by BCD Dad
We ran across some semolina flour at the Amish Market in Easton, MD a few weeks ago and it rekindled an interest in making pasta from scratch using that flour. Unfortunately, our hand-operated pasta machine is still packed in one of fifty or so boxes in the garage, so we looked for a recipe that did not require a machine. Our web search turned up a recipe by Mario Batali called "Funghi Trifolata" that looked perfect: not only did it use a semolina flour dough and include instructions for the hand-made dough, but it also called for a pound of fresh mushrooms that coincidentally was in the refrigerator and eager to participate.
The “mis en place”
I think all of our previous pasta-building has been done using either the heavy-duty Kitchen Aid mixer, a hand-cranked pasta machine, or the Popiel Pasta Extrusion machine the BCD daughters gave us as a gift. So this was the first time no machines were used at all. And guess what? This is really hard work. The dough (just two flours and water) was so stiff that after the required ten minutes of kneading my hands were aching. That was just the beginning. We probably could have done a little more research into the actual process of shaping the dough, but instead faithfully followed Mario’s brief instructions. After kneading and resting (the dough, not me), I rolled it out into a sheet about 1/8 inch thick. Then using a pizza wheel, I cut strips about ½-inch wide.
The kneaded and rolled out dough, cut into strips with a pizza wheel.
The first two exemplars. This is our standard ½ sheet baking tray.
The idea now is to somehow take these flat, thin strips of pasta dough, and convert them into long snake (worm) like pastas. The first one took a couple of minutes to do, and was two feet long! After a lot of trial and error (like trying to make snakes the way we did with clay as children), I finally came up with a technique. I found that if I used a piece of dough about four inches long, and ½ inch wide, it would end up as a very thick spaghetti-like thing, about eight inches long. We probably made close to fifty strands of pici, all sitting on a tray waiting for their moment in the boiling water.
The End Result. Three layers worth.
The sauce itself was elemental. Onions, garlic and sliced mushrooms cooked in olive oil, add cooked pasta, add a little pasta water, some more sliced raw mushrooms right at the end. That’s it.
Lessons learned: (1) This is surprisingly rich pasta dough. Although the recipe says serves 4, since this was our only course, we usually don’t have a lot of leftovers. Not this time. It was delicious but we just couldn’t eat more, it was so filling. (2) Making pasta shapes by hand is an extremely difficult think to do. There is a lot of technique involved, and having consistent thickness is obviously critical. Next time, we use the machine.
The completed dish with a slice of Emily’s wonderful rustic Italian loaf.
But there will definitely be a next time.