Becoming a Pasta Maker ((Napa part 4))
I must say, the idea of a head chef and restaurant owner personally training me in the art and science of pasta making seemed very exciting…until the morning came to be taught. I was nervous — like first day at a new school nervous. I needed my BF to be tagging along, or my hubby – or let’s be honest, even the idea of bringing my 8-year-old was starting to become very appealing. But it was just me. I walked into the restaurant and decided it was time to begin acting like I wasn’t nervous, I slipped on the white chef’s jacket and introduced myself. With my introduction, I quickly deflated any notions he may have had about me. “I know nothing, I have never made pasta – I don’t even have a pasta maker.” I said with a short laugh and a smile.
“Good – you are at the right place!” he happily responded, and proceeded to introduce himself: Tyler Rodde of Oenotri.
We got right to business with a quick tour of the kitchen and as we walked I asked him for a recommendation for a pasta maker. Specifically, did he prefer the bench-clamped hand-crank pasta machine or something electric. To my delight, he actually uses the Kitchen Aid pasta-roller attachment to make all of the restaurant’s flat pasta. “I can do that!” I exclaimed excitedly.
He went on to talk to me about the ingredients that go into his pasta “We use a 1:1:1: ratio for making our pasta – meaning one cup of flour, one whole egg & one egg yolk per single batch of pasta.”
Me: “How many people will one batch serve?”
Chef Tyler ((CT)): “It depends but usually 3 adults”
Me: “How many batches can you make at once?”
CT: “On the Kitchen Aid, you could maybe fit 6 ((6 c flour, 6 eggs and 6 yolks)) batches in the bowl and turn it all out at once, but it would be really hard on the mixer’s motor. I would only do a max of 4 at a time.”
Then we went on to talk about the flour. For their pasta, the only use a superfine “00” flour. This flour is extremely high in gluten and will cause the fresh pasta to achieve the perfect “toothiness” we all love – aka al dente. Al dente is easier to achieve when working with a dried pasta. Apparently, it is easy to make fresh pasta incorrectly – which will always yield a mushy texture in the finished product. Ain’t nobody got time for that!
Using “double O” flour ((as it is called)) and handling the pasta dough in a particular way practically guarantees a perfect pasta. BTW, Oenotri has a special gluten-free flour blend available for pasta and pizzas by request! This blend is specially made for Oenotri by a chef at Bouchon.
CT went on to assemble the yolk, whole egg and the cup of flour. He also placed the flat beater attachment on the Kitchen Aid. As he dumped the short list of ingredients into the mixer bowl, he went on to explain why he does not make pasta by hand. ((By hand would be dumping the flour out on the work table, creating a well in the center and filling the well with the egg & yolk… and so forth.))
CT: “For me it is a time spent versus money earned all relative to the quality of the product made. I have found this method makes just as good, if not better, pasta than the pasta I would make by hand. First of all the product is much more consistent, no longer being dependent upon who is making it. Second, my time and energy can be spent in other areas. So here in my restaurant, I always make sheet pasta using the Kitchen Aid and the pasta-roller attachment.”
As soon as he said “…my time and energy can be spent in other areas.” my mind flashed to the hours leading up to dinnertime. I immediately felt a strange kinship with this man. He is practically speaking into my day in my home with my herd.
I have not attempted homemade pasta prior to this day for this very reason. I was certain the “elaborate” process would suck time and energy from other areas of my day – that to be perfectly honest didn’t have the additional time or energy to give. Now, as he spoke, my heart was feeling lighter – and I began to realize “I think I can do this – and do it well!”
He flipped on the mixer and the ingredients began to combine into a sloppy looking dough. He paused and said, “Notice – I didn’t lock the mixer? I let it bob a bit – that puts less wear on the motor, you mixer will last much longer if you let it bob ((GREAT TIP!!)). He proceeded to add about 1 T of olive oil & 1 T of cold water and continued to mix until large clumps formed.
The dough was then scooped out and formed into a simple disk ((by hand)), wrapped in plastic wrap, and placed in the fridge for 20 minutes. This little rest is an important step in the process of making perfect pasta – giving the gluten in the dough time to form.
While the pasta was resting I asked CT a few more questions:
Me: “What got you interested in food?”
CT: “I was a swimmer at the UC ((I forgot maybe SF)) and I had to eat 15,000 calories per day to maintain my weight. Eating became work and I dreaded it. So one day, I started watching Food Network and began cooking for myself. After I graduated with a degree in Economics, I decided to go to culinary school. I worked three jobs to put myself through school and those jobs included bartender and restaurant positions in the back of the house ((kitchen)) sous chef etc. One day, I got into an argument over philosophies about pastry with my Pastry II professor. I walked out the door and never went back. I took all of the money I had saved to pay my way through school and invested it into a restaurant, within a year my investment was returned to me with a very nice profit. That same year and several years following, I began opening restaurants for other people. After a few years, I took my earnings and opened my own restaurant, I have been here ever since.”
