The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

What is the big deal about "fresh" home made pasta ??

HMerlitti's picture
HMerlitti

What is the big deal about "fresh" home made pasta ??

For decades my family has been making pasta, first with knives on cutting boards, then by mechanical crank machine, now by Kitchen Aid attachment.   It is a labor of love and a family event including the children in the process.

 Also however, available at Costco are the large, inexpensive packages of Garofalo penne.   Although Janeane Garofalo should not be allowed to procreate, the pasta is typical quality store bought pasta that has the advantage of being cooked to your level of al dente.   The taste, with properly salted water, is excellent IMHO. 

 Being Abruzzese I have toured the De Cecco factory in Fara San Marino in search of an understanding of their manufacturing process and the wonderful product.   They have some advantages. 

 Someone tell me why, whether I entertain guests or go to a restaurant, there is an expected orgasm when it is communicated that the pasta was make in house.   

foodslut's picture
foodslut

... or New Yorkers who've never been up the Empire State Building, you might be taking something pretty special for granted ;)  My parents were Italians from Umbria, and to me, home-made pasta was what we ate at home during special occasions - the holidays, company, etc.  In fact, it took my buddies coming over to remind me how great the food was to help realize what a gift we had.

I remember others in my situation who, when young, didn't like bringing the crusty bread with the home-made roasted peppers for lunch because everyone else had baloney and Wonder Bread.  Then, we didn't want to be different, but now, we realize it was better. 

What could be cooler than seeing flour and eggs come together to make pasta?  Now that more folks pay more attention to food in general, more folks understand that pasta doesn't have to be just what you get from the box with a jar of whatever's on the supermarket shelf.

People SHOULD be excited about hand-made pasta, just like they SHOULD be excited about home-made bread (after all, it's just flour, water, yeast and salt, and you can get decent artisinal bread in the stores, right?) and all good, home-made food.  Now, I think more people are just realizing how special these things are.

Thus endeth the rant :)

HMerlitti's picture
HMerlitti

You have to like anyone who calls themselves foodslut. 

Your analogy, although eloquent, doesn't fly.   All can tell the difference between breads bought at the store and properly fresh baked.    De Cecco pasta however is made with what they consider superior ingredients (water and flour) that are not available to the normal shopper.  

I lived this life and loved it.    http://www.italiamerica.org/id38.htm

 

 

foodslut's picture
foodslut

You're right that DeCecco is very good off-the-shelf pasta, and for formed pasta, it's WAY easier and better than trying to extrude your own at home.

That said, do you really think that people tasting two identically-prepared-and-seasoned lasagnas, one with home-made sfoglia and the other with DeCecco sheets, would prefer the store-bought?  I'd be willing to bet a buck that even DeCecco isn't going to melt in your mouth like good egg pasta off the counter.

BTW, LOVE the "growing up Italian American" piece - thanks for sharing that!  I hear you, big time - some of my own history:

http://tonyprudori.pbworks.com/w/page/22355388/WineTumblers

http://tonyprudori.pbworks.com/w/page/22355340/ImmigrantFoodCulture

http://tonyprudori.pbworks.com/w/page/22355339/Holiday-Meals

Interesting discussion here....

linder's picture
linder

Thank you so much for sharing your story about your family's holiday meals.  It brought a tear to my eye and reminded me of all the wonderful times at my Grandma Rose's house, where we ate all day and into the evening hours - savoring my Uncle Jimmy's antipasto, homemade ravioli and sauce, and then the turkey and all the American trimmings.  The food was bountiful and good along with Uncle Tony's and Grandpa's homemade wines, a feast fit for kings!

When I make bread I often think of Grandma Rose and remember sitting at the table downstairs next to the old wood burning stove, watching her make bread and dough for pizzas.  Simple good times.

ananda's picture
ananda

Hi,

I just wanted to ask whether you would prefer to eat home made pasta made from relatively ordinary and industrial durum flour, or, dried pasta made from the finest Italian Durum wheat grown in the South of Italy and recognised as "the best" wheat for pasta.

In other words...process, or, materials?   Which is the most important?

I know you'd really rather have both, but I'm asking you to rank one over the other!

Best wishes

Andy

proth5's picture
proth5

I seem to be suffering from a bout of curmudgeon today...

