Last January I kicked off the new year with the traditional good luck dish – black-eyed peas. And while 2011 was a good year, I’ve decided that 2012 needs a little something extra that simmering beans (peas?) in a pot with sausage and peppers just can’t achieve. This year isn’t going to be a good year, it’s going to be a great year. This year requires flour wells, eggs incorporated by hand, dough kneaded until silky smooth and yolky yellow.
Yesterday, Adam Roberts of the Amateur Gourmet tweeted a rather inspiring prospect: “What if those of us who make pasta too often make a resolution to only make pasta at home if we make it from SCRATCH?” And while I don’t think he was actively trying to provoke a homemade noodle challenge, I like the idea of being more “homemade” in the new year – putting more thought into what I eat and where it comes from.
This 2012, I’m going to make more things by hand. More noodles, more bread, more tomato sauce. This summer I’m going to can, pickle and jam. I’m going to hope and pray that this June-August isn’t as deadly hot to my tomatoes as it was last year. I find that it’s much easier to eat healthy and to live healthy when I’m taking pride in what I cook. Sure I could just run down to some fast-food pasta place and pick up some noodles and sauce to go, but where’s the pride in that? Where’s the accomplishment? It’s just me: eating soggy noodles in bland, tinny tomato sauce. There’s nothing special happening. But taking the time to make dough from flour and egg? Rolling it ever thinner until it’s perfection? Cutting it to shape, irregularities or no? There’s the pride. There’s the accomplishment. If you think about how much time it takes to get in your car, drive to a restaurant, wait for your food, and drive back home – taking an hour to make noodles by hand doesn’t seem like much of an imposition.
I’m not making any of the traditional resolutions this year. Those are too easy to break; too easy to forget and discard. This year my resolution is simpler: I’m going to take pride in what I cook. And I’m going to make as much of it by hand as I can.
I’m going old school.
Homemade Noodles with Cream and Parmesan
Makes two servings of noodles
2/3 to 1 cup flour (for some reason an entire cup of flour, the standard for most noodle recipes, was entirely too much for me. I found 2/3 cup flour to be the best amount. Start with 2/3 cup and work up from there to find the right amount for you)
1 large egg
Mound the flour on your work surface and make a well in the center of the flour with the walls making a ring approximately 1 inch thick. Crack the egg in the middle of the well and with your fingers or a fork, slowly move in a circle to begin breaking the egg up, drawing a little flour in with the egg with each turn. When the egg starts to thicken and lift itself up from the board, use a pastry scraper to incorporate all the flour with the egg. The dough should be moist, but not sticky. If you find the dough is too wet after using 2/3 cup flour, add more flour a little at a time until it is moist, but not sticky. Knead the dough on a lightly floured surface for 10 – 15 minutes, until the dough becomes silky smooth. If you are finding the dough difficult to work with, let it rest for about 5 minutes and come back to it. Don’t worry about over kneading the dough.
After the dough is silky smooth, let it rest, well covered with plastic wrap so it does not dry out, for 30 minutes.
Pass the dough through a pasta machine on the widest setting. Dust with flour and fold in half. Turn 90 degrees and run through again. Repeat six or eight times, until the dough is soft and smooth. Gradually decrease the rolling distance and work up to the smallest setting. My Imperia has six thickness settings and I found that “2” was the perfect thickness for me. After you have reached your desired thickness, you may cut the noodles by hand or, if you pasta machine has a cutting attachment, roll the dough through the cutters.
Cook in well salted boiling water until tender. Approximately 5 minutes.
1 Tablespoon unsalted butter
1/2 cup heavy cream
3/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1 squeeze fresh lemon
salt and pepper to taste
Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat and add the heavy cream and Parmesan cheese. Stir until the cheese is melted. Add the grated nutmeg, lemon and salt and pepper to taste.
Toss in the cooked noodles to coat.
Top with more Parmesan cheese if desired. Or, really, just top with more Parmesan. You can never have too much Parmesan. Trust me.