Culinary School Chronicles: The Day We Made Pasta

Culinary class days are divided into morning and afternoon sessions.

The mornings are considered labswhere we prepare food for the school’s breakfast and lunch services. Afternoons are more like lectures. Last semester, we learned culinary basics in our Introduction course and soups, stocks and sauces in our. . . well. . . soups stocks and sauces class.

Classes are only 50-minutes long, so more involved projects are divided over a course of days. One can sometimes hear a collective sigh when we have to actually cook during our afternoon classes. I would not be completely truthful if I denied sharing this sentiment which strikes me as humorous, since it’s not like we’re in culinary school or anything. These short class slots can transform most any kitchen assignment into its own kind of Hunger Games.

In our rice unit, we chose a partner and picked a variety of rice to cook and share with the class. We were given free reign of the kitchen and pantries to create a recipe of our choice. We steamed basmati rice with caramelized onion, saffron, clove, and cinnamon.

The pasta unit was even more intense. Again, we broke into partners and incorporated homemade pasta into a dish. We were encouraged to spike the pasta dough with anything from pureed wild rice to herbs. My partner and I flavored our dough with sumac and lemon zest. Sumac, the culinary herb, is different than poison sumac. I’ve tasted it sprinkled on Fattoush, Lebanese pita salad, and as part of Zatar, a Middle Eastern spice mixture that often incorporates sesame seeds and thyme. It lends a tangy and lemony flavor.

We rolled the dough through a pasta attachment on a mixer, taking the time to roll it through each of the settings. This created silky, delicate pasta. Rolling the dough through less settings produces thicker noodles. If this is your thing, just cook the noodles longer.

To allow the gentle flavor of the pasta to shine, we served our noodles with browned butter flavored with fresh lemon juice, thyme, and basil.

Near the end of class, everyone convened for a great pasta buffet. One of my favorite pastas was flavored with bacon and cooked spinach and coated it in olive oil, Parmesan cheese, and hot pepper flakes. One group baked their pasta with chicken in tomato sauce while another made pumpkin pasta in a sweet, creamy sauce.

Cooks Notes
I own a small, pasta machine with a hand crank. A mixer attachment makes the process much faster. While it was fun and surprisingly easy to make pasta, it’s not something I’d make on a regular basis at home. You can start the dough by zipping the ingredients together in a food processor, but I think it’s easier and just as efficient to make by hand. 

Pasta

Ingredients:
1 pound bread flour (our teacher said you could incorporate semolina)
Optional: Drizzle of olive oil
5-6 eggs, scrambled
Pinch of salt

Instructions:

  1. Combine the flour with a pinch of salt.
  2. On a flat surface, pour the dry ingredients into a mound and then made a hole in the center.
  3. Pour most of the wet ingredients into the hole. Incorporate the dry ingredients into the wet center with a fork, or use a couple bench scrapers to incorporate.
  4. When the dough begins to form, knead. If the dough seems dry, add the rest of the wet ingredients and if it’s too wet, add more flour.
  5. Scrape away the excess flour and dried bits that form. These should not be incorporated into the pasta dough.
  6. Knead until the pasta dough is elastic and smooth. This should take about 10-15 minutes. The texture is similar to pie dough.
  7. Wrap in a lightly oiled piece of plastic wrap and allow to rest.
  8. Roll out the dough and cut into desired shapes.

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