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Pasta - How To Make The Best Pasta
How to Make the Best Pasta
There are so many ways to cook pasta - how to make the best pasta in my opinion, is to start with your own fresh dough.
You can easily make your own fresh pasta, so much nicer than the shop-bought kind. It is surprisingly easy to do, although time-consuming.
You can buy a pasta machine which will cut strips in the width that you need, making life much easier, but you can also just roll it out, and cut it for yourself.
The basic dough is made from just flour and eggs. 1 large egg to each 100 g of flour.
1lb of flour is approximately 600 g, so needs 6 large eggs.
Buy the finest flour you can find, '00' grade preferably.
Beat the eggs with a fork until smooth, pile the flour on a board or in a bowl, and make a 'well' in the middle. Pour the eggs into this well, and using the tips of your fingers, start to stir gently, incorporating the flour little by little, slowly and smoothly until everything is mixed together.
Roll this dough around the bowl or the board, collecting all the old scraps of flour, until the bowl or board are clean.
Once you have one big ball of dough, start to knead it firmly; pressing, folding and pushing it around until it starts to appear smooth and shiny.
If you're rolling by hand, use smallish pieces at a time, as you need to roll it thinly, and you can only roll it as far as your work surface will allow. Try to achieve as close to an oblong as possible.
Once each piece is rolled thinly, you can cut it into shape; if you want spaghetti or tagliatelle, roll the pasta lightly until it resembles a Swiss roll, then cut into slices. Cut very thin slices for spaghetti, and slightly thicker slices for tagliatelle.
If you unroll one slice you will see the size of pasta you have achieved. These can be placed into the cooking pot, still in their 'slice' form, as they will unravel in the water. Or if you're going to cook them a little later, you can unravel them into a bowl and toss gently with a little flour to stop them sticking.
If you have a pasta machine, it has its own directions, and all you need to do is turn the handle and it will roll out the pasta cut to the size you need.
The easiest way to use your home-made pasta is to make ravioli. Then all you need to do is roll it thinly, into long oblongs. You place a little of your filling at intervals along one long side of the pasta, then fold the other side over the top.
Then cut in between each mound where your filling is, to achieve squares with a lump in the middle. Press firmly around the three open sides of the squares to make sure they are sealed, or crimp the edges as you wish.
You can of course buy fresh pasta already prepared, and also the regular dried kind.
All can be used to achieve wonderful recipes. Listed below are some of my favourites.
Spaghetti alle Vongole
Spaghetti alle Vongole (spaghetti with clams)
Take 500 g of fresh clams, place them in a bowl under running water for 10 minutes, then leave them soaking in water for another 10 minutes. Finally under running water for a further five minutes. This will ensure that the clams are clean, and free of grit and sand.
For the sauce you will need:
Two tablespoons extra virgin olive oil.
Two cloves of garlic, chopped finely.
One tablespoon finely chopped parsley.
One large glass of white wine.
Salt and pepper.
200 g cherry tomatoes (optional)
In a deep frying pan or shallow saucepan, cook the garlic gently in the olive oil, until tender but without allowing it to brown.
Add the white wine, salt and pepper, and cook on high heat until the wine has reduced a little.
Add the tomatoes here if you want to use them, the recipe is tasty with or without, it's just a matter of taste. I like it either way.
Add the clams, cover and cook for about five minutes, or until the clams are open.
About two minutes before the clams are cooked and open, add the fresh parsley. You should not add this too early, as it will lose its beautiful green colour, and a lot of its nutrition.
A little parsley can be kept aside, to sprinkle over the dish when served, as garnish.
As soon as the clams are open, remove from heat, stir in your cooked spaghetti, and stir everything together well.
Turn out onto a serving dish, or individual plates, and drizzle with a little more extra virgin olive oil, sprinkle on the remaining parsley.
An easy recipe, but extremely delicious, and very impressive for dinner parties.
Salmon and Broccoli Pasta
This recipe can be with any pasta you choose; spaghetti, macaroni, etc etc.
You will need roughly one fillet of salmon, and five or six broccoli florets per person.
Also fresh cream and tomato purée
This is for two people:
In a frying pan or skillet, pour a little olive oil, and add about ten broccoli florets, cut into bite-size pieces. Salt and pepper, and stir gently over a low heat, until all the broccoli is coated.
Add enough water to just cover the bottom of the pan about half an inch deep.
Bring it to the boil, cut 2 salmon fillets into bite-size pieces, and place on the surface of the broccoli. Cover the pan with the lid or tinfoil, and cook for about 5 minutes. Leaving the salmon on the surface means it will poach rather than boiling.
Remove the lid, and turn up the heat to reduce the liquid a little. Add one dessertspoonful of tomato paste or purée, and half a cup of fresh cream. Stir well and cook until the sauce thickens.
Instead of fresh cream, you can use low-fat cream cheese (Philadelphia style, or spread triangles) for a healthier option.
Once the sauce is ready, add your cooked pasta, remove from the heat and stir well. Make sure you have plenty of sauce for the amount of pasta you are using, or it will be dry.
It should be still creamy, with all the pasta coated, but not too wet.
Even with fresh cream this is not an unhealthy dish, as the health benefits of the salmon and broccoli, more than compensate for the not so healthy cream.
Ravioli Fillings some suggestions:
Meat or chicken, usually ground.
Salmon and broccoli with cream cheese.
Spinach and ricotta.
Gorgonzola and walnut.
Cream cheese with prawns.
These can be accompanied with the sauce of your choice:
Tomato sauce or tomato and onion.
Plain white sauce.
The ravioli with strong flavoured fillings, can also be eaten with just a drizzle of olive oil. (I like the Gorgonzola and walnut with just olive oil)
I eat more pasta personally than anything else, I'm not a big fan of potatoes. Pasta is so versatile, it can be eaten as a dish with sauce, or can be served as an accompaniment beside a steak etc in place of potatoes.
Instead of Steak with french fries, mushrooms, and tomatoes, try a steak served with mushrooms and spaghetti with just a fresh tomato sauce.
A healthy option even for the biggest fans of steak.
There are so many ways to enjoy pasta, away from the normal spaghetti Bolognese, lasagne etc
Experiment for yourself, take your favourite dish of chicken, fish or just veg, and use the ingredients to invent a new pasta dish. You will soon find how to make the best pasta for your own tastes.
You'll train yourself to be a gourmet cook in no time!
You'll be surprised at how easy it can be, and how tasty!