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Pasta! Pasta!


Those who know me well know that (more than occasionally and especially in the kitchen) I can start a small project and passion will quickly turn it into a large one. Yesterday, its name was pasta! My cooking philosophy is that if you can buy a great product inexpensively, then buy it. It’s only worth spending your precious time making something from scratch if it’s distinctly yours, something special or different or saves you a lot of money. This way, you can include purchased products with yours and have the best of everything. In the case of simple pasta, Barilla and others have been there done that, but sometimes it’s fun to get creative and make your own flavor combinations – not to mention using up leftovers in the process and getting some spices into your diet. What you see here started out with, “Let’s make some spaghetti noodles for dinner!” and ended up being (counterclockwise from the front) Spinach Spirelli, Turmeric Penne, Beet Amori, Basil Pesto Spaghetti, Tomato Macaroni, and Turmeric Fettuccini with bits of fresh red bell pepper running through it. As you can see, pasta provides unlimited opportunities for creation! I can just imagine how much fun I’m going to have inventing colorful sauces to go along with these! And to me, that’s what’s fun about cooking… Imagining, creating and presenting something fun that looks beautiful on your plate.

Homemade pasta is great because it can accomodate any dietary needs – even gluten free. To make it, you have lots of choices. You just need flour and liquid. Your flour can be any type – semolina, whole wheat, or rice – just to name a few – or any combination thereof. Your liquid can be eggs or water or also a mix. The ratio is 500 grams of flour to about 6 eggs for extruded pasta like I made (using a machine) or if you are making it by hand, I like to use a mix – 12 ounces semolina and 4 ounces unbleached white flour with about 1 cup of eggs. (You can add a Tablespoon of oil to make the hand rolled dough a little softer if you like.) Add the liquid in gradually until your dough feels right. That’s all that’s in it. Think about how inexpensive that is. Each one of those piles in my picture uses about one pound of flour. Next time you want to support a local restaurant, order their pasta dish!

Coloring your pasta is easy. You can either add a few Tablespoons of vegetable powder or a small amount of cooked vegetables puréed in your food processor or blender. (If they are juicy, include them in your liquid amount.) Spices can be chopped very tiny if fresh or they can be dried. Realize, though, that vegetable powders don’t change the taste much. They are added primarily for color. Things that do change the taste are the things that change the taste of anything the most – garlic, hot peppers and ground pepper to name a few. The Basil pesto spaghetti I made was great because it used up some leftover fresh pesto and made the pasta a flavor creation by itself. Usually with a pasta dish, it’s all about the sauce, but this time the spaghetti stood on its own. I could heat a can of diced tomatoes with jalapeños for a sauce and it would be a beautiful dish. It would be enough.

The best way to eat pasta is fresh. It just needs to rest a half an hour and then you can cook it up. The taste is really tender and lovely – quite different than dried. However, another great thing about it is that it can keep a long, long time, so you can make a lot and use it as you need it. You can freeze it or in the case of plain pastas or those colored with vegetable powder, simply dry it and store it in the pantry – just like the pasta you buy at the store. If you dry it, just make sure you dry it quickly. (My pasta is piled up for the picture, but afterward, I moved some of it to other screened trays and spread it out so it dried out in a matter of hours.) So… there are a few reasons to give homemade pasta a try. Have fun and PS… It’s low fat!

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