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Homemade Pasta

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I grew up observing my grandma, every Sunday morning, making Tortellini, Tortelloni, Tagliatelle, Strichetti, everything homemade, with passion and love, for the Sunday family lunch. Making homemade pasta is a form of art, it’s a very precious knowledge that needs to be handed down through the different generations and it is also a very important part of Bologna’s tradition and culture.

I don’t think making good homemade pasta is difficult, you just need time to dedicate finding the right ingredients, practicing and practicing again.

What do you need 

A wooden board, at least 80 cm x 100 cm
A rolling pin, at least 100 cm long and 5 cm thick
A pasta knife, with a square blade
Two cutting wheels, one with straight blade and one with corrugated blade
A scale and a liquid measurer
You may use the machine to roll the dough but it isn’t essential, my grandma use to do it all with her hands and I will explain you later how to do it.

Types of Pasta

Eggs dough: this is the classic and most popular in Emilia Romagna, my region. It’s everything about the egg: you count the egg according to the number of portions you have to make, 1 egg (60-70 gr) = 2 portions. For every egg you put in the dough you also add 110 gr of plain flour: 3 eggs + 330 gr of flour = 6 portions.

Eggs & Vegetables dough: the “green pasta dough” made with eggs, flour and spinach (or other green vegetables, like broccoli for example.. why not? be creative!). You will need 500 gr of flour, 3 eggs and 300gr of raw vegetables (spinach, when are cooked and dried are also half weight), which you will turn into puree.

Water & Flour dough: this type of past can be made using whole wheat flour or plain flour, if you use the second remember to use warm water, if you use the first you can use hot or even boiling water. You will need 1 part of water and 2 parts of flour: 500 gr of flour + 250 ml of water = 5-6 portions (it also depends how much pasta your guests can eat..)

How to make Pasta

Put the flour on the wooden board in a vulcano shape with a hole in the centre. If you are making Egg Pasta the hole will be the “nest” for your eggs. Start mixing with a fork, beating the eggs and getting slowly the flour form the edges of the hole. If you are making a Eggs & Vegetables Pasta this is the moment to add your vegetables puree and keep mixing until it will be nice and smooth. If you are making a Water and Flour Pasta start pouring the water in the hole while mixing with the fork. Keep mixing with your hands, after getting rid of all the hard bits sticking to the board, until you have a smooth and elastic dough. you will lead the dough for about 10-15 minutes before you wrap it in cling film and let it rest for 30 minutes.

Let’s roll the dough with our hands

Put the dough on the wooden floury board, press with the rolling pin in the centre and start rolling in 3 directions: up, left and right. Now turn the dough and keep doing the same process, it will start having a circular shape. turn it often upside down in order to work it on both sides. When the dough is getting thinner wrap it around the rolling pin and pull it slowly while unwrapping it. Remember that the perfect pasta shouldn’t be thicker than 0,5 millimetre and it should be almost see-through but uniform and compact.

Time to cut

Now you will cut the sheet according to what type of paste you’d like to cook. Strips for Tagliatelle or Pappardelle, squares for Tortellini, Tortellini or Ravioli that you will then fill with different fillings, rectangular sheets for Lasagna or Cannelloni.

Cooking pasta tips: cook it in a wide pan, add a bit of oil to the cooking water, cook it for 3-4 minutes.

Follow my recipes for different types of pasta!

Sourdough

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In Italy we call it “Pasta Madre” (the Mother Dough), it was used in bakery before fresh and dried yeast became popular and it is still indispensable for some particular kind of bread. The Sourdough is a mixture of flour and water (we’ll see later what kind of flour is better) subject to spontaneous contamination by microorganisms with lead to a lactic bacteria culture. This long process is essential for the dough to be natural, digestible and have that unmistakable beautiful flavour coming from the acidity of the fermentation.

Not long ago the Sourdough was considered a luxury, something you could find only in bakeries but there is a good news: if you have enough time, patience, constancy and passion in baking, you can have your Sourdough at home and, let me tell you, it makes a big difference! But remember, this little dough will need many attention and will have to be well looked after, you’ll have to be a good mom or dad ūüôā

How to make your first Sourdough

It is all a microorganism game: the ones in the flour, together with the ones in the water plus the ones in the air, you don’t need anything else.

Now the first question is, what is the best flour? I personally think that the strong flour is better because of the high percentage of gluten, even better if it is stone grinded. About the water, I prefer the stil mineral water from the bottle or, if you use the tap water let it rest for few hours before you use it. You’ll need 2 parts of flour and 1 part of water, for the first sourdough I suggest:

200 gr flour

100 ml water

Mix them together, give the dough a spheric shape and let it rest in a glass bowl, cover with cling film and make small holes with a fork to let the air pass through.

The perfect temperature for the sourdough to rest is 27 degrees but it will be acceptable between 22 and 28 degrees, this is the reason why the better season to start making it is summer.

