This weekend Scott and I found ourselves looking after my 8 year old nephew and 5 year old niece while my sister and brother-in-law had a well deserved weekend away in Melbourne.
We had an action packed Saturday filled with walking the dogs, eating a tasty lunch from the local South American patisserie (called Sugarloaf in Kogarah), having ice cream, playing on the beach and watching the planes land at the international terminal.
In true Italian sibling form, my sister couldn’t let me look after the kids without ensuring we had something tasty to eat so she cooked up a big batch of bolognese sauce for us to have for dinner. Knowing how excited the kids were about having bolognese, I thought that maybe it would be fun for us all to make fresh pasta that the kids could have with the sauce. For me, a dish you have helped cooked yourself always is just that little bit tastier.
The kids had never made pasta before (shame on you sis) and were extremely excited at the idea. So we pulled out the pasta maker and took it round to their place. Pasta is pretty much the easiest thing to make and it will elevate your dinner to another level – So there is no excuse… get making people!
Fresh pasta is made from just flour, eggs and a teeny bit of olive oil. To figure out how much of each you need, the flour to egg to person ratio is as follows: 1 person = 100g flour + 1 egg. Last night we fed four but wanted some left overs for my sister and brother-in-law to try so made enough for six people.
600g “00” Flour (bread and pasta flour)
1 tbsp olive oil
Place the flour on a clean bench. Make a well in the centre and crack the eggs into it. Beat the eggs with a fork until smooth. Using the tips of your fingers, mix the eggs with the flour, incorporating a little at a time, until everything is combined. Then add the olive oil.
Knead the pieces of dough together until one large lump of dough forms. You then need to work it until the dough become smooth and silky. I should warn you, it won’t feel like the dough will ever come together and you will need to work it hard but keep persisting until it does. What you are doing is developing the gluten in the flour and if you don’t do this properly, your pasta will become mushy when you cook it instead of al dente.
It is at this point that you are meant to wrap it in glad wrap and put in the fridge for 30 minutes. This is to rest the dough so it will harden a little. But with two kids starting to grumble that they were hungry, we thought we would risk it.
Now comes the fun bit. This is the quick and rustic version to do with kids who may not have the patience to get the pasta sizes perfect.
You’ll need a pasta machine and these are relatively inexpensive if bought from Victoria’s Basement (we got ours for $29). Clamp it to your bench and dust the bench top with some of the remainig flour. Cut a lump of the dough (about the size of a small orange) and flatten it out with the palm of your hand.
Set the pasta machine at the widest setting and roll the lump through. Then set the machine down a level and roll the dough through again. Continue this process going down a level each time until you get it as thin as you desire. We were making fettuccine so we followed the process to the second thinnest setting (the thinnest setting is better for ravioli). Repeat with all of the dough until you are left with fresh lasagna sheets.
Then add the pasta cutter attachment to your machine and run the sheets through the pasta cutter that you require (we fed ours through the fettuccine cutter). Make sure bench is well floured and place the cut pasta on the floured bench to prevent from sticking.
To cook the pasta, get a large pot of water boiling on the stove and once boiling add a handful of salt and add the pasta. Fresh pasta takes a lot less time than dried pasta to cook so be careful. It will really only take a couple of minutes to get to al dente.
Once cooked, drain the water out and place the pasta back in the pot. Stir in your sauce, add freshly grated grana padano cheese and enjoy!