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How I navigated the learning curve of making fresh pasta


When I went to Italy I experienced the difference between boxed pasta and freshly made pasta. That difference was huge. From that day forward, I made the leap to freshly made pasta in my home.

I started out as a traditionalist. I was going to be making pasta strictly by hand. I have Liz’s Nona’s original pasta board. I also had an old crank-style pasta roller. The final component of these early pasta-making attempts was a recipe that I brought back with me from Italy. I was ready to make pasta.

Murray Schulman cranks out fresh pasta in his kitchen.

The hand kneading process isn’t as easy as it sounds. After about 10 minutes of continuous kneading, I had stiff painful hands. But a respectable dough ball. The ball and I both needed to rest for about an hour.

Liz insisted that I wear a big apron during this process. It turned out to be sagely advise. The recipe was in grams. Which required some mathematical calculations on my part. I combined what I estimated to be the correct proportion of flour and semolina. On Nona’s board, I made a nice pile of combined flour and a pinch of salt. Then I made what appeared to be a nice well in the center of the fl our for my eggs. This is where it gets exciting. When you watch an experienced pasta maker in Italy, they make this step look so easy. I, on the other hand, not so much. I dropped the eggs into the well and using a fork, I beat them until they were scrambled. Then I started the process of working the eggs into the fl our. Using my hands and the fork, I started to pull the egg onto the flour while moving the fl our toward the center to combine with the eggs. I quickly discovered that most surfaces are not level. The eggs started to escape. I had to capture the escaped eggs, so they didn’t run onto the floor, while at the same time, trying to continue to mix the eggs and flour together. Of course, this allowed more eggs to escape. Finally, after this epic struggle, I was able to get the fl our and egg mixture mixed into a rough dough. The next thing I faced was my board was a complete mess. So, before I could start kneading the dough, I had to set it aside and clean up the mess I made. That being done, I retrieved my rough dough ball and started the hand kneading process. If you haven’t done this before, it isn’t as easy as it sounds. After about 10 minutes of continuous kneading, I had stiff painful hands. But a respectable dough ball. Finally, both the dough and I had to be set aside
to rest for about an hour. The rolling and cutting process seemed to go smoothly and we had fresh pasta for dinner.

After this first experience, I found that I could use my big Kitchen Aid mixer to combine the flour, eggs and salt and to do the initial kneading. I still had to use my hand crank pasta roller. It got the job done. I was happy with the result.

For even easier pasta preparation, try the pasta flour blend made by King Arthur. It is a blend of flours that eliminate the need to measure proportions. I use my mixer and follow the directions.

Try it. With a bit of practice, you may never buy boxed pasta again. Ciao.

Murray Schulman

Murray Schulman, a columnist with the Italian-American Herald for 12 years, has worked in the food business for more than 50 years, sharing his expertise in kitchens, offices and classrooms spanning several states. He retired in 2017 as head of prepared foods for Delaware Supermarkets Inc. He lives in Pennsville, N.J

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