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During the past few months I’ve become increasingly entranced by the idea of making my own pasta.

While achieving ribbony, hand cut noodles has been a work in progress, I’ve slowly but surely become more proficient, bit by flour-covered bit.

As such, I’ve been on the market for some form of pasta machine, but ever since my snafu with the stand mixer pasta attachment, I haven’t been in much of a hurry.  I’ve also been told they can be quite expensive, so I didn’t want to plunk down any cold, hard cash until I was absolutely certain it wasn’t just a passing fancy.  In the interim, pastas have been made with some regularity in our household by using the old fashioned method of rolling pin plus sharp knife.  Rustic for sure, but still extremely satisfying when compared next to your standard out of the box fare.

So, while the Everyman and I were out shopping for our upcoming trip, it occurred to me to stop into a housewares store to check if they happened to sell pasta makers.  In the first store I was out of luck, but ducking into the second as we headed towards the exit, not only did I find a pasta maker, but it was the last one, and a floor model at that, so for all intents and purposes it was a steal.  The only catch was that it didn’t come packaged, which meant that a) there was no manual, and b) it took the clerk 20 minutes to try and figure out what the SKU was so they could enter it into the cash register.  But, for a mere $20 I certainly wasn’t complaining.

Semolina Dough

Once I got my new toy home, I immediately began considering what the first pasta should be.  It didn’t take me long to decide on an all semolina dough made with a combination of whole eggs and egg yolks.  After stirring it together to form a shaggy dough, I kneaded it until it formed a cohesive ball.  Formed into a loose disc, I patted a sheet of plastic wrap around it and tossed it in the fridge to rest.

Meanwhile, I began to realize that a floor model pasta machine probably had numerous opportunities to get dirty and germy, so I decided that the machine should take a good hot bath before its maiden voyage.  Big mistake!  Of course, that probably would have been a much better idea 6-8 hours before I intended to roll out the pasta, rather than half an hour beforehand.  Even after repeatedly shaking stray droplets from the machine with all of my might, the dough still managed to become moist and tacky from being pressed through the damp apparatus.  Applying additional flour to the dough after each pass made a negligible difference, but after a few tries I finally had a fairly thin and golden sheet of pasta to be tinkered with.

Cut Noodles

Next I had to choose how I wanted the sheets to be cut, and at first I selected the thinnest angel hair press (without thinking it through).  What with the dough being as sticky as it was, it passed through the die cutters and formed one big, glutinous blob.  I rolled the gummy bits and pieces back into a disc and turned back to rolling out the second half of the pasta dough.  Once it was also papery thin, I ran it through the linguine cutter with much greater success.  This hand cranked pasta making is not nearly as easy as it looks, you know!

Cooling Off

The last step before it became dinner was to throw together a quick sauce to properly dress the beautiful, fresh noodles.  I sautéed a chicken breast cut into strips with some chopped leeks and a lone parsnip, deglazed with some white wine and lemon juice, then thickened with a dollop of creme fraiche.  After dipping the noodles into a quick, salty bath, everything was tossed together until the sauce completely slicked the linguine.  Finished with a generous crackling of pepper, it was all I could do not to wolf down a bowl while standing over the steamy hot sink.

Probably the best compliment was when the Everyman commented that the chicken seemed almost superfluous in the dish.  I may still have a long way to go to perfect my pasta making abilities, but I must be on to something if he was willing to eat a vegetarian dish, not to mention one with a fair amount of parsnips.  I also marvelled at how much more professional my pasta appeared simply because of its uniformity.

Foodie’s Parsnileeky Pasta

4 oz eggs (about 1 yolk and 2 whole eggs)

6 oz semolina flour

1 tsp salt

1 chicken breast, sliced into strips

1 parsnip, peeled and chopped

1 leek, chopped

0.5 c. white wine

juice of 1 lemon

2 tbsp creme fraiche

Combine the first 3 ingredients in a bowl and knead until smooth and pliable.  Shape dough into a disc, wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least a half hour before rolling out.  Meanwhile, sauté the chicken breast in a pan (with whatever fat you desire) until golden brown and mostly cooked through.  Add the parsnips and leeks and continue to cook until softened.  Once the vegetables have cooked, deglaze the pan with the wine and lemon juice, stirring to scrape up the browned bits.  Once the wine and juice have nearly evaporated, add the creme fraiche and reduce heat to a low simmer.  Retrieve the pasta dough from the fridge and roll out into whatever shape you please.  Let air dry for 5 to 10 minutes, then cook briefly in a heavily salted pot of water at a rolling boil for 1-2 minutes maximum.  Toss the drained pasta with the simmering sauce, a crack of fresh pepper and serve.

Makes 4 servings.

Now, all I have to do is figure out how the heck you clean this thing without getting it wet again.  Anyone out there have any suggestions?

Until next time…

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