I’m on a mission of transforming my pantry from store-bought goods to homegrown, or at least home made. It is a slow process, but a wonderful fulfilling adventure! My family has been learning a lot about organic gardening, raising chickens, growing herbs – you name it. Next on our list was making pasta. We LOVE pasta! We may not be too adventurous in the sauces we use, but a good portion of our pantry is made up of pasta items. What better way of continuing the transformation than making our own! Such fun!
I invited some momma friends over to share in the excitement; equipped with farm fresh eggs, veggies, flour, and Mambo Italiano radio to get us in the mood. This had to have been one of the most fun days, and what a workout! Not only can an expecting mom help position her baby better for birth by being in an upright position, but she’s working on stamina and core muscle strength while mixing and kneading the dough. Of course, you can use a food processor, but getting dirty is half the fun (and kids love it)! We did “cheat” a little with a very inexpensive manual pasta machine.
Why not start transforming your pantry with a pasta party? It is incredibly inexpensive (depending on the types of ingredients you want to add), and can be as healthy as you’d like it to be. Need some added greens for vitamin c, calcium, and iron (always a thought during pregnancy as the blood volume has to increase by 50-60%)? No problem, just make some spinach fettuccine! How about a nice no-meat night with protein and vitamin-rich garbanzo bean gnocchi? With a basic recipe you can be creative and learn pasta making in no time. Think about it – take a half a day once a month, and you have enough time to make a month’s worth of pasta. You can use it fresh, refrigerate or freeze it, or dry it for months of storage.
To start out, you’ll need ¾ Cup of flour and 1 egg per serving – increase the amount to make as much pasta as you’d like. Any flour will do, we used all-purpose, but “00” pasta flour will have a smoother texture. Beyond that, the flour and vegetable (or egg-less) combinations are endless. You can add just about any vegetable puree (about 3 oz per serving) to the egg mixture and compensate with a little added flour as you go. The best way is to start with a mound of flour on the table, and make a well in the center like a volcano. You’ll add your dry ingredients in the middle and beat your eggs (and any vegetables) with your hands while slowly incorporating the flour little bits at a time until you get a workable consistency. It is easier to add more flour if it is too sticky than to add more liquid, so don’t get too carried away.
Once the dough forms, knead it for 5-10 minutes until it becomes very smooth and springs back when you touch it. It took us a bit to get the hang of the consistency, running it through the roller a few times until we did it so much the spinach blended perfectly into the flour and made a beautiful emerald dough. Once you’ve kneaded, cover and let it rest for at least 30 minutes so the gluten can relax.
Then, take small portions at a time, flatten it out just a little, and start rolling it. You can do this by a hand roller, but it is tremendously faster with a machine roller. If you’re using a machine (be sure your dough is floured), start with the largest setting and roll it multiple times until you get it down to the thickness you want. I prefer setting 3 for fettuccine. Then you can cut with your machine, or also do this by hand with a knife, pizza cutter, or pasta cutter. Then, cook it up and eat it fresh, or store for later use. If you want to dry it, hanging on anything you can find to allow the air to circulate will help dry it faster and prevent molding, then transfer to an airtight container.
So, go have some fun, control your ingredients, and Buon Appetito!