According to the type of flour used and also the temperature the dough will have to rest for 48-72 hours. Attention: if you see or smell old before at least 48 hours the process was unsuccessful, in this case you’ll have to put it in the bin and start again, but don’t worry and don’t loose your confidence! ūüėČ

After the first 2-3 days, if everything looks and smell all right and the dough grew at least 3 times its first dimension, you can start refreshing it.

How do I refresh the Sourdough

This is the process that allows the Sourdough to be fed and survive for long time. According to the previous quantity, ¬†to start your refreshing process you can extract 100 gr from the heart of the Sourdough (you can put the rest in the bin) and add 100 gr of the same flour you’ve been using plus 50 ml of water to to, mixing well until nice and smooth. Let it rest for at least 24 hours and repeat the same process for the following 4 days, everyday at the same time if it’s possible. After that you will carry on with refreshing the dough every 12 hours, twice a day, until it will loos the acidity in the smell and it will be able to double in size in only 4 hours. At this point your Sourdough will be ready!

Form now on you can keep your Sourdough in the fridge at 4-8 degrees temperature, in a plastic container or in the same bowl with cling film but without holes. You will have to refresh it at least every 5/6 days maximum but the ideal frequency of your baking will be 2/3 days. I always suggest, before you use it, to refresh the Sourdough with the flour your are going to add making the bread dough. You will need not more ¬†sourdough than 20% of the whole bread dough: for example, for 1 kg of bread you’ll need 200 gr of “Mother dough”. Every time you will use it you’ll also have to add flour (same amount) and water (40-50%) to the remaining part that you don’t use, leave it at room temperature for at least 12 hours, and then keep it in the fridge as usual.

You can use the Sourdough for many different type of bread, pizza and focaccia!

Bread

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There is something magical and special about bread that I can’t really explain.

Using your hands to mix¬†ingredients together and make the dough. You then wait patiently knowing that, even if the dough is resting, there’s life inside it. Something is happening. There is nothing better than the smell of ¬†freshly baked loaf, the crunchiness of its crust: I was fascinated by the whole¬†process ¬†since I made¬†my first steps working in a bakery.

Have you ever managed to walk¬†back home with a freshly baked baguette, sticking out of your food shopping bag, without eating at least a little piece.. I can’t resist it!

In Italy we usually have a basket of bread on the table during our meals. Bread goes together with many hot dishes, like soups or sauces, but also very often sliced and presented with cold meat and cheeses or fresh tomato, basil and garlic for the traditional Bruschetta. Everyone has his/her favourite kind of bread, mine is Toscano, unique in its simplicity, just flour, yeast and water.

Bread ingredients: flour 

The best flour for bread-making is the white strong flour, derived from wheat, which contains high percentage of proteins: when mixed with water they generate gluten, which gives right elasticity to the dough.
Wholemeal flour is made using the whole wheat grain, bran and germ can be grind together or separated and added in the end of the process. Other type of flour used for bread making are: malt flour, Graham flour, dark flour, rye flour, buckwheat flour, barley flour (very popular in England).

Bread ingredients: yeast

Yeast is the substance which allow the dough to start the fermentation and grow. The¬†transformation start with the production of carbon dioxide, which generate little pockets of air inside the dough. Fresh meat is usually mixed with warm water and sugar (or honey) before being added to flour. Conventional dry yeast is usually left in warm water to rest until it becomes foamy. Ready to use dry yeast can be added straight into flour. Natural yeast is what we call “Mother Dough”, it’s a base made of flour and water, left for fermentation for at least two days (but also one week) and added to the dough when stable. I will explain this interesting process in the future.
Yeast need warmth, if mixed to water the right temperature is 38 degrees. If you have no thermometer you can always mix 300 ml of boiling water with 600 ml of cold water and you’ll have the right temperature. While mixing yeast with water you can also add sugar or honey, this will give the necessary food to the yeast in order to start working. The right temperature for the dough in order to rest properly and grow is between 24 and 27 degrees.

Other bread ingredients

Water or milk (if you want it softer), salt (mixed with flour, makes the yeast action slower, controlled and uniform), sugar, butter or eggs (for a richer type of bread), fruit, fat, spices, herbs.

Making the bread: the process with fresh yeast

Mix 15 gr. of yeast in a little container with 450 ml of warm water. Sift 820 gr. of strong flour with 5 gr. of salt. If you are using fat you can add it to the flour. Add the mix yeast and start mixing with a spoon and after one minute start using ¬†your hands on a flat surface. When the dough is¬†smooth and elastic it’s time to let it rest until it will double in size (usually one hour and a half).
Work the dough again for another 8-10 minutes pushing out all the air. using your hands you can shape the loaf and leave it to rest for another 45 minutes. Before it goes in the oven do two or three little cuts¬†on loaf’s surface in order to improve the baking. Oven needs to be already hot (200-220 degrees). Baking time is usually 35-45 minutes. How do you know the right moment for the bread to come out? This is the hardest thing: knock it on the bottom, if it doesn’t sound “empty” it’s not ready, crust should be golden brown and crunchy. Remember to be patient and give some time to the bread in order to rest when it comes out of the oven!

 

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