Grims Tales Recipe: The things our grandparents knew and we forgot
I'm on a homemade pasta kick.
It started with the purchase of a $2 extruder at a garage sale. It was flimsy and couldn't extrude real pasta dough. I found a slightly more bulky extruder/roller combination at a local thrift store, and for the time being it will work, but I'm looking for alternatives.
I have the option of spending about $50 for a so-so plastic extruder that will inevitably break. After extruding a quart bag of penne through my thrift store extruder, I have no doubt that it won't last too long. I first tried cranking the handle with the device clamped to the kitchen countertop. When the clamp came undone, I held it down for a bit, but ultimately ended up sitting at my coffee table with the separable extruder head in one hand, with the handle in the other. I simultaneously twisted both, and I felt like Popeye once my single batch of dough was finally done. That dough is tough!
The fact that they don't sell cheap, hand crank extruders is honestly ridiculous, especially since most deer hunters already own a hand crank spaghetti maker. Oh, you didn't know that?
One of those things that our grandparents probably knew, which we have forgotten, is that the standard hand operated meat grinder can be used to extrude spaghetti noodles. Just clean it thoroughly and remove the blade before you use it to extrude your pasta dough. It's that easy. So why don't they make plates or dies for specialty shaped pasta?
It's because a meat grinder costs less than $50 and will last a lifetime, but a pasta machine brand new is more like $200-$2,000 and will wear out. The mechanics of the devices are exactly the same, so what gives?
The dies aren't that complex. One of them just has little “s” shapes cut into it, and rotini has a sort of three-bladed propeller shape cut into it. Hollow noodles are more complex, but the plastic pasta makers have those figured out, so it isn't a stretch to have a plate made for a meat grinder.
Those familiar with Kickstarter.com might some day see a set of meat grinder pasta dies available for a reasonable price. Seriously, I might actually start a mini business selling pasta plates online just so I can make small batches of pasta at home. I'm that obsessed with homemade food. Is there something strange about that?
I'm afraid I haven't invented my own pasta noodle recipes yet, but these two taste awesome. Combine the noodles with homemade pasta sauce or stroganoff and you have something very special.
I would serve these homemade noodles with a pesto made from wasabi arugula, with a sliced, tender steak or pork chop served on top to substitute for meatballs. The horseradish flavor is always complimentary with these types of meat. Recipes for pesto will be in a later column.
Simple Eggless Pasta
(eggless pasta, especially when dried, has a longer shelf life than egg noodles)
This wonderful recipe courtesy of Mario Batali at http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/mario-batali/eggless-pasta-recipe.html
2 cups Semolina Flour
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 to 1 1/4 cups tepid water
Mound flour in the center of a wooden cutting board. Make a well in the center and add a little water at the time. Stir the mixture until a dough is formed. Continue forming a small well, adding water and mixing until you have a shaggy mass of dough with about a half of the dough incorporated.
Knead the dough with both hands until it becomes a cohesive mass, then transfer to a lightly floured countertop. Knead the dough three minutes, dusting when necessary. It should be elastic and just a bit sticky. Wrap the dough with plastic wrap and set aside 10 minutes, then form as desired.
You can roll out lasagna noodles by flattening them and cutting them to thickness or make spaghetti by either flattening with a rolling pin then cutting or by extruding through a meat grinder without a blade. Cut the noodles at a desired length and allow to dry by draping them over clothes hangers and hang them from kitchen cabinet handles overnight.
2 cups flour
1 tsp salt
3 large egg yolks
1 large egg
1/3 to 1/2 cup water
Mix flour and salt and then mound it all on a wooden cutting board with a well in the center. Add egg yolks and whole egg and water to the well. Mix this thoroughly, adding more water if the dough is too dry after several minutes of kneading. Sprinkle with flour if the dough is too sticky. This dough should be slightly sticky, but easy to handle and uniform.
Use a rolling pin to flatten these noodles into a layer as small as 1/16 inch thick and cut into long, narrow strips as narrow as 1/8 inch. You may also run this through a meat grinder with the blade removed.
Eggs in this recipe make it very perishable. The preferred method of storage is to parcook and freeze in single serving “nests.”