While we continued to chat, CT salted a pot of water and set the pot on the fire. He must have seen my eyes bulge when he salted the water because he laughed and said “what?!”. “Wow – that is a lot of salt!” He went on to share another helpful tip “You want the water to taste like the sea.” — okay got it water tastes like sea, I mentally checked the thought off in my mind.
“Remember,” he continued “we never added salt to the pasta dough? Well, here is where we add the salt.”
He returned to the fridge and brought back the chilled disk of pasta dough, unwrapped it and cut it in half. He fixed the pasta-roller attachment to the mixer, floured the work table and proceeded to flip the mixer on & feed the pasta into the roller ((which he set at a “2” – the widest setting was a 1 and went up to the thinnest setting of “6”)).
CT: “Isn’t that the ugliest looking pasta dough you have ever seen? I feed it though, tri-fold it on the floured surface, press out the air bubbles and feed it through again. I repeat this 10 times.”
Look at the difference – it starts out so messy but quickly forms into a uniform sheet.
As it is fed through the last time – it has become a perfect rectangle!
CT cut this sheet in half & set one half aside. Now it was time to turn this dough into a sheet of pasta — and then into pappardelle.
CT dialed the width of the pasta roller down to “4”, fed it through twice, folding it again between each roller feed ((on the floured surface)). He paused and asked “Can you tell the sponginess is gone? It is much more firm isn’t it?? This is because the gluten has formed”. He then asked “How thin do you like your pasta? I sometimes make it a “5” other times a “6”.
Me: “As thin as possible – let’s make it a “6”.” He complied, fed it through one more time and laid it out on the work table, cut it into 4 sheets, stacked the sets on top of each other. “What do you want to make with the other half?” CT asked. “Lasagna?” I asked thinking that would be a totally different prep and usage of the pasta sheets.
CT: “Sure, you are going to do this one!”
Nervously, I walked over and reset the dial to “4” and fed the pasta through, folded it and re-fed it through 4 or 5 times.
“Wait”, he said – you only needed to do that twice, now you can adjust it to “6” and feed it through a once or twice”, he reminded me.
That task was quickly done. He cut both long sheets into 4 sections, set the lasagna sheets aside and began to hand-cut the pappardelle.
He separated the noodles, tossed them in a bit (a few T) of semolina and nestled them on a pile on a lined baking sheet.
He walked away for just a moment and returned with an ice bath. “Once the pasta is cooked ((20 seconds in boiling water)), you will remove it from the salted water and drop it in here, just for a moment to shock it and stop the cooking process. But here is where I will throw you for a loop: this ice bath needs to be salted too. ((he proceeded to liberally salt the water bath))”
Me: “Ahh, it is basic science – the salt ions with go to lowest concentration of salt – diffusion!”
CT smiled and said “Exactly! If you skip this step, you have just rinsed all of the salt off of your pasta.”
I took a second and told him about my Bachelor’s in Science and Master’s in Mechanical Engineering. Two foodie nerds – basically self-taught, it was a moment. haha.
As we chatted, he added 2 finely chopped cloves of garlic to an oiled pan, heated the garlic, added about 6 oz of water and allowed the water to cook out. This was all done to prevent the garlic from burning all the while letting that raw garlic flavor cook out of the sauce. He also added a sprinkle of sea salt and a few pats of butter.
He instructed me to add the pasta to the sauce and “swirl” not “toss” to coat.
CT: “Tossing causes the pasta to clump and the sauce disappears. See…” he said as he took the pan from me and tossed the pasta into the air about ten times. Sure enough, the sauce sprayed out of the pan and the pasta clumped. “But this can be fixed, watch…” and with that he set the pan back on the fire and added a few ounces of boiling water back to the pasta. He handed it back to me – and sure enough as I swirled, the sauce formed and thickened nicely. I poured it into a pasta dish and we both took a bite.
Me: “WOW!! This is so good! It is perfect – the simple garlic butter sauce…it is my favorite!!”
CT: “and the toothiness?”
Me: “perfect! amazing – wow, amazing!” I ate all but the 3 or 4 bites CT ate. And I am not sorry.
Now onto lasagna-making! He cut the sheets to fit into his lasagna dish, I boiled the pasta for 20-30 seconds, dropped the sheets into an ice bath and then pulled them out & laid them onto a lined baking sheet.
CT drizzled each side with a few drops of olive oil and we began layering the lasagna!
A simple house-made tomato sauce, topped with one of our pasta sheets, some diced rainbow chard stalks and a few torn chard leaves.
A little more sauce and another pasta layer.