Back in my pasta making heyday, I made a pasta that was rolled so thin that the texture was - as described by others - "ethereal."  No dried pasta, no matter how fine the wheat used in the process would have that texture. It would be too fragile to ship.

So if I wanted to create a dish with that texture, I would prefer "home made" (dried not being able to take its place.)  Other shapes and textures come best from dried pasta.  I've made fresh rotini (yes, it can be done), but dried is almost always as good - or at least faster and easier.

Of course, I'm not sure who recognizes the wheat from the South of Italy as "the best" wheat for pasta.  Some of the stuff grown in the US is exported to Italy and the California Wheat commision tells me that there is a California durum that is highly prized in Italy for dried pasta. But moving on...

As we well know from our breads, the best ingredients in the best hands will always outperform the best ingredients in far lesser hands and "lesser" ingredients in masterful hands will outperform "the best" ingredients in not so masterful hands.  So to be honest I would take our "ordinary" (but still, I think, pefectly fine) durum from the Dakotas freshly made into pasta by masterful hands (that perhaps also used fresh eggs from happy hens) over dried from "the best" wheat dried from hands unknown  - for most types of pasta. Also, to be honest, I would not get excited about "home made" pasta unless the maker of that pasta was bringing skill to the table.  I've had bad "house made" pasta and one wonders what sort of foodism prompts its use rather than using a quality dried pasta.  When famous chefs wax nostalgic that the "best" cooking is always "your mother's" cooking - I think to myself, "No, no, it is not..."

I would also chose the house made pasta from "ordinary" wheat because that Dakota wheat is closer to being my local wheat than the stuff from Italy.

Process and geography (with aedequate materials) trump the food that needs to be flown in from far away (even though it has "the best" materials).  I'll taste the dried stuff from the South Italy wheat when I am in Italy.

Of course, I am wrong, and you will now all tell me why...  Have fun!

Pat

HMerlitti's picture
HMerlitti

The assumptions that form the basis of your questions appear flawed.   Italian pasta makers do not use flour from Italy exclusively.   They buy from Canada and Arizona among other places.   They use a water that is only available to them.   They buy wheat that is specific to making pasta.   They use a die for extruding which is copper the benefit being that it imparts a rough edge on the pasta which holds the sauce.   They have many advantages over the home pasta maker.   

That being said, I am not sure I have answered your question ??

ananda's picture
ananda

Hi,

I'm well aware that much of the durum wheat used in modern and industrial pasta manufacture is grown in many places throughout the world; Australia particularly comes to mind.

But what I had in mind for consideration is the relatively small scale and highly specialised dried pasta made locally in Italy from locally sourced wheat.

However, I simply put this out as a question, and am more than happy to see the discussion broadened out to industrial scale pasta production.   Particularly as this was the comparison your post originally seemed to address.

Best wishes

Andy

G-man's picture
G-man

You can't have one without the other and still expect to turn out a well-rounded product :)

 

I suspect that most here would choose a high-quality process over high-quality ingredients, because most here seem to be the type who will handle the process themselves and feel that leaving it to others is undesirable, and knowing how to make something lets you get a good feeling for the level of quality you can squeeze from a wide variety of ingredients. Just a hunch.

 

To weigh in on the original post, I prefer homemade pasta to store-bought pasta because I take pride in knowing I can make it myself, and I can modify my ingredients and process to make it exactly how I want it. I still have a tub of dry noodles in my pantry if I want something and don't have pasta waiting.

MangoChutney's picture
MangoChutney

Homemade pasta is mysterious to the uninitiated.  Pasta is ubiquitous, but whoever can imagine how all the different shapes get made, who has not made some pasta at home?  I bought a pasta extruder 20 years ago.  Intermittently I have attempted to make pasta with it.  Today I gave up on it.  After making what appeared to be perfect pasta dough, I was staring at the extruded noodles that had begun to meld together into a lump as they sat on the plate while I extruded the rest.  In frustration, I grabbed some of the unextruded dough, pressed it out on the counter-top with my fingertips, and cut it into strips with a pizza cutter wheel.  Voila!  Noodles.  Thick and wide, but noodles nonetheless.  I grabbed the luckless melding noodles, wadded them into a lump, and made noodles by hand from them also.  An electric Atlas is on its way to me even as I type this. 

