Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Fresh Pasta and a Product Review!

I adore fresh pasta. The dough is pretty simple to make but where it gets complicated is creating all those fun shapes you see in the boxes that line supermarket shelves.

With the tools I have, my only options are linguini in two sizes or ravioli, unless I want to hand cut or roll the pasta, which I don't. Last night I had a hankering for something sagey and butternut squashie so I made a sage infused pasta dough, caramelized small diced squash, and made the pasta in a carbonara sort of way. It came out well with the flavors of butternut squash, sage, pancetta, and parmesan intermingling on my tongue, but I would have rathered the pasta in a bite sized pasta shape like rigatoni or penne.

My sister-in-law is just that lucky. She has a new toy I covet and hope to have in my own home sometime very soon. She was generous enough to share a review of this gadget in my very first guest-post here on Pots & Pains.

Product Review:  KitchenAid Pasta Press Attachment for the Stand Mixer
by Christine

We love making fresh pasta at home, so a few years back we bought the KitchenAid pasta plates that attach to the meat grinder attachment for the stand mixer.  The results were always lackluster -- gummy pasta and tubes of rigatoni and penne that collapsed during cooking.  The plates quickly moved to the kitchen gadget graveyard in the back of our pantry.   We'd given up on making fresh penne and rigatoni at home until we discovered the KitchenAid Pasta Press from Williams-Sonoma.  The press attaches to all KitchenAid stand mixers and extrudes pasta into six different shapes:  penne, rigatoni, spaghetti, bucatini, fusilli, and small and large macaroni. 

We were a bit dubious before using the press, but our first batch squashed any doubts we had.  We've used the press about a dozen times so far and have not been disappointed! It is a well-designed piece of equipment and very straightforward to use.  It comes with a thorough instruction manual that includes pasta dough recipes specifically developed for the press.  We've only tried the basic recipe (see a slightly adapted version of the recipe below) to make penne, rigatoni, bucatini, and spaghetti.   The pasta maintains a perfect al dente texture, which is not always easy to achieve with fresh pasta.

The key to a successful outcome with the press is definitely a well-made pasta dough.  As you can see in this video, we weighed the ingredients for our dough.   Weighing the ingredients, even the beaten eggs, ensures a consistent final product.  When made correctly, the dough has a consistency similar to Play-Doh.  Extruding the pasta is simple.  You break the dough into small pieces and drop them into the press.  The press is equipped with a built-in slicer that allows you to cut the pasta to your desired length.  Usually, the first few inches of extruded pasta don’t come out perfectly.  All you do is simply roll the dough back into a ball and drop it in the machine again.  It is that simple!

The KitchenAid Pasta Press has been a great addition to our kitchen and we recommend it to anyone who enjoys making fresh pasta at home.  

** Side note from Shannon: If you've made it to here without clicking on the link to the video, go back and click. It is a great short video on the steps involved in making pasta. Such a good video, I'll repost the link HERE! **

Basic Pasta adapted from the KitchenAid Pasta Press manual
Serves 4

The first time we made the basic dough recipe from the manual, we measured the ingredients according to the recipe and then weighed the measured amounts.  We figured that weighing the ingredients would help us achieve consistent results in the future.  The only change we made to the original recipe is the addition of one more tablespoon of water. 

490g all-purpose flour, sifted

208g lightly beaten eggs

18g salt

2 tablespoons water

Place flour and salt in the bowl of the stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.  Turn the machine on to Speed 2 and gradually add eggs and water.  Mix for 30 seconds.

Replace the paddle with the dough hook and knead the dough on Speed 2 for 2 minutes.

Remove the mixture from the bowl and place on a clean surface.  Knead the dough by hand until it is smooth and holds together in a ball.

Rigatoni with Mushroom Ragout
Serves 4

1 Basic Pasta recipe (see above), extruded into rigatoni

Olive oil

2 shallots, thinly sliced

24 ounces cremini mushrooms, thinly sliced

1 ounce dried porcini mushrooms, reconstituted in warm water, drained, and roughly chopped

2 sprigs fresh thyme

1 cup dry white wine

1/2 teaspoon sea salt (we like Maldon Sea Salt)

1/8 teaspoon black pepper

1/4 cup heavy cream

2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley

Pecorino Romano  or Parmagiano Reggiano to shave over plated pasta

White truffle oil to drizzle over plated pasta (optional)

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add a generous pinch of salt.

While the water is coming to a boil, heat a large skillet over medium-low heat and add 1 tablespoon of olive oil.  When the oil is hot, add the shallots and sauté until they begin to soften, about 5 to 10 minutes.

Add an additional tablespoon of oil to the pan and then add the mushrooms and thyme, being careful not to crowd the mushrooms.  Sauté the mushrooms until they begin to brown slightly and shrink down, about 15 minutes.  If necessary, sauté the mushrooms in batches or in two pans, using additional oil as needed.

Once all of the mushrooms have started to brown,  return them to the pan and add salt and pepper.  Continue cooking for 5 minutes.

Add the white wine to the pan and bring to a boil while scraping all of the brown bits with a wooden spoon.

Once the mushrooms have absorbed most of the wine, remove the thyme sprigs from the pan.  Reduce the heat to low and add the heavy cream and one tablespoon of parsley.  Stir to combine.    Add salt and pepper to taste.  Keep ragout warm on the lowest heat setting.

Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook until al dente, about 4 minutes.  Using a slotted spoon or skimmer, transfer the cooked pasta to the pan with mushrooms and toss until combined.

Divide the pasta evenly among plates.  Garnish each plate with remaining parsley and shave cheese over the pasta.  If using truffle oil, drizzle a small amount over each plate.