Some fresh-made ricotta.
Another pasta layer, more sauce and some grated fontina.
Into the wood-burning oven it went for about 15 minutes. To duplicate this step at home, just bake for 15-18 minutes at 350°.
Perfection. The edges were crisp, the greens were wilted and the cheese was melted and gooey. Oh, and the pasta – simply perfect…simple being the key! And with that, a pasta maker I have become. I went home and purchased my own attachment, gathered the “00” flour and semolina and am planning my next pasta dinner! What a great time I had – no need to be nervous at all!
- 1 cup superfine 00 flour
- 1 egg
- 1 yolk
- olive oil, approximately 2 T
- cold water, approximately 1 T
- 1/2 c semolina
- sea salt for pasta water
- Using a stand mixer, such as a Kitchen Aid, add first three ingredients to the accompanying mixing bowl. Attach the mixing paddle and begin mixing on low speed. Increase speed as flour and egg begin to combine. Stop and scrap paddle and sides. Continue mixing until flour and egg are completely incorporated. Drizzle oil over pasta and mix until the oil has combined with the dough. ((The dough will be sticky))
- Remove dough from bowl and form into an approximately 4" disk. Wrap the pasta dough disk with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 20 minutes to over night.***
- Lightly dust your work surface with 00 flour.
- Remove pasta from the fridge after it has rested.
- Connect pasta roller attachment to the stand mixer and begin feeding the pasta dough through the roller set at the widest or next widest setting. Fold the pasta sheet in half and press it together firmly on the floured surface, making sure all air bubble have been pressed out. Feed the dough through the roller again. Lay the sheet out again on the floured work surface and this time fold the pasta sheet into thirds* and feed it through the machine. Repeat this process until the pasta has been rolled 10 times.
- Cut the pasta sheet in half and begin the process rolling the pasta into a very thin sheet.
- **Adjust the dial on the roller to "4" and feed the pasta through. Gently lay the lengthened sheet out on the floured surface and fold in half or thirds, feed it into the roller again. Adjust the roller to your desired thickness, I prefer "6" and feed the sheet through again.
- Lay the pasta sheet back out on the floured surface and cut the equally into sheets of your desired length ((fourths worked for me)). Set these sheets aside on a parchment lined baking sheet.
- Using the remaining half of the pasta dough, repeat the steps marked with a **.
- At this point, either stack all 8 sheets up on themselves and cut horizontally to desired noodle width, or use for lasagna sheets, or if you are ambitious, use for ravioli. ((I am not including ravioli instructions with this recipe.))
- If you are preparing these noodles for immediate use, fill a large pot with water ((about 3" from the top)), salt the water with approximately 1/4 c of sea salt and bring the water to boil. ((A pasta insert is very handy to use at this point because the cooked pasta is so delicate, if you have one, insert it into the pot now. If you don't have one, you can just gently strain the pasta out of the water.))
- --If making noodles, such a pappardelle, the cut noodles will be approximately 1" in width. Separate each noodle so they are not sticking to each other. Gently drop the noodles into a pile on the lined baking sheet. Sprinkle a few T of semolina over the cut noodles and gently toss to coat. This step will keep the noodles from clumping.
- Prepare an ice bath in a medium-sized mixing bowl, add 1/4 c of salt to the ice bath.
- Gently drop pappardelle into boiling water. As you do this, make sure the pasta is not clumped together. Boil the noodles for 30 seconds to 1 minute. Test for desired doneness, drain and add the pasta to the ice bath, this will shock the pasta and stop the cooking process. Add the pasta to your desired sauce. We used a simple garlic butter sauce. Swirl the pasta in the sauce until coated and serve.
- --If making lasagna, cut the sheets to fit the lasagna baking dish. You don't need to toss the lasagna sheets with semolina.
- Prepare an ice bath in a medium-sized mixing bowl, add 1/4 c of salt to the ice bath.
- Gently drop lasagna sheets into boiling salted water. Take care to make sure the pasta sheets do not fold onto themselves and clump. You may have to cook them in batches depending on how big your sheets are. Cook the sheets for only 20 seconds. Remove and drop into the salted ice bath. Quickly remove from the ice bath, drizzle olive oil on each side of the sheet and lay them out in a single layer on a parchment lined baking sheet. Begin layering with desired cheeses and fillings. Bake at 350°. If making a single serving lasagna, bake for 15-18 minutes until hot through, for a family-size lasagna, bake for 30-35 minutes.
- *Imagine the pasta rectangle is divided into 3 equal parts. Mentally number each section ((from left to right)) 1, 2 & 3. Fold 1 over onto 2, then fold three on top on 1 ((which is on top of 2)). Press out air bubbles and feed through roller.
- ***Pasta can be refrigerated up to one day or frozen up to one week.