in whole sheets for use in lasagne.

I was lucky enough to acquire my almost-brand-new, never-been-used pasta machine at my local op-shop, and lightly used ones pop up fairly regularly if feel the need for one. Rolling out the dough is a family affair. Everyone loves to have a go at turning the handle!

We don't bother drying the pasta before eating it, it just goes straight into boiling water for a few minutes, until al dente. If you like, you can air-dry the pasta for an hour or so before cooking, in which case it will need cooking for a few minutes longer (around 6-8 minutes).

Pasta dough also freezes really well for several months. Tip it straight into boiling water too cook - too easy! Make sure it is well floured when you freeze it though so that it doesn't stick together in a big clump. If you have the room, freezing it on a tray initially and then tipping it into a container for long-term storage also prevents clumping.

We like eating it with simple, rustic sauces using whatever is in season, or using home-preserved tomatoes as a base. Yum!

There are plenty of great, more detailed instructions on the internet for making pasta from scratch if you want more details, including hundreds of videos like this one on YouTube.

Buon appetito!


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