The first time I experienced the beauty of homemade pasta, it was served to me in flat, clean strips of thin fettuccine tossed lightly with pesto and juicy cherry tomatoes– a simple and fresh rendition that allowed the strands to shine through. I was hooked on the delightfully light taste and airy chew and honored that my friend would make such a vast, flour-dusted mess of his kitchen in a small San Francisco apartment merely to create a meal for me. He insisted that the non-boxed taste always made the mess worthwhile. I found myself with a similar mess a few years later while looking to hook the Cute Gardener inches deeper into my web with a special meal of homemade butternut squash ravioli in sage brown butter for Valentine’s Day. My attempt at mastering the basic egg “well” (which is elemental in good pasta dough-making) was disastrous, turning a neat hill of flour into a mountain ridge complete with overflowing rivers on my counters. Needless to say, as much as I started to mention how much I loved fresh pasta, and to tell the CG endlessly that we needed to get a pasta roller, I was secretly intimidated by ever undertaking the daunting task again myself.
But when you eat as much pasta as we do, it started to seem ridiculous that one whole cabinet in our pantry was devoted to box upon box of dried pasta in every shape and form. For such true pasta aficionados, it was verging on sacrilegious that we didn’t attempt to create our own fresh batches at least every once in while. So this past Christmas in exchange for my gift of a long-drooled after cherry red Le Creuset Dutch oven, I bought the CG a KitchenAid pasta maker. Unlike regular pasta rollers this came as an attachment to place right onto a traditional stand mixer in which dough could be pushed through to create various shapes of pasta depending on which plate you have affixed.
I have long been afraid of convoluted food machinery, mostly because I have a hard time reading and following rules and get overwhelmed by parts and pieces that require assembly, usage and proper cleaning. But cooking with the CG has opened up this side of me to realize half the battle lies in understanding what you are doing and the rest unfolds like clockwork. This machine couldn’t have been easier. Once we followed instructions in the accompanying book to make the crumbly, stiff dough, it was easy to feed through the cranking machine and fun to watch the rigatoni form.
Within six minutes in boiling water, our pasta was done. We tumbled the rigatoni into leftover tomato sauce with chunks of tender pork. It was delicious: the ridges were firm enough to gather bits of herb, the bite of the pasta was strong yet pliant and the taste was better that something similar out of a box.
I am itching to make new pasta dishes every week now from macaroni and cheese to spaghetti Bolognese to an old school ragu – that is if the CG will allow me; up until now he’s been the pasta king of the kitchen but this new machine is inspiring new hankerings within me to add more Italian to my repertoire.