Fresh pasta on weeknights (with a stand mixer)

Chastened by an unproductive stint with a manual pasta roller, I’d neglected pasta attachments I was gifted last Christmas. Second time’s a charm.

Why I make fresh pasta

Fresh pasta is delicious. Its taste and texture is more delicate than dried. Due to its nature it’s possible to achieve much finer noodles than typically available, such as very thin sheets for lasagna. Yet I find the most important reason is that learning how to make and work with fresh pasta provides insights into the wide world of noodles, including those from Asia.

Manual rollers versus stand mixers

Using a gift certificate we had received as a wedding present, I bought our manual machine from Williams-Sonoma. To use a machine of this style you clamp it to the counter, feed the dough into the mixer with one hand, and roll it through by turning the crank with your other hand. For me this style of rolling is both labor- and attention-intensive. I never got fast enough with this machine to work it into my regular cooking. Maybe in a few years.

Last year my wife and mom gifted me, respectively, a stand mixer and a set of pasta rolling attachmentsThe stand mixer immediately found a place on my counter while, until two weeks ago, the attachments gathered dust in storage. Once bitten, twice shy.

When I finally put the attachments to use last week I realized what a huge mistake I’d made. Rolling pasta sheets with a Kitchen Aid is so easy! For a non-professional like me there is a huge difference between having one hand and having two hands to guide pasta through the rollers. I can fix all my attention on the dough, how it looks, and how it responds. I’d also forgotten that using a stand mixer would also make dough formation much easier. Don’t get me wrong, I like working with dough. But time is limited and I appreciate being able to multitask while the mixer works on the dough instead.

So, that all said, here’s a demo:

I promise you it’s as easy as it looks. If you own a stand mixer and you love Italian food, you owe it to yourself to buy the attachments and give this a try. I thought fresh pasta on weeknights was out of reach until I went the stand mixer route.

What to do with fresh noodles

My favorite thing to do is add a small bowl of pasta as a first course or additional item on a plate. Fresh pasta is delicate. I feel these applications highlight this quality.

It’s more important to experiment. How much gluten development is best? Which of my existing recipes improve most with fresh noodles? What changes do I make to my baseline recipe (below) to get Asian noodles? (Some quick answers: my lasagna has improved considerably with fresh noodles; removing eggs and adding kansui leads to ramen noodles.)

The most important thing to do is get fresh pasta on the table. It doesn’t have to be perfect. Even “just okay” is good enough. Trust me.

Simplest egg noodles

Good enough to get onto my table and get a handle on the whole enterprise. I plan on experimenting with the ratios and kneading times.

Ingredients

  • For every 100 grams flour
  • Add 1 egg
  • 1 percent salt (of flour and egg weight), optional though I prefer it

Procedure

  1. Add flour to the mixing bowl. If using salt, add and mix to distribute evenly.
  2. Add egg(s). Mix with the paddle attachment until most of the flour has been moistened by the egg.
  3. Knead with the dough hook for 5 to 10 minutes, basically until you’ve got a ball of dough.
  4. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap, let rest for 20 minutes, and then roll into sheets.

Broccoli raab sauce

I really like this recipe because it only requires stems. I may never have tried this if I hadn’t learned to make fresh pasta.

Ingredients

  • Bunch broccoli raab
  • Few cloves garlic (1 per person works for me)
  • Fresh Parmagiano-Reggiano
  • Lemon
  • Salt
  • Black pepper
  • Extra virgin olive oil

Procedure

  1. Simmer the rapini until tender. No need to salt the boiling water.
  2. Cool, drain, and puree.
  3. Sweat minced garlic in extra virgin olive oil.
  4. Add pureed rapini as well as grated Parmagiano-Reggiano. Thin with pasta water as necessary and correct seasoning.
  5. Once pasta has been sauced, add grated Parmagiano-Reggiano, grated lemon zest, fresh ground black pepper, and extra virgin olive oil to taste.
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