Thursday, October 2, 2008

Trial and Error?

I love to cook. But I feel there is still a lot to learn! It's the old adage, "the more you learn, you learn how much more there is to learn." And the more I blog, the more I find great ideas and recipes I should try. There are so many things I have yet to try or attempt. One of these is making my own homemade pasta. I do not have a machine which is one reason I never made it. The other is that somehow, somewhere I got the idea that I needed semolina flour. Semolina flour is not easy to find at most markets. So a month or two ago when I saw semolina flour at Claro's Italian Market, I picked it up.

Now it has been just sitting there in my cupboard for a little while and I finally decided to try out a pasta recipe. I found a simple recipe using the semolina on Melissa's blog, bitchincamero. It was my first time on her blog and everything looked just amazing. Melissa's recipe called for either all semolina flour or 1/2 semolina flour and 1/2 cake flour. I chose the latter as she mentioned the pasta would be a bit more delicate.

After combining the ingredients, kneading and coming up with a firm ball of dough, I followed Melissa's instructions and wrapped it "tightly in plastic wrap and let sit for 30 minutes to an hour."

Now I followed Melissa's instructions to make the ear-shaped orecchiette but let the kids have their way with some of the dough too. It was very soft and easy to manipulate into shapes just like Playdough! Talk about fun for the kids!

They made little worms and balls and a few little twisted type shapes. If you haven't involved the kids in the kitchen yet, this is a great way to do it. It isn't even that messy like cookies can be. We all had fun and who cares if the pasta in funny shapes. This meal was just for our family.

We were busy having fun and not working really fast so we kept much of the shapes under a cloth to keep them from drying out too too much.

My ear shapes along with some of the kids' funny shapes!

When you are finished with the formations, put into your boiling pot of water for a few minutes. Melissa's directions say 2-5 minutes. I think with the semolina and our possibly bigger or fatter shapes, it was more like 5-10 minutes for al dente.

The finished product was a bit more dense and rugged than I prefer. Maybe it would have been better with Melissa's hearty lamb ragu. All her food and recipes look just amazingly good. I did a light sauce of parsley, garlic, creme fraiche and a squeeze of lemon with parmesan. Perhaps it was not a good match for the dense hand formed pasta?

I think the heavy consistency was primarily due to the semolina flour. Afterward I ran across a few articles that mentioned using all purpose flour or "oo" flour for hand made pasta without a machine. Do you know what is best? What is "oo" flour and where do I get that? Does anyone have a good recipe for hand made pasta?

If you do have one or find a good one, let me know straight away and then go into the kitchen with your kids and make it. It is so fun and combines both play time and dinner prep in one fell swoop.


deLa said...

while i have absolutely no advice on making pasta, i just had to comment on how insanely cute your daughter is!

Emily said...

I'm afraid making pasta is out of my league. I made it once with my mum and dad when i was very small but it ended there. I do have a question though. I read your comment on Lisa's blog and I was wondering, what is chicken fried steak? I have always heard of it on American programs and wondered what it is. Is it chicken or steak?

Nicole said...

Dela- Thank you so much! I think so too! :-)

Emily- Ha ha! Well I had a lot of confusion about that when I was younger as well. My mom didn't make it ever but my grandmother did. It is steak, NOT chicken. It is pounded thin and breaded (with flour etc...) and fried in a pan usually. I think it was a way of making lower grades of meat taste better when your budget was tight. It is supposed to be done similar to fried chicken, hence the name. I never liked it that much. The meat was over done or chewy or something to me. But maybe I never had a good one. Although my grandmother's pot roast.... OH I could die for that!

That Girl said...

This is SO much better than my first pasta attempt! Although, I have to say, my $20 pasta machine is my favorite purchase of the year.

Betty C. said...

This looks like a lot of work! Sorry you were a bit disppointed in the results -- I bet your daughter had fun, though!

Emily said...

hahah thanks Nicole. I had no clue what it was before. I have to admit it doesn't sound that appealing but I can't really judge seeing I have never tried it.

Darius T. Williams said...

Looks good to me...I mean, there's no way in hell I'm making fresh pasta - but yours looks like it rocks!


Proud Italian Cook said...

I think you did a great job Nicole! I'm sure you're being to hard on yourself! Your daughters a doll!! Go over and check out Maryann's blog at findingladolcevita she just made orecchiette the other day. Btw, I have the exact same bowl/plates as yours! I got them at HomeGoods.

Lisa said...

Tipo OO is what the Italians make Pasta, Pizza etc with, its really really fine and cake flour is quite similar once its not with added raising agent. They sell it here in our larger supermarkets but I would say you'd find it easy enough in America, maybe in an Italian store? It makes all the difference! Your oreccheti look delicious!

Lisa said...

Just noticing Emilys comment there - In the US is Steak only referring to Beef? We have Pork Steaks, CHicken Steaks, Turkey Steak, Lamb Steak, and of course Beef Steak... In a restaurant it would always say the cut, like Sirloin Steak of Beef etc...

Nicole said...

Kate- Do you like your machine? What kind do you have? What kind of flour do you use for pasta?

Betty- I didn't care for the consistency of the pasta but making it was fun! I will try again with different flour.

Emily- It is just tough sometimes but has good flavor. Maybe if I ever had it with a better cut of meat.

Darius- I know. I am a glutton for punishment! I HAVE to do things the hard way sometimes.

Marie- I don't know if I am being hard on myself so much as just NOT caring for the semolina. I will check out Maryanne's blog. My bowls were from Crate and Barrel back when I got married (5 years ago).

Lisa- I don't think they have that OO at regular markets here but maybe at an Italian market. I have cake flour and it has no rising agent in it.

We only call beef steak usually. We say chicken breast, or the name of whatever part, pork chop or pork loin or pork roast, lamb chop etc... But actually we do say halibut steak and calimari steak sometimes.

Joanna said...

that pasta looks like little ears! it's so cute! i made spaghetti once, but i've always wanted to try gnocchi. have you made that before?

Nicole said...

Joanna- Welcome! I have made gnocchi once. It was actually a sweet potato gnocchi for Thanksgiving. It was okay but got overdone with everything else I was preparing. I need to try a regular potato gnocchi next time. Was your spaghetti done by hand or with a machine?