Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Basic Pasta

Hello there! Tonight I will be making ravioli from scratch for dinner.
This morning I'm going to tell you how I made the dough.

Gnocchi Pasta
Yellow (yukon gold) Potatoes
Flour (wheat or white)
1 egg
Water for boiling

Boil the potatoes until soft. I usually make as many as will fit into my largest pan and still be FULLY submerged. Fully submerging the potatoes is important, I had one poking out once and I had to discard half the potato. You'll know they're done when you can stab them with a fork and it goes all the way through with little resistance. If they disintegrate though, you've cooked them too long. This usually takes oh... about 45 minutes or so.

Drain the potatoes and run them under cold water for a bit to cool them off. While they're still warm peel off the skins. The skin should come off very easily, I never need a potato peeler.

OPTIONAL: You can peel the potatoes first then boil them, however I think this might saturate the potatoes too much for good pasta. I always do it with the skin on.

Once your potatoes are peeled (or as you are peeling them in my case) rope your husband, wife, children, roomate, random person off the street, to mash them up. For the longest time we didn't have a potato masher and my husband and I did this by hand, smushing all the little pieces, it was a real pain. This weekend we finally got a potato masher and he, in his eagerness to try out our new 'toy' mashed my potatoes for me. Unfortunately there were still tiny chunklets, which for gnocchi is a problem, but not the end of the world. I always end up with chunkets and the gnocchi turns out just fine.

Sprinkle the mashed potatoes generously with flour, make a well in the center, and add the egg. With a fork slowly mix the egg in with the ingredients around it. Go slow, making sure it's mixed thoroughly. Sprinkle flour as you go until you get a firm enough dough that you can turn out and knead.

Wheat vs. White: I've made this with white flour and recently with wheat flour. There ARE some differences other than the obvious health benefits. Wheat will make the mixture more crumbly. When using wheat make sure you add enough flour and knead it THOROUGHLY. You want to get a stretchy-like dough. For my wheat batch I ended up kneading a little extra flour into each small piece before I rolled out the noodles. White flour is easier to work with.

Knead the dough until it gets firm and stretchy, adding in flour, but make sure not to work it so hard it becomes a rock hard ball. The dough will be sticky, I keep my flour canister open and keep dunking my hands in. Keep your kneading surface floured too. The dough will absorb the flour you knead with, this is what it means to knead in flour.

While you're doing this bring a pot of water to boil and call your helper back. Roll out a piece of dough into a snake, then chop it up and drop the pieces into the boiling water.

Tip: Before you cut up the snakes, roll them in flour to coat. Then, when you cut them up you can pile them together without danger of them sticking. (did I mention the dough is sticky?)

The noodles (really more like square-ish blobs) will cook quickly. In addition to floating to the top they should also 'puff'. When using white flour they should be ready when they bob to the top. Skim them out with a slotted spoon and try one. It should be firm and not mushy. If it's extremely mushy you should probably go back to the dough and add more flour. If it's slightly mushy leave the next ones in a little longer and see if that firms them up.
-When using wheat flour they will take a little longer to cook. They will bob to the top but they aren't done until they have 'puffed' (about doubled in size). Once again, always try a piece for done-ness.

Toss the noodles in a little oil so they don't stick then either eat as-is (very good) or garnish with your favorite sauce (also very good).