The Pasta Primer

Pasta is the penultimate comfort food for me. I don`t think anything could replace mashed potatoes with gravy, but a good bowl of pasta comes pretty close. When I stopped eating gluten, grains and legumes, pasta became of thing of the past. Eventually, I was able to create a blend of flours that works well for me: quinoa, almond and tapioca with xanthan gum as a binder. I have used it in so many different ways. Tonight was the night! I decided to tackle pasta with the help of my youngest, Peter.

First, we had to make the dough using my flour blend:

1 cup teff flour
1 cup sorghum flour
1 cup quinoa flour
2 Tbsp xanthan gum

We mixed the flour blend well and then divided it into 2 parts: 1 cup reserved for making the actual pasta and 2 cups for the dough.

For the dough, we combined:

2 cups of the flour mixture
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon water
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 teaspoon salt

We mixed them in the bowl using the paddle in the stand mixer ( 1-2 minutes on a low speed ). Next, we switched to the dough hook and kneaded the dough for 5 minutes on a low speed. We scraped down the sides from time to time and added more flour from the reserved cup, by the spoonful, until we had a good consistency. It took about 3 spoonfuls. ( There was still most of a cup of flour left. )

Then we dusted the counter top with some of the flour mixture and turned the dough out onto the counter. Using some of the extra flour, we hand kneaded the dough until it was dry enough to work easily, but not so dry that it cracked or crumbled.

We dusted the ball of dough with flour and wrapped it in plastic wrap. We set it in the refrigerator to rest for 30 minutes.

While we waited, we added the pasta attachment to the stand mixer and prepared the counter to take the dough. We also set up an area to dry the pasta after we had made it. Tonight we made angel hair pasta.

When the dough had rested, we divided it into three portions. We flattened the portions with our hands and then fed it through the pasta rollers. Peter and I took turns rolling the dough. It`s important to dust the dough between rollings. We found that it took several runs through the rollers at the lowest setting to get a nice texture to the dough.

Once we had a texture that was smooth and supple, we thinned out the pasta dough even further by raising the rollers to the next level. We did this for all three portions of pasta dough.

After several levels, we had the pasta dough thin enough to begin cutting it. We changed the roller on the stand mixer for the angel hair pasta cutter. We then fed the sheets of pasta dough through the pasta cutter.

Here you can see a sheet of pasta before it was cut and then after it has been formed into angel hair pasta.

As we cut the pasta, it was imperative that we set it to dry before it was cooked. That took a bit of creativity, as we do not have a pasta drying tree. In the end, I took two large bowls and stacked them end to end. I used a good big, full bottle of red wine ( which I borrowed from my husband ) to anchor the bowls. I even used the back of a chair!

It was very exciting to see the balls of dough transformed into angel hair pasta. By the time we had put all 3 balls of dough through the process and cleaned up, the pasta was ready to cook. We quickly threw a sauce together using drained canned tomatoes with some sautéed onion and garlic. We added fresh, sliced basil, a pinch of salt and a bit of cracked pepper. I even threw in a “glug“ of the red wine that was holding down the pasta “tree“ and nearly dumped all the pasta on the floor! Fortunately, I have quick reflexes and the day was saved. While the pasta sauce simmered on the stove top, Peter grated some Asiago cheese and put a pot of water on to boil. I sautéed some mushrooms in a pan and adjusted the flavourings in the sauce. It was wonderful to be able to chatter away with my son as the kitchen filled with the aromas of our pasta sauce and the fresh basil.

When the water came to a rolling boil, we added a bit of salt and olive oil before tossing in all our pasta. We allowed the pot to return to the boil and cooked the pasta for about 2 minutes. When it was al dente, we dumped it into a strainer to get rid of the water. After several shakes, Peter announced that it was strained enough and put it back in the pot. I added a bit of olive oil and tossed it lightly.

Finally, we assembled our dinner: fresh cooked angel hair pasta on the bottom, then a ladle full of sauce topped with some mushrooms, freshly grated cheese and fresh basil. It was a beautiful sight to behold!

In conclusion, I can only say that I was so thrilled with the taste and texture of my dinner that I had an unprecedented second serving. Peter and I both agreed that the pasta has a lovely flavour. As he explained, it doesn`t taste like wheat pasta. It has a distinctive and very pleasant flavour all its own. He said that if he was asked to choose which he would prefer, he would be hard pressed to decide: it was that good! As I don`t have a choice, I was very pleased to hear him say it compared so favourably. I thoroughly enjoyed every mouthful and am looking forward to making this a weekly event. I only eat starch two days a week, so one meal will feature potatoes and the other will definitely be pasta. I encourage you to give pasta making a try. It`s not as difficult as I feared it might be and it`s a lot of fun. Bon Appétit!

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