|Homemade orecchiette Bolognese|
One of the bloggers I follow, Caroline at Grow It Can It Cook It, decided to issue herself a challenge for 2012: to try one new cooking technique each month during the year that she has always wanted to try. And now she's invited the rest of us to play along at home.
Can you guess what January's challenge is? Yep ... homemade pasta.
Since I do not have a pasta machine, I knew I'd have to try something that doesn't need to be rolled into sheets. I've made gnocchi before, but as it is largely potatoes, I looked around for something else, something with semolina.
In Italian it means "little ears" and you can see why: the little indentation that makes the "ear" is perfect for holding a nice chunky Bolognese sauce (recipe below).
But back to the pasta itself.
Very simply, it is semolina flour, regular flour and warm water mixed together to form a dough, which is then shaped and dried slightly. That's it! Sure, a bit more time consuming than opening up a box of dried pasta, but so much classier.
You can definitely do this. I'll even walk you through it -- with pictures.
Combine two parts semolina flour with 1 part all-purpose flour in a bowl. I used two cups of semolina flour and 1 cup regular, which ultimately made enough dough for about six very large servings.
Add warm water, just a little bit at a time, until the flours form a workable dough. I wound up using almost an entire cup of water but added it about 1/8 of a cup at a time.
Once the dough is formed, place it on a lightly floured work surface and knead it for about 10 minutes, until it is smooth. You can see the difference -- it will look a lot like a ball of pizza dough, although much stiffer.
(And yes, kneading for 10 minutes is hard but makes a great arm workout!)
Wrap the smooth dough ball in plastic wrap and refrigerate it for a few hours (at least 2).
After chilling, remove the dough from the plastic and pull off a small handful. Using a lightly floured work surface, roll the dough with your hands into a long tube that is about 1/2 of an inch thick. With a sharp knife, cut the tube into pieces about 1/4 of an inch thick.
Now you'll need to form the "ears." Place one piece of the cut dough into your cupped palm and, using the tip of your thumb, press lightly into the center, making a well. Be sure that both your palm and your thumb remain lightly floured during this process.
(Since I am both cook and photographer in my kitchen, I had no way of capturing this technique accurately. But you can check out the demo photos at Recipe Tips and Italian Food Forever, which gave me the basics for this whole process.)
Once the dough is formed into the "little ear", place it on a lightly floured pan. Repeat the rolling and forming process until all the dough is used up and you have a gajillion little ears resting on the floured tray.
At this point, you can cook the orecchiette right away or just let it sit on the tray until you are ready (being a little dried out is fine). Place the pasta into a pot of boiling water and cook until the ears float to the top, which should only take just a few minutes.
I served mine with a hearty, meaty Bolognese sauce, the recipe for which I've included below -- the recipe is adapted from a book called Perfect Italian, a collection of recipes published by Paragon Books Ltd.
So, have you made homemade pasta? Do you have any tips or techniques to share? I'd love to hear them.
Hearty Bolognese Sauce
Note: this recipes doubles easily.
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 onion, finely chopped
1 carrot, finely chopped
1 celery stalk, fine chopped
1 cup mushrooms, diced
8 oz. lean ground beef or turkey
2-3 thick slices of bacon, diced
2 chicken livers, chopped
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1/2 cup white wine
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 1/4 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup low-fat half-and-half
salt and pepper
Heat the oil and butter in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onion, carrot, celery and mushrooms and cook until tender (about 5-6 minutes). Add the beef and bacon; cook until beef is browned.
Add the chicken livers and tomato paste; cook for 3 minutes. Pour in the wine, add the nutmeg and season with some salt and pepper. Add the stock and bring to boil. Reduce, cover and simmer over low heat for one hour. Stir in the half-and-half and simmer, uncovered, until reduced (just remove it from the heat when the consistency looks good to you).