About Me
I'm a Melbourne boy, hailing from St Kilda with one ex, one current wife and four kids. Love the outdoors and making new discoveries. I cook a lot at home (cheers from wife) and do some preserving, mostly jams, pickles and fruit liqueurs. This is the diary of a cooking journey.

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Monday, July 17, 2006
Double Up Pasta
Exactly how large is large?

Over the weekend, I decided to make some pasta from scratch. It's not something that I do very often, so it's not second nature to me. Pulled Marcella Hazan's book, The Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking from the shelf and followed her recipe. Well not exactly, for she doesn't call for salt in her pasta, maybe she thinks that the salted boiling water used to cook the pasta is sufficient, but to my mind, fresh pasta doesn't absorb as much water as dried pasta, so I added a good pinch of salt.

But that wouldn't account for what happened next. Marcella gives the ratio of flour to egg as 115 g (4 oz) flour to one large egg. Three of us for lunch, so I multiplied that quantity by three. So far so good. Weighed the flour out and placed it on the work counter, went to the fridge and took out two egg cartons of free range eggs. One carton said the eggs weighed 50 g, the other said 60 g. Well 60 g is larger than 50 g, so they must be large eggs. Cracked three in a bowl and whisked them with a fork and poured them into the centre of the flour, which I gradually drew in to form a dough which I started to knead. The only trouble was the dough was still sticking to everything, like the work counter and me. More flour, a bit more kneading and it was still sticky. More flour again and again and again. Eventually it came right.

It must have been in the order of 25 to 30 g (1 oz) flour that was added in extra, which is a whole lot if you consider that the recipe said that you might not need all the flour called for in the first place. I didn't have time to ponder as my wife D was going to work and I needed to finish the sauce as well as roll the pasta, dry and cut it. M wandered in and asked to help, so we set up the pasta machine and I put M on the crank. Crank, crank, crank and our first pasta sheet came through. Then another and another until it was all rolled out, all a lovely soft golden colour from the free range egg yolks.

A tip for those of you with young kids wanting to help. Watch out for little hands that grab greedily for a taste of the dough during the rolling/cutting and if the dough suddenly stops going through the rollers, check which direction they are winding in!

We hung the sheets over cupboard doors and proceeded to make the sauce. A simple tomato sauce with just a bit of bacon for interest seemed the thing, so as not to overwhelm the lovely silken texture of hand made pasta. Then D wandered in and asked if she could take some pasta to work for her dinner. I seriously doubted it as there was really only enough for the one meal. But all was not lost, as there was some leftover tortellini that needed to be used up, but I would need to make another sauce.

So after lunch, back to the kitchen.

I didn't want to make the same sauce again, so something creamy seemed in order, only there wasn't much cream in the fridge, only about 50 ml. No problem, there was some full cream milk. A bit more of a search revealed some lux ham. Imagine a slice of bacon, lux ham is made from the eye end so there is no fat at all. There are two versions of this treat, cooked and raw, both cured and heavily smoked, with the raw being the more flavourful, with a lovely moist texture; it is the porcine equivalent of smoked salmon. When it's cut properly i.e. thinly, you can see right through it and is wonderful on light rye bread with fresh creamy butter. This ham had been in the fridge for two weeks, so it was time to use it up. The pantry cupboard gave up some dried porcini mushroom and that essentially was the sauce. It was so good in fact, I wished I'd made it for the fresh pasta. I really love my wife.

After D went to work, I picked up Marcella's book again to see if there was any guide to what constituted a large egg, unfortunately there was nothing. But what I did find when reading about the best sauce for fresh pasta, Marcela noted that a creamy bacon and mushroom sauce was ideal. I still love my wife, but was a teensy bit jealous.

Creamy Ham & Porcini Sauce

1 small onion, finely diced
1 clove garlic, finely diced
25 g (1 oz) butter
100 g (4 oz) raw lux ham, sliced into strips
1 level tablespoon flour
2 cups milk
50 ml (2 oz) single cream
10 g (1/2 oz) dried porcini, soaked in boiling water for ten minutes & finely chopped, soak water reserved
2 tablespoons grated parmesan
salt & pepper

Sweat the onion and garlic until translucent and soft, add the lux ham and fry until it just changes colour. Add the flour, cook another minute, then add the milk, cream, diced porcini and soak water. Bring to the boil and simmer for ten minutes, stirring often. If not thick enough, cook a little longer to reduce. Add the parmesan and season, careful with the salt. Serve with your favourite pasta.

Later on when we went to bed, D told me that she shared her dinner with her workmates. She said they liked it and wanted to know what mushroom I used. I told her porcini and asked her if she told them that her husband had made it. She said she did and I asked her if they said I was clever to be cooking such nice food for my wife. D answered they didn't, so I said they couldn't have my food again. D laughed and went to sleep.

I really have to find a way to sound serious.
  posted at 9:07 am

At 9:36 pm, Blogger Ruth Daniels said...

What a wonderful adventure - and both end results sound awesome.

Thanks so much for sharing.

At 11:00 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Best blog yet Neil. Glad to know you share some of the credit with D. Glad to know I saw the right girl for you when I did, comrade.

At 9:17 am, Blogger neil said...

Hi ruth, yes it was a pretty tasty Sunday all round. The hand made pasta was worth the effort, so it looks like I have to go again and team it with the mushroom sauce.

Hi pentacular, you've always been good at *seeing things* haven't you, and your usually right.

At 11:12 am, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Serious, why? If your pasta and sauce is serious you can be as easy as you please.
Marcela is good.

At 5:27 pm, Blogger neil said...

Hi tanna, no it wasn't very serious at all, we were just joking around. D told me the next day her work collegues were praising me, but she didn't want to tell me in case I got a big head!

Marcela is very good, though some recipes could be cut back a bit, but I guess that's the charm of her book.

At 8:07 pm, Blogger Jeanne said...

Great post!! There are few things I like more than a creamy combination of ham and mushrooms. And btw, serious is way overrated. ;-)

At 3:20 pm, Blogger neil said...

Hi jeanne, I'm with you on this one!


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