How ’bout a new way to get the party started? I’m thinking about changing it up with a pre-game pasta party on Sunday. On game day, the bottom line on the eats has got to be delicious and comforting. So I’m thinking…pasta. Homemade pasta. And besides the satisfying taste factor – what better (and totally unexpected) way to kick-off this get together than a fun pre-game group activity.
We’ll whip up a batch or two or three – depending on how many we’re feeding – of pasta dough that’ll be ready to literally rock and roll-out, cut, and drop into a nice big pot of boiling salted water. We could cook the whole big batch of pasta all at once and serve. Or, cook up in smaller batches if our friends are coming at staggered times. The kitchen will become command central (as it already is) but with a “pasta lab” kind of vibe. Let’s have fun offering some of our favorite toppings of meatballs and sauce (or gravy), or a simple aioli of hot simmering olive oil gently browning garlic slivers. And let’s not forget a small serving bowl brimming with freshly grated Asiago (or shaker cheese) for the little (and big) kids – always a big hit.
Instead of the usual chips and dip, we’ll set up a wood board at the end of the kitchen island – filled with nibbles that will work back into the pasta party theme – pepperoni, salami, roasted peppers, olives, Asiago, and a few crusty baguettes. This bountiful board would not be complete without nestling in clusters of seedless grapes, big handfuls of clementines and colorful grape tomatoes, small ladies apples, and a couple of ripe pears.
A Simple Egg Pasta Dough
(Approx. 6-8 servings)
4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tablespoons salt
In a large mixing bowl, mix together the flour and salt. Pour onto a wood or marble board, and create a well in the center of the mound. Break eggs into the well, and with a fork, beat the eggs gently, and with your other hand keep shoring up the sides of the flour mound. Slowly incorporate the flour “wall” while beating the eggs. If the “damn” bursts – don’t panic – just corral the eggs with the fork, and keep working the eggs into the flour mixture. It will turn into a thick paste, and now, using your hands, continue to mix it until you can shape it into a ball. (The texture will feel like a ball made of flakes of dough.) Set aside.
It is important to clean off your hands and then wash them. Next scrape and clean your board. Place dough back on the cleaned board and cut in half so it will be a bit easier to knead.
I find that this kneading part is a little bit of a work out. When kneading, push down hard with the heel of your hand, and stretch the dough away from you. Then fold back toward you, and turn the dough ball a quarter turn. Press down again, and keep repeating this kneading process for about 10 minutes. All this pummeling and kneading helps to distribute the moisture and makes the dough nice and smooth.
Shape into a neat ball, cover with plastic wrap, and let it rest for 2 hours.
You’re now ready to roll it out – very much like rolling out a pie crust – pressing down and out from the center of the doughy disk. A marble rolling pin helps to flatten the dough a little faster and easier.
Keep dusting the board with flour as you keep turning and rolling the dough. Keep rolling and stretching the dough at the same time. Keep turning this doughy disk after each roll and stretch. This part of the process may be a great way to get some additional hands (and muscle) to help roll this sheet of dough to be the thickness of a good thick stock paper.
Once it’s been rolled out, cover with a kitchen towel for about 5-10 minutes to rest and slightly dry.
You’re ready to cut the dough. Be sure the dough is dry enough so it doesn’t stick together when you fold it. Take one edge of the dough and loosely fold over to make a 3-inch wide fold. Keep going until the whole thing is folded.
Using a sharp knife, press down evenly and cut 1/4-1/2 inch strips from the rolled dough. As you cut the roll, open up the noodles to let them dry further on the board, or a drying rack. You can also take small bundles of pasta strands and loop them loosely around your fingers to form bird’s nests.
You’re ready to cook your beautiful fresh pasta. Gently drop the pasta into boiling salted water (a good big pinch of salt), and start testing it as soon as it returns to a boil. The one thing about fresh pasta – it cooks very quickly!
The best way to test the doneness is to simply fish out a strand and bite into it. If it has a nice “chew”, without a hard core – it’s done.
Enjoy and go teams!