Like so many foods, pasta dough exists the world around under different names and doing different tasks.  One of the non-Italian things I hope to make using the Atlas dough roller is Oriental steamed pork dumplings.

Mukoseev's picture
Mukoseev

You'll like the Atlas.  I had bad experiences with the extrusion method too.

MangoChutney's picture
MangoChutney

I do love it.  Here's a picture of my first batch.

I made it with whole wheat flour, from hard red winter wheat.

I tried making some more today using flour ground from hard white spring wheat.  The dough wasn't left to sit as long.  It only sat for about an hour, covered on the counter.  The dough above was kept in a bag in the refrigerator for four days (used at room temperature).  Today I made both noodles and spaghetti (the type that comes on the combination cutter with the noodles).  The spaghetti didn't seem to want to finish coming out at the end of each inserted sheet of dough.  As a consequence the strands are somewhat tangled and krinkly at one end.  Is there a trick I should try next time?

Frequent Flyer's picture
Frequent Flyer

...and I'm not Italian.  Reading this almost makes me wish I was.

FF

Nickisafoodie's picture
Nickisafoodie

Quite a few years ago I took a cooking course hosted by Chef Giulliano Bugialli, who at the time had published several cook books and was well regarded- my favorite being "Bugialli on Pasta".  Likely out of print now.http://www.bookfinder.com/author/giuliano-bugialli/...  

He was being interviewed and was asked "And about Italian food. Do you eat at any Italian restaurants in New York?"  And he answered: It's very difficult to find a real, authentic dinner here. There are dishes, certainly, and some are very good. But to have an entire meal that is really Italian is not easy.  So rightfully or wrongly, the man had a firm view on life.

He was emphatic on three things:

1)    boxed pasta is perfect for the big/bold red sauces as the firmer texture lines up perfectly with the robust style of sauce and same would overwhelm and “get lost” in fresh pasta.  Likewise he was just as passionate that fresh was best suited for lighter style sauces like cream, carbonara, pesto based, etc.  This single item has significant impact on the possible questions raised perhaps?

2)    That American’s drown their pasta in sauce, rather than serving just enough to serve as an accent

3)    The sauce and pasta “need to marry” – essentially under cook the pasta well ahead of el dente, then combine sauce and pasta and let sit covered for 1-2 minutes.  By this point it should translate from too undercooked to perfect el dente…

Take this as one chef/author’s guidelines as we’ve all had red sauce with home made that was fab and light sauces made with boxed pastas that also rocked. 

Re the extruded pasta, the factories can deliver a great product as they have industrial sized machines capable of exerting tremendous pressure that forces the dough through the dies followed by a drying process that eventually get it to the boxed stage.

Trying to translate an industrial extrusion process into home based machine simply doesn’t work as the needed pressure is not there, and the shortfall attempt at compromise is to use much wetter dough that allows the weak power of the machine to fail at delivering anything workable.  The result is wet and gummy and unacceptable.  Thus the Atlas roller machine mentioned above or Nona’s well worn broom handle.

So for real controversy around those that grew up in an Italian household I ask ”Who puts grated cheese on linguini and clam sauce?”  My answer is "oh yeah, I do and I love it that way".  I know some die hard Italians [nothing bad meant by this, the best food you will ever eat and very generous and friendly peope if you ever visit] that would roll over in their grave if they saw dairy mixed with seafood.  I say “to each his own” - if you like it a certain way, enjoy.  If not, well that how she rolls… 

A former boss's Italian wife from Florence was also emphatic on a few things: 

1) capucinno only at breakfast, never at lunch or dinner.  It simply is not done.

2) espresso is never served with a lemon rind on the side - that is only served to the Americans and is viewed as heresy

3) if they set a spoon by you when the pasta is served, they know you are a tourist!

Cheers :-)

foodslut's picture
foodslut

.... in Italy - I'd make my cousins laugh having it for dessert!

My mom was a "no cheese on fish sauce" person, but I don't mind some on some tomato-based tuna sauce. 

Also, try asking for vinegar as a condiment for fried potatoes in Italy, and see the looks you get.  Years ago, I tried this, and was told, "but we haven't served the salad yet."

