Perfect pasta? My two in one approach.

PastaI am suspicious of you. I believe that you are not always totally honest with me. Look me in the eye (Imagine I am there with you.) and tell me that you are always  frank with others and with yourself. You are starting to feel a little awkward, aren’t you? We both know the truth. All those “Oooh, I invented it myself” recipes, the unhurried preparation and fun time had with loved ones while you turn out unhurried, perfect plates of food. I think not. I have seen what goes on. I know the realities of the domestic kitchen.

But, I am a nice person. I don’t want to shatter your carefully constructed fallacy filled world so I am letting you choose the post you want. Delusional kitchen happiness follows in purple (as it would be). Reality is in black (as it usually is).

I wanted to make pasta for the first time so I bought a pasta machine to make Pasta Carbonara. I took advice from some Italian friends and looked things up online too. Nothing could go wrong. I would produce an excellent dish with little or no fuss.

I had been looking for a pasta machine for yonks but could not being myself to pay full price. A 50% off sale got me over the line. Now that I had it, I had better do something with it. Pasta Carbonara looked easy. I approached it with trepidation.

All I needed for the pasta was:

  • 600 gms of strong flour
  • 6 good free range eggs
  • A couple of tablespoons of olive oil
  • Some more flour for dusting

For the carbonara sauce, I needed:

  • Half a litre of lactose free cream
  • 3 good free range eggs
  • Some thick sliced smoked bacon
  • Parmesan cheese
  • Black pepper to season

First I sieved the flour onto my granite work surface, made a hollow and broke in the eggs. This makes it easy to mix the egg and olive oil with the flour.

First I sieved the flour onto my granite work surface, made a hollow and broke in the eggs. I had been warned that the key was to mix the egg, olive oil and flour in the well in the middle. It did not look too safe. I think starting with six eggs is a mistake.

Pasta

So far, so good. Excellent eggs and flour.

 I then built up the walls to prevent any possible spillage.

I then built up the walls in a vain effort to avoid the inevitable escape of egg.

Pasta

The egg fort built nicely. This is easy. No problem starting with such a big mixture.

The camera never lies. 

The camera lies when I ask it to.

Pasta

Gentle whipping being sure that the egg and oil stayed inside the flour walls. Easy.

I gently whipped the eggs with a fork being careful to blend the olive oil and I prevented any leakage as I went.

At this point, the egg, just like the truth, began to leak out and spread. And also like the truth, it spread faster than I could gather it up again. 

When the dough came together, I began to mix by hand and then rolled it out and kneaded it as shown in the picture.

After rescuing the egg from the side of the island unit, there was more dough stuck to my hands than on the work top. I was in a real panic. I could not take any photos because my hands looked like those of the Hulk.  …Double damn! I had forgotten the olive oil. 

Pasta

This is pretty easy. I have everything very well under control.

I wrapped it in cling film and left it for 30 minutes to rest. I used the time to do worthy things with my family and friends.

I got the oil and added it to the dough bit by bit. I kneaded and kneaded more than I needed and eventually got the right consistency. The flavour improved, no doubt, by the sweat that dripped from my brow. 

Pasta

Wrapped in cling film. Everything going smoothly so far.

I used some of the available time to pair the dish with a bottle of Masi Campofiron 2008. It was well-chosen and, naturally, it worked beautifully with the authentic Italian flavours of the Carbonara.

I needed a drink. The dish was Italian so I grabbed the first bottle of Italian wine I could lay my hands on and downed a glass.

In vino veritas – Oops, did I say that?

Then, I sliced the bacon into lardons and fried them until almost crisp.

Meanwhile I sliced the bacon into lardons and fried them until half of them were burned. I managed to rescue enough to salvage the dish.

Lardons

This bit went according to plan. No, honestly, it did.

I grated the excellent Parmesan cheese and cracked the eggs into the cream. Whipped it up to make a delicious sauce.

For that much, our realities coincide.

Carbonara

This was another easy bit. No problem here.

Having rested the pasta I cut it into suitable size pieces and fed it through the pasta machine gradually decreasing the gap between the rollers. This was very straight forward and lots of fun to do.

