I took these snapshots of my friend Juli’s daughter Claire almost eight years ago, and just came across them last night when going through my archives. Let me share a little secret with you: when you’re a photographer, you are your own worst critic. The longer you work in this field, the harder you are on yourself. I remember visiting Juli in June of 2007, and not being able to resist taking a few snapshots of little Claire because she looked so cute. But upon reviewing the pictures a few hours later, I decided that they were all terrible, and I never even showed them to Juli! I look at them today and think they’re adorable. Typical! Claire is now almost nine, is still extremely adorable, and is into scouting, swimming, running and choir. How time flies!
I like to do the occasional blog post about cooking. It’s true, I mostly shoot weddings and portraits, but food makes a nice photography subject too. It never moves and never gives me any lip. And you get to eat it, which is nice. ;^)
I enjoy the creative process of cooking but find that my ambition sometimes outweighs my abilities. About three years ago, Pat gave me a traditional pasta maker for Christmas, a gift I had specifically asked for. But upon examining the thing, I found myself too intimidated to use it! It just looked so… complicated. And so it sat in a cupboard for all this time, until my good friend Angie Schwickerath of the Red Rolling Pin volunteered to come over last month and show me how to make homemade pasta. As it turns out, it’s not exactly rocket science. In fact, it was easy! (Kind of like playing with Play-Doh, actually.) There are only two ingredients: flour and eggs. Angie walked me through the slightly-messy-but-very-simple process, and of course I photographed every step of it (except for the photo of me, at the top of this post, which Angie took — I look so serious!). It was a ton of fun, and now I finally know how to use my fancy-schmancy pasta maker! Here’s how it’s done…
Angie is a professional pastry chef and expert home cook. She’s my kitchen spirit guide. That book she’s holding is Marcella Hazan‘s “Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking”. Angie swears by it.
You only need two ingredients to make homemade pasta: for each person you’re serving, use one cup of flour (just regular wheat flour, nothing fancy) and one egg. I let the eggs rest outside of the fridge for a couple of hours to come to room temperature. If you don’t have time for that, you can fill a bowl with warm water and let them sit in it for a few minutes.
You also might want to have one of these all purpose dough scraper thing-a-mabobs on hand. Angie picked this one up for me at Ace Hardware on the way over to my house. I think it was $1.99 and it’s made by Oxo. You can get them practically anywhere that sells kitchen stuff, like K-Mart, Target, Bed Bath & Beyond, et cetera.
The first step is to dump the flour onto your work surface and make a “volcano”, complete with a “crater” in the middle. Break your eggs right into the crater. Don’t be shy. The volcano won’t mind. [NOTE: do yourself a favor and wear an apron. There is no escaping the fact that you’re going to make a mess. That’s part of the fun.]
Now grab a fork and whip those eggs! Show ’em who’s boss! You can use your shiny new all purpose dough scraper thing-a-mabob to keep them from running all over. Things may be a little slimy at first, but once the yolks and whites start incorporating into the flour, it all comes together nicely and starts to form a dough.
Once the eggs and flour have combined, dive in there with your hands and start kneading, folding over and working the dough. You’ll want to keep adding extra flour to your work surface, but don’t worry, it will incorporate itself into the dough as you continue to knead.
Once the dough has a leathery texture and looks like this, you’re ready for the next step.
Cut your dough into smaller, manageable sized portions using your shiny new all purpose dough scraper thing-a-mabob. Hopefully you’ve got your pasta maker already assembled and clamped onto your countertop. Set the rollers to the widest setting, and run a chunk of dough through it. Fold the flattened dough in half and run it through again; then repeat this step a few times. Now adjust the setting to the next smallest notch, and run the dough through again, making it even flatter. Now adjust the setting to the next smallest notch, and… you get the idea. Obviously, your dough is going to get flatter and flatter throughout this process. Once it’s flat enough for your tastes, set it aside and start on the next chunk of dough.
Pretty soon you’re going to have a bunch of Very Flat Dough, and it’ll look like this. While it’s hanging out awaiting its fate, do what Angie’s doing in the background: add the attachment that makes the noodles (I don’t know what it’s called — noodle maker?) onto the pasta maker. Let the Very Flat Dough rest for 10-15 minutes before the next step.
Now all you have to do is run the Very Flat Dough through the noodle maker part of the machine, carefully catching and guiding it as it comes out the other side.
Ta-da! Now it’s pasta!
Hang the noodles on the handy dandy pasta drying rack that your boyfriend also gave you for Christmas ;^) …By the way, it only takes a few short minutes to cook pasta this fresh, unlike the boxed stuff you buy in the store. There is a HUGE difference in the flavor and texture. It’s yummy!
Angie’s well-worn copy of “Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking”. Marcella Hazan is to Italian cooking as Julia Child is to French cooking.
The finished product: dinner! Sorry for the lame photo. At this point I was no longer interesting in making photographs. I was interested in eating ;^)
Hope you enjoyed my little tutorial! If you have any questions about the process, leave them in the comments and I will let Angie answer them for you! Ciao!