So boredom took over and my cookery senses (almost like spidery senses but with more tummy involved) started tingling, and I thought to myself… hmm.. what can I create that I can gloat over for days, and maybe satiate both, my hunger for food and art.
Cooking is an art for me. And that is why I don’t enter the kitchen unless I am thoroughly inspired. And inspired, I was. After watching seasons of Masterchef USA, Australia, Pakistan etc (yep, you name it!) I wanted to try my hand at making my own pasta. From scratch. Also, did I mention I do not own a pasta machine?
Well after watching Lidia Bastianich work with her son on Masterchef USA and make tortellinis like rabbit out of a hat, I wanted to try it too. But, they always say, start simple; so if I managed to fail this time, I wouldn’t throw in the dough (literally) and cry over nothing.
Therefore, here is my personal attempt at fettuccine pasta from scratch, without a pasta-maker and a light fettuccine Alfredo styled sauce. It took me around 2.5 hours but I digressed in the middle and went for a game of soccer stars. So, lets just say it’s just an hour and a half-long feat, for anyone who’s not distracted easily.
Let’s start off with good old flour (and no light, mind you, this is Pakistan and load-shedding is our very-own pet peeve).
And try to be suave by making a well in between and drop a large fresh egg in. However, I wasn’t that classy and my egg enjoyed a little slide outside its given boundaries.
Use a fork and beat the egg slightly, all while incorporating the dough. Try avoiding water altogether however, the most anyone would need at this stage would be a teaspoon or two. That’s about it. Knead knead knead and turn it into a smooth and compact dough.
Let it sit under a moist towel for an hour to loosen up the gluten within. After an hour, flour the counter and get back to work; see the dough hardly changed its shape but that’s all chemical reaction within that a naked eye cannot perceive at this level.
Roll it slightly and evenly cut the dough into two pieces. Leaving one piece on the counter, let the other half rest under a wet towel until your hands are free to cater to it.
Now lets get to work; rolling it into shape.
Rolling without a pasta-machine will take slightly longer, not to mention your guns will grow an inch or so (bicep exercise a.k.a strength training). However you will achieve your desired results just by keeping at it. Keep rolling and flouring the dough, and make sure you have enough arm-room to stretch and slide the dough to perfection.
You need it as thin as you can get; I managed to get this consistency and thickness within 10-12 minutes.
Now fold it neatly and cut it with finesse; a very sharp knife and steady hand does the trick. Be careful not to squish your pasta sheet under your hand’s weight. Be very gentle, yet firm. This is art, people. Treat it like it, too.
I didn’t find anything worth hanging my pasta from; so instead, I used my roller pin and held it for a minute or two, to stretch it out via gravity and good intentions.
Slightly dust the area where you decide to rest the pasta and then work onto the next half of the dough.
Practice makes one perfect and I guess I did it with more prowess this time; my sheet looks thinner and translucent.
Here’s the cut-up and ready-to-rest-for-5-minutes picture:
Now onto the sauce; most people make the traditional Alfredo sauce with butter and heavy cream, however, I couldn’t help but count calories, and so I cut corners and used milk (only!).
Also I added plain cheddar cheese instead of Parmesan and that was out of necessity; my sauce needed cheese and that was the only available option. My family thinks Parmesan cheese is an over-expenditure (damn you, USD-PKR parity!) and I am hardly ever spoiled with the choices of magnificent cheeses. So cheddar cheese it is.
Chop up 1/4th cup or more (as per your liking; remember I’m just counting calories!) and put it aside.
Start off by melting a tablespoon of salted butter.
Nothing smells as heavenly as melting butter in a sauce pan.
Then add a heaping tablespoon of flour in the melted butter and stir vigorously, dissolving the flour completely; avoid burning or clumping it. If you make that mistake, throw the mixture away and start again! Do not risk a clumpy or burnt sauce, it will destroy your masterpiece.
Within two minutes your butter and flour mixture will start to smell like cookies in the oven, that’s when you add one cup of milk and stir carefully. No picture because I was solely concentrating on my sauce-pan.
Keep stirring and bring it to a boil; once it boils, lower the heat to medium and cook till the sauce starts to thicken. Keep stirring intermittently to avoid scorching the bottom of the pan or get unwanted clumps.
It took me about ten minutes to get it to a glossy and thick consistency. Once there, take the pan off the heat and stir in oregano, salt and pepper as per your liking, and then finally the cheese. Always melt cheese off the heat, never on the heat. Heat will destroy your sauce once the cheese is in. The sauce itself would be hot enough to melt and dissolve the cheese completely. If you ever feel that your sauce is slightly too gooey or thick, add in the water that you used to boil the pasta. Do not add any other liquid; the pasta water is the best fix for this, trust me!
The pasta cooked beautifully, and took only 5 minutes in boiling water. I added salt and olive oil to my boiling water before immersing the pasta, and it turned out looking sublime.
Once I stirred in the sauce, I was in awe. It looked incredible and smelled heavenly.
I munched two servings in the comfort of my own room, and devoured the deliciousness that I made all on my own.
Absolutely nothing tastes better than home-made pasta; it had perfect almost melt-in-your-mouth texture and looked absolutely fab. A thing of beauty is a joy forever!