Pasta

Don’t be fooled by the picture I was under incredible pressure. I had no idea where to put all the pasta. It kept getting longer and longer with every pass.

Now I know why Italians always have four generations of family hanging around the kitchen. I had to get my mother, the Wife, eldest daughter and boyfriend (hers, not mine) to pitch in catching the rolled pasta and building drying racks from chairs and anything else that came to hand.

Pasta

Nowhere to sit. Pasta hanging from everywhere.

I added the pasta to a large pot of boiling, salted water. In a very few minutes, the pasta was cooked perfectly. Family and friends were impressed.

I added some of the pasta to a large pot of boiling water. I had forgotten the salt. The pot was not quite big enough and it took nearly 15 minutes to cook the pasta. I now had an audience of my pasta hangers, giving advice and making unhelpful suggestions. Pasta in a potI drained the pasta and added the creamy delicious sauce.

I drained the pasta, steaming my face in the process. I added the sauce.

Pasta

Gentle stirring cooks the egg. Some black pepper adds to the flavour.

Reality and fantasy merge for the second time in the post.

Pasta

The end result was heavenly. The family loved it and encouraged me to try some other pasta dishes. Everybody smiled as we ate.

The end result was pretty good. The family really did enjoy it. Though, I don’t remember being encouraged to try any other pasta dishes. Everybody concentrated on their food. To ease the stinging, I rubbed some of the cream sauce on my steamed face.

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Latest comments
  • Love the funny way you described the whole process. And a very well-invented to dry the pasta!
    Great post, and yummy dish 😀

    • Thanks. The pasta drying was the child of necessity. Tasty all the same.

  • Amazingly proficient production line you’ve got going there. I too have a pasta machine but it caused total chaos and the eggs escaped from the flour volcano and…anyway it did taste miles better than shop bought, eventually

    • There is no comparison with shop bought. It’s like a different dish altogether. Though eventually pretty well sums it up.

  • I burst out laughing when I saw the chairs-cum-drying-racks. It reminded me of my own attempt to make pasta about 6 or 7 years ago. It was not especially successful, but perhaps I’ll try it again one day.

    • I intend getting back into the fray very soon. I refuse to allow my own stupidity destroy my potential as a great Italian cook (no matter how small that potential is).

  • Nicely done and nice photojournal of the experience!

    • Thanks and thanks for visiting the blog. Hope to see you back here soon.
      Best,
      Conor

  • Excellent and you definitely deserved the wine!

    • Thanks MD. I both deserved and needed it.

  • Hahaha- hilarious! An honest approach to cooking! I had a good laugh from your commentary, reminds me of many of my kitchen panic-attack inducing experiences!

    • On the plus side, this turned out pretty good. But, I am often my own worst enemy by letting my excitement get the better of me.

  • Hysterical! Thanks so much for showing how it often goes for us ‘regular’ folks who aren’t always as polished in the kitchen as we’d like everyone to believe. The pasta hanging on the backs of the chairs is a priceless image! Love it.

    • If you look closely, you will see a rolling pin also, between two of the chairs, loaded with pasta.

  • Love the post. Making pasta sounds so easy but it can be a challenge. I remembered making my first attempt at homemade pasta while reading your post and laughed out loud. Priceless!

    • Thanks Richard, It was great fun in reality. I did end up with everybody in the house hanging pasta wherever it could go. It certainly gave them a laugh. I will be back with something more professional looking as soon as I can bring myself to take the machine out again.

  • Hilarious!!!! I love that you have support staff at all…imagine throwing a five-year-old into the mix….

    • Hi Natalia, Definitely not to be attempted with young ones ‘helping’. It would be a bigger disaster than with the adults.

  • That looks better thn mine 🙁

  • Too funny! I know 100g and 1 egg makes a lot of pasta so I’m not surprised your kitchen was taken over! Now I’m in the mood for carbonara….

    • Yes, perhaps I did go a little too far….

  • Lasagna next? Maybe?

  • We make pasta at my house quite frequently and I’ve got to admit, you have the procedure spot on in the black text. After several years, my daughters are quite adept at the pasta roller so sometimes I can actually sit back and just enjoy the wine. Which brings me to a pasta drying tip: Hang dry tea cloths over clothes hangers and then drape the pasta over the tea cloths. Then hang these from every available cupboard and door handle, leaving the chairs free for sitting. While guzzling wine.