G-man's picture
G-man

I, for one, hate culinary taboos with a passion and do my level best to violate them. The more emphatically someone tells me I shouldn't do something, the more attention I'll pay to doing it the "wrong" way. Food is about happiness, pleasure, experience. Telling someone that eating a food a certain way is "just not done" or is "heresy" is the same as telling someone they can't read a certain kind of book, that a certain painting has to be torn down and burned because it is unacceptable, or that a certain kind of music is not art. If someone judges me for liking something they don't like, more's the pity for them. If they want to intentionally limit their own experiences, if they intentionally close their minds to possibilities because they think their way is the only good way...I feel sorry for them.

I appreciate standards, but I feel like they should only exist to define deviations.

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

Hi, Enrico.

I bought a "pasta machine" once. It was an extruder, and the pasta was perfectly awful. I returned the machine. On the other hand, I've used a hand-cranked Atlas for flat pastas for years, and I've never had dried pasta that approaches the wonderful texture of the tagliatelle and papperadelle the Atlas turns out. My grandmother made noodles by hand, according to my mother. Unfortunately, this was a skill that was not passed down.

My question is for those who have experience with both the Atlas and the KA Pasta Attachment: How does the pasta they produce compare?

David

HMerlitti's picture
HMerlitti

Hi Dave !!

To answer your question, once upon a time, there was only the crank machine.   Now I have both.   IMHO there is no difference.   The crank is more combersome but is fun for the kids to crank and the family to watch and comment on the pasta making process.  

In another chefs' cooking blog, Mario Batali states that if you want to affect the quality of this type of product, choose eggs from happy chickens.   The flour mixture will also make a big difference.  

Nick,   very well stated.   In Italy it is about the pasta, not the sauce.   But, "whatever floats your boat" per Good Will Hunting.   

bnom's picture
bnom

Dave, do you refer to the KA pasta attachment that is a roller type or extruder? If roller, there shouldn't be any difference.  I have an Atlas that I used to handcrank but, because I usually don't have others around to help crank, I started using it with a motor attachment (in essense, making it the same as the KA). There was no difference in quality of pasta.

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

The crank is more combersome but is fun for the kids to crank

Yup. And both my kids have their own Atlas pasta machines, and their kids are helping them make pasta.

Thanks for the Atlas/KA comparison. I don't have a convenient place to clamp the Atlas. I think I'd make pasta more often, if I had the KA attachment.

David

HMerlitti's picture
HMerlitti

For a big spender like you, that whould not be a problem.   

The real question is, where can you find a happy chicken??

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

The real question is, where can you find a happy chicken??

 I think I'll have to find one on my own.

I wonder if the veternary school at UC Davis has a mental status exam for poultry I can use.

David

SylviaH's picture
SylviaH

Better yet, how about the ones in the back yard raised with lot's and lot's of love, like my grand daughter's... : )

             

@ David, thanks for incourageing me to make my own homemade pasta : )  when I have the time... love it, flavor and the whole process!

Sylvia

MangoChutney's picture
MangoChutney

I discovered that I can clamp the Atlas on my formica counter if I open one drawer slightly.

bnom's picture
bnom

My clamp  has gone missing and I've found I don't need it.  Perhaps that's another advantage of using the motor attachment.  

rjerden's picture
rjerden

Having lived in Italy for 7 years and married to an Italian for over 40 years, I have some experience with fresh homemade pasta. I now use the KA attachment and am very happy with it, as it is definitely less work, although I still have the old hand-cranked Atlas machine. I have also made it completely by hand. The only problem with machines is that the cutters come in pre-defined sizes, usually only angel hair and fettucine. If you want pappardelle, you have to cut by hand.

Italians use soft flour for home-made pasta, not durum wheat. Extruded pasta is a completely different animal than fresh home-made. It does require a good durum wheat (semolina) and copper dies to get the best quality.

