It’s amazing how quickly you can fall out of habit from doing something, even something you enjoy, when faced with a good excuse like Christmas break. Breaks from all things, even good habits, are necessary and pretty inevitable. However, now having realised the habits I’ve fallen out of (blogging, getting up before my kids do, weekly meal prep, not eating some form of chocolate for breakfast), I’m eager and excited to gain them back, and create a whole set new habits to lose and regain again in 11.5 months time. I love the cycle. I am starting 2016 filled with determination and excitement, and hopefully with a teeny tiny bit more clarity than I had last year as to what is important to me, and what I want to achieve. I did a few things well last year, things that I’m proud of. I started this blog. And even more challenging, I kept up with it. I helped write my very first book. I took up running – a shock to anyone who has ever met me, myself included. I changed my name on my social security card (that was six years in the making so I think it deserves some attention). Overall I spent 2015 trying to take stock of what was most important to me, making deliberate changes to try to reflect those values, in order to give more time and energy to them. Always a work in progress, but work worth doing, even in tiny little pieces.
2015 was a very rough year for the world. As I watched recaps of the year recently, I couldn’t help but feel weighted down by the memory of each news story, especially as most are still ongoing. 2015 is hard to reconcile. Inside my own home we were celebrating triumphs. Isla walked for the first time. Nell started school. 2015 was a year of positive transformation within our little household, making it that much harder for me to sandwich the two pieces together; the sadness of the world’s year with the joys of our personal milestones. Maybe it makes the personal triumphs just a little more meaningful, the tiniest bit sweeter. Maybe it makes the news that much harder understand.
Being just the four of us for Christmas this year we started a new family tradition, ticking off one of the many items on my culinary bucket list. We made homemade fresh pasta for the very first time! I’ve seen it made probably no less than fifty times, but I’ve never taken the opportunity to make it myself. And having done it, I don’t know why I waited so long! I was shocked at just how easy it was, and the amount of satisfaction I felt having done so. Nick and the girls all got involved too, making it that much more of a triumph.
I’ve known for a long time the difference freshly made pasta can make to a meal, but with the business of kids and work, I had just never considered the option of trying it out myself. With the excuse of a break from work, our love of pasta, and my desire to make our own special Christmas meal, there was no better time than to try it out. This was the first meal in a very long time, that I ate with great pride. It felt like a real achievement.
It is my goal to keep up with the pasta making this year, experimenting with the number of egg yolks we put into the dough, the shapes we make (I can wait to make ravioli!), and the sauces that go on top. This is the first recipe I tried, and like I said, for a first-timer, it couldn’t have been easier.
Homemade Fresh Pasta
1 egg + 2 egg yolks
10oz. or approx 280g 00′ flour
In a large bowl (or directly on your work surface if you are Jamie Oliver or an Italian Mama) tip in all of your flour, creating a well in the very centre for your eggs.
Add your egg and yolks to the centre, gently starting to incorporate them into your flour by mixing with a fork or with your fingers. Once you’ve incorporated all the eggs and flour into a formed a mound of dough, turn it onto a lightly floured work surface and knead for around 5 minutes or until you have a smooth consistent texture. Form into a ball, cover with cling film and place in the fridge for a minimum of one hour to rest.
When you are ready to make your pasta take your dough back out and set up your pasta machine. We used a fairly basic one, purchased for around £12. You’ll want to use about 1/4 of the dough at a time, keeping the rest covered under the cling film so it doesn’t dry out. We also prepped a baking sheet, sprinkled with a bit of semolina to help the noodles from sticking together once they were finished.
Starting with 1/4 of your dough and on the widest setting on the machine, pass it through the machine, then fold either in 1/2 or into thirds, as if you were preparing a letter for an envelope. You’ll want to pass the dough through the machine at the widest setting 6-7 times like this, folding it over after each time. This is called laminating, and helps the dough to develop its elasticity, making for noodles that are soft, but hold together, still retaining their structure. You’ll really begin to notice a change in the texture of the dough as you do this. If you find you are creating holes when passing the dough through you may want to repeat this step a few more times before moving on.
Once the laminating process is done it’s time to start thinning out the dough. Gradually reduce the setting by 1 on your pasta machine, and pass the dough through again. You can choose to pass the dough once or twice on each setting before reducing it again. You’ll start to see a long strip of dough forming, getting thinner and longer each time. I continued with this process until I was at the thinnest setting on the machine, before switching over from rolling to creating my noodles. At the very last few stages it does help to have an extra set of hands helping to feed the dough or crank the machine.
Once we passed the dough through the noodle cutting part of the machine, we laid them in the semolina, giving a little bit of a shake, coating the noodles in hopes of keeping the strands separate, before twirling them into nests. This worked perfectly and is something I highly recommend doing if you’re worried your pasta will stick together. Once the rolling was done the noodles cooked in a matter of minutes (no more than 2-3) in a large pot of boiling and generously salted water.
We went for tagliatelle noodles the first (and second) time, as both girls love slightly wider long noodles. I had made a slow cooked ragu which clung well to the noodles, and we covered our bowls with mounds of Parmesan.
For a great article with extra visuals and explanation of fresh pasta making I highly recommend this one. I read it through a couple times before starting my pasta session.