Sunday, April 3, 2011

Homemade Pasta with Mushroom Cream Sauce

I've been on kind of a cook/bake/serve-ware binge lately. In the last 3 weeks I've purchased a set of 12 stemless wine glasses, a matching 90oz pitcher, a crust cutter, a cupcake corer (you know, for all those cupcakes that need stuffing), and a pasta machine. The wine glasses/pitcher haven't arrived yet, the pasta machine spent most of last week acting as a dead weight to smooth out my new rug, and I haven't gotten any use out of either the crust cutter or cupcake corer, since I've vowed to make fewer desserts. Before you start to think that all my purchases were a big waste of money though (they're not, honey), let me just say that I finally broke in the pasta machine last night, and it was great.  

(My friend Amy has long, slim arms that deserve to be photographed.)

So yesterday, Dan and I took some friends to a local vineyard for a wine tasting. We sampled eight delicious wines, then purchased a nice bottle of white (a 2009 Sommet Blanc) to help wash down the obscene amount of cheese we had brought with us.  When we finally made it home, stuffed to the gills, we realized that there were still two large pitchers of sangria to be addressed, as well as a freshly baked loaf of focaccia. The most logical thing to do, of course, was to drink all the sangria, eat all the bread, and make a huge batch of fresh pasta to round out the meal. Enter: Tina's new pasta machine.

As it turns out, pasta dough is just eggs + flour. Did you know that? I didn't. I thought for sure it was going to involve a lot more fancy wheeling and dealing, and possibly lots of butter. The whole process was very straightforward, though, and the only issue we had was getting the dough to the right consistency and remembering to let it to rest before rolling it out. Our first batch, which was under-floured, looked fine but turned out to be kind sticky, and stuck stubbornly to the cogs of the pasta machine. The second batch, which we kneaded with a lot more flour and allowed to rest for a bit before rolling, turned out much better -- the texture was smoother, and the strands came apart cleanly. 

When it came time to cook the pasta, there was a bit of confusion about cooking time. We knew homemade pasta was supposed to cook a lot faster than the dried commercial stuff, but cooked pasta doesn't look a whole lot different than its raw form, so there was a lot of guesswork involved. We ended up just boiling each batch for about 3 minutes, and the noodles came out kind of al dente. Personally, I prefer my pasta to be softer, but everyone else seemed to be fine with the texture and consistency, and I'm told Italians like their pasta al dente, so what do I know?

So, the verdict -- homemade pasta is delicious, but really labor intensive. Far too labor intensive to be a regular feature in my kitchen. I mean, it took me longer to mix/knead/roll/cut/boil one batch of pasta than it did to bake a loaf of focaccia, even taking into account the 60+ minutes of dead time to proof the yeast and allow the bread dough to rise. I'm not made of time, you know. Still, fresh pasta is admittedly very tasty, and I could see myself making it every now and then as a treat. Plus, I gotta get my money's worth out of that damned machine.

For a straightforward pasta recipe, check here, courtesy of The Pioneer Woman.

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