I have had great fresh pasta and real nasty fresh pasta in Italian restaurants (in the USA). Typically, the worst results occur when they try to make the pasta too fast (like everything else in the USA). The pasta needs to be kneaded a long time to develop the gluten in order to get the proper mouth feel of great fresh pasta. It also needs to be just barely moist when it comes out, otherwise it will stick together when cooked. I knead the dough a long time in the KA mixer before I roll it out. I roll it at least 6-8 times on the thickest setting or until it comes out perfectly smooth. Then I start to roll it thinner, one step at a time. On the next-to-last step, I flour the pasta, then roll it out once more. This leaves a slightly rough surface on the noodles, which helps to hold the sauce, and also helps the pasta to keep from sticking to itself. After cutting, I lay it out on a cotton tablecloth and cover it until it is time to cook.

I typically use 1 x-large egg to 120g of AP flour and adjust with H2O or flour as needed to get the right consistency. A little H2O goes a long way, so just add a few drops at a time if the pasta is too dry.

 

Cheers,

Roy

MangoChutney's picture
MangoChutney

Thanks for the tips on making good pasta.  How thin did you make your dough before you cut it, when you used the Atlas?  I only roll mine down to the #5 setting because that was what the instructions said to do, but the numbers go all the way to #9.

 

rjerden's picture
rjerden

#5 is about right for fettucine, tagliatelle, and pappardelle. I use #4 for lasagne, trenette, and spaghetti. Trenette  are basicially slightly thicker fettucine used in Ligurian dishes like trenette al pesto. They are not supposed to be quiet as wide as fettucine, but I just use the fettucine cutter anyway and make them a bit thicker. I cut the pappardelle by hand. Cut the pasta strip in half lengthwise, and then cut the two halves in two once more. If the pasta is dry enough, you can roll it up and make uniform cuts of any width, but I just usually lay it out on my granite countertop and cut by eye using the knife point.

3 Olives's picture
3 Olives

I love fresh and boxed but I prefer the dry pasta.  I think De Cecco Pasta retains its bite and holds up better to the  robust sauces I like. Also, Perciatelli is one of my favorites and imagine it cannot be made at home.

HeidiH's picture
HeidiH

One of the things I like about homemade pasta is the ability to throw stuff into it.  Of course, there's spinach pasta but you can use any kind of herb or dryish veggie.  For example, I made this radiattore with whole wheat flour, potato and parsley and shaped them using the back of one of my baking tiles.

And sometimes it's just relaxing to sit in front of the TV or listen to music and shape pasta like these orecchietti.

Baden's picture
Baden

My grandparents were from Tuscany, Firenze specifically, and we would have both kinds of pasta with them. My grandmother liked to make what she called "lasagna" noodles--which, of course, referred to the shape--not the dish we know in America as "lasagna."

It was simply a different meal when we ate that fresh pasta with her wonderful "simple" sauce ("gravy" in her words.) When we ate dry pasta, it was for convenience--and simply another food--and--just made us appreciate her fresh pasta that much more.  We never discussed which was better--they both had their places in day-to-day eating.

Beautiful pasta above HeidiH!

micheal's picture
micheal

Homemade pasta can be a hassle to make. If you enjoy eating it but don't have time to make it regularly, make a bigger batch than usual and freeze some for later. You can keep frozen homemade pasta for up to three months. In general, you will obtain best results by freezing only the raw dough. When you are ready to use it, remove the dough from the freezer and allow it to thaw, then roll it out and cut it into the shapes you wish. Thanks a lot. Regards, Paradise Valley Homes

subfuscpersona's picture
subfuscpersona

thanks Micheal for your comment of Sept 29th.

That's exactly what I've been doing for years. Saves time.

Agree also with Micheal that about 3 months is the limit for frozen pasta dough.

HeidiH's picture
HeidiH

When I make shaped pastas, I put them directly in the freezer on a baking sheet and once they are firm, throw them in meal-sized bags for later use.  It goes into the boiling water while still frozen.  Since I am not expecting the dough to be malleable after freezing, I find it keeps longer than 3 months if well packed (double bagged) -- six months or so.  And, of course, homemade ravioli go directly to the freezer along with the pot stickers and the pirogi.  We are catholic-small-c in our tastes.  ;-)

linder's picture
linder

HeidiH,

Freezing ravioli is great - that way you have the fixings for a good homecooked meal ready when you are.  I just made some ravioli stuffed with greens today - here's a pic on my blog: http://foodierabbit.blogspot.com/2011/10/up-to-my-ears-in-greens.html