Raise your hand if you love eating pasta. Raise it again if you typically buy it out of a box. Now raise your hand if you make your own pasta. I can see the hands starting to fall. Making your own pasta sounds like a daunting task, which is why I've never attempted it until I went to a cooking class with Kitchen Cray's owner and chef JR Robinson. You may recognize him as one of the contestants on the TV show Hell's Kitchen.
Chef JR took over the kitchen at the Maryland Food Bank to teach a bunch of cooking novices how to make our own pasta. Only ONE in the group had ever made pasta before and it was 13-year-old Bryce Taylor from Mt. Washington, who was a finalist on the Food Network show "Chopped Junior" (so not fair!). The adults had a look of "we're doing what?" when Chef JR told us we'd be making pasta.
You only need four ingredients to make pasta but you need a bit of time. Here is the recipe Chef JR used with us:
2 ½ cups of “00” Italian flour (or bread flour if you can’t find “00") plus more for dusting
1 tsp kosher salt
2 large eggs
1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO)
You make a mound with the flour, then dig a little well in the center. Carefully crack the eggs in the center of the well, and season it with the EVOO and salt. Take your fork and slowly whisk the mixture together. When it starts to combine, use your hands to knead the dough. You want your dough to be smooth. Once you get it to where you want it, shape the dough into a ball, wrap it in plastic wrap and let it sit for AT LEAST 20 minutes. You can let it sit overnight if you'd like.
Once the dough has set, it's time to roll it out! You do need a pasta machine for this, and they can get expensive. I did a quick Google search and found some for as cheap as $10. There were others in the $30-50 range. And if you're getting real crazy, you can spends hundreds of dollars on one. If you have a stand mixer, like a KitchenAid, you can buy a pasta rolling attachment. Again, it's not cheap, but worth the investment if you want to start making your own pasta. Maybe get some friends to chip in and ya'll can share! Sharing is caring.
Divide your dough and start rolling it on the machine, starting with the widest setting and taking it down to the thinnest. We worked in teams of three and it took all of us to help out once the dough started getting thinner and longer. This would be a fun activity to do with your kids!
When your dough is thin, cut it into sections and make sure they're all the same length so the pasta cooks evenly. Then put it through the part of the machine that cuts the pasta into whatever shape you want (Fettuccine, spaghetti, etc) and voila! You have pasta! Roll it in cornmeal to dry it out a bit and throw it into a boiling pot of water (seasoned with salt).
Chef JR served our pasta with chicken, shrimp, a variety of veggies and a choice of tomato or Alfredo sauce (or both if you were feeling "saucy"). Delicious! I know this isn't something you can bang out on a weeknight, but you could make a bunch on the weekend, freeze it or refrigerate it, then bust it out when you need a meal.
Shout out to Chef JR and his team for teaching the cooking class and to the Maryland Food Bank for hosting it! The class was a thank you to just a few of those who donated to their Save a Seat campaign. More cooking classes may be on the horizon at the Maryland Food Bank, so stay tuned!