    • Excellent idea Stacy. A friend suggested buying a clothes horse and using it specifically for pasta. I think that is going too far (just).

  • I remember my mother and aunts using a long rolling pin to roll out the pasta. No machines for them. But when we bought my Mom her very own machine she never went back. I have it now. Perhaps I’ll make some pasta. Thanks for the inspiration.

    • Hi Ed, I have to work up to the next batch. Perhaps I will revert to the 100 grammes of flour and one egg.
      Best,
      Conor

  • Love it! Luckily, my husband makes the pasta. I’ve never gotten brave enough to even try.

    • Thanks Michelle, I think I will try a slightly less adventurous approach next time.

  • Congrats on another great post, Conor. Even more funny than usual 🙂

    My first experiments with making my own pasta were quite similar, except that I was all by myself and had no helping hands to chip in. The pasta roller was stored in a cupboard for quite a while after the first attempt, because it was such a mess and the results were not that spectacular. Now I always make it with two as it is much easier to have some helping hands, and I know better what sauces pair well with fresh pasta (subtle/elegant sauces work well; for strong sauces you could use as well use dried pasta). And of course the best is to make your own stuffed pasta like ravioli. The filling will be so much better than supermarket stuff (with a lot of fillers like breadcrumbs).

    I tried the traditional method with flour on a work surface with a well in the middle just once… Now I mostly use a food processor for the initial mixing, or I use a bowl. One of the tricks I learned is to fold the pasta and run it through the widest setting, and fold it again, etc. until it is more supple as well as has a nice shape. By folding smartly, you can make it wider so it won’t become as long when you roll it out.

    Perhaps you could find some more useful tips here: http://stefangourmet.com/2011/12/04/how-to-make-fresh-pasta/

    Hope you’ll make some more!

    P.S. Olive oil isn’t really needed, but it won’t harm either. Traditional Carbonara does not have cream.

    • Thanks for all of that Stefan. I will be simplifying my approach next time. An Italian friend of mine is arranging for a private lesson with his mother who has been making pasta for over 60 years using the same machine. I am looking forward to that.

      • You should be, that sounds awesome! Already looking forward to the post that will come out of that 🙂

  • That’s it, you are officially a wordsmith genius. What a story, and what a dish!!

    • The highest praise possible coming from the Hoss of Sauce. Thank you my friend.

      • I have an ancient hand-crank pasta maker gathering dust in storage (no, really)… I think I may just have to retrieve it after such inspiration.

        • Do get it out and get some pasta rolling. I look forward to reading your experience.

  • Thank you Conor for another fun recipe. I hope you will found the time to visit http://www.giangiskitchen.com as I have nominated you for the “Lovely Blog Award:. Thank you. Giangi

    • Thank you Giangi. You are too kind.
      Best,
      Conor

  • Ha ha brilliant! A friend of mine in Zimbabwe asked whether I knew how to make pasta and whether ordinary flour could be used as opposed to the other flour, no idea what it is, my research on the net confused me. I am assuming strong flour is…. strong flour, so I will just share this post with her and see how she goes. 🙂

    • Good plan. What’s the worst that can happen?

  • Was given a pasta machine for my birthday recently as I had been thinking of getting one for ages. Watched a couple of YouTube videos and assumed I had it sussed. How wrong could I be. Half the pasta I made dried out and never made it to the pan. However It was delicious. Today’s version was much better as I kneaded it on a board as opposed to marble, pasta hates the cold. So much better than the shop bought stuff. Will try your carbonara tomorrow! I too hit the wine last night after it didn’t work out as planned!!

    • Hi Emma,
      Hitting the wine is a good cure for pasta problems. It’s still better to get it right and enjoy the wine with a lovely carbonara. I hope you get it right and enjoy it. In my experience, the pasta gets easier and easier each time I make it. It also improves each time.

      In short, the more often you make it, the easier and the better it gets.

      Thanks for visiting and for the nice comment.
      Best,
      Conor

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