Several weeks ago I attended a pasta making class at the Viking Cooking School in Atlanta. Of course, this class just so happened to be one day after I managed to sprain my ankle (all in pursuit of another story for an article on my blog), so it was a bit of a challenge getting around, but it was so worth it to be able to attend!
The Viking Store is one of our sponsors for the Food Blog Forum in Atlanta in September. They are hosting the kick-off event along with Whole Foods and Montaluce Vineyards. Chef Kevin Rathbun will also be doing a cooking demonstration that evening. Thank you to The Viking Store for being such a great sponsor for our event!
While we were in discussions planning the kick-off party, I signed up for a hands-on pasta making class at The Viking Cooking School. Homemade pasta
terrified me seems as though it would be very difficult to make, however, thanks to Chef Jessica Ray, I am now an expert able to make really delicious pasta at home. (It even gets the Mr. Bunkycooks stamp of approval!)
Of course, we can now add pasta to Mr. Bunkycooks list of “I will only eat homemade”. This is in addition to the homemade peanut butter, freezer jams and ice cream. If you need me, just look in the kitchen.
Anyway, we had so much fun at this class and Chef Ray certainly made pasta more approachable and less scary for all of us!
After getting some really important tips from Chef Ray, we went around in stations during the class. First stop was learning how to make the perfect pasta dough (including variations by adding flavorings such as spinach or herbs). We also added vanilla bean paste to one batch to make a delicious dessert pasta.
We next tried our hand at rolling out the dough and then turned it into spaghetti, fettuccine, linguine, tortellini, farfalle, molded ravioli and free form ravioli. We had various fillings to use for the ravioli. Of course, my filling always included ricotta cheese (because it is sooo good with mushrooms and spinach!).
I must admit, that I only attempted pasta one time in the past and I had minimal success. This hands-on class really made me confident enough to come home and make pasta in my own kitchen. There really is a trick to getting the dough to exactly the right texture in the food processor. It also is critical to have the right thickness in the dough while rolling it out in order to make the appropriate pasta. This is something I cannot explain and you need to experience the texture of the pasta dough for yourself.
Thank you so much to all of my classmates that evening who graciously allowed me to use their smiling faces in the pictures. We had a great group and a surprise birthday party that evening with a bit of champagne to go along with dessert!
All of the pasta dishes that we prepared were delicious. Chef Ray and George Wiedman (her assistant) made some incredible sauces to go along with the fresh pasta. There is no comparison to the pasta that you prepare out of the box. Sorry, but you too, will be ball and chained in the kitchen once you start making homemade pasta!
I would say that if you are intimidated (as I was) by homemade pasta, that you should attend a hands-on class. Once you have worked with someone who understands how to make fresh pasta, you will find that it is quite easy. You will also then be a permanent fixture in your kitchen whipping up amazing pasta dishes!
Here are some of Chef Ray’s tips for making homemade pasta:
1. No olive oil in the water when cooking fresh pasta.
2. Do not overfill stuffed pastas.
3. Do not overcook fresh pasta (3-5 minutes is all it should take).
4. Do not wash pasta machine (use a pastry brush to clean).
5. Be creative and not inhibited (that sounds like fun!).
6. Add flavor and color in the fillings and the dough.
She also suggests that when you first start to make your own pasta, to start with a regular flour dough, since it is the easiest to work with. Once you have mastered that, then you can add some semolina flour and try other variations.
Since this was my first attempt at pasta making after the class, I was not adventurous with the pasta shape (I made fettuccine), but I was really pleased with the results and the fresh mushroom sauce I made to go along with it. I sauteed my mushrooms (shitake, crimini and white mushrooms) along with garlic and shallots in some olive oil. I added lots of dry white wine, butter, olive paste, grated Parmigiano-Reggiano and chopped, fresh parsley.
I seared some beautiful Diver scallops in a mixture of butter and white wine, removed them and then deglazed the pan with some additional white wine and added that mixture to the pasta. I squeezed some fresh lemon juice over the dish to brighten everything up and garnished it with more fresh parsley. Of course, always use lots of freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano on top!
The fresh pasta definitely absorbs the sauce more than a boxed pasta does, so you will need to incorporate lots of flavors and plan on preparing a little more sauce than you normally would make. As Chef Ray would say, be creative and have some fun making your pasta.
If you are interested in making your own pasta at home, I would suggest the following items. I have a Kitchen Aid attachment for making pasta, but Chef Ray suggested a hand cranked machine when you first start to make your own pasta since you can control the speed. I definitely agree. It is much easier. These are the items I have purchased.