My dad lives out of state and we only get together a few times a year, making those visits very special. While it takes some coordination we always get together at the start of the new year and it has become our tradition for my dad and the kids to make pasta together.
Over the past five years we have tried a variety of pastas – lasagna noodles, plain noodles, spinach and beet flavored fettuccine – every year is a new experiment.
This year we opted for a simple ricotta filled ravioli served with a mushroom and pancetta sauce. It was delicious and a wonderful way to end our season of eating.
If you haven’t made pasta before I highly recommend you give it a try and to make it even better, make sure you get your kids to help. It is a wonderful hands on activity, easy for the kids to do and gives them a huge sense of accomplishment. It is one of those things that gives a big wow factor, but is easy for all.
One of the great things about pasta is you don’t need any special equipment. A pasta roller is helpful, but not necessary. You can use a rolling pin to flatten and a knife to cut it into shape. If you feel you really want to use a pasta machine I recommend heading to the thrift store. I always see them in our local stores, usually for less than $10. We got ours for $5.00 a few years ago. Granted it doesn’t have the attachment that lets us attach it to the table, but we use an extra set of arms to hold it in place and it has served us fine for the last 5 years.
We like to make our dough right on the table. It’s a little risky and can be messy, but if you work carefully it is actually easier than using a bowl.
To start make a big mound of flour on the table (or in your bowl). Shape it in to a volcano with a hole in the middle. In a small bowl whisk the eggs and olive oil together. Pour it in the volcano hole and then, with a fork, slowly start incorporating the flour into the eggs.
Once it has formed into a rough dough begin kneading until smooth. Let the dough rest, at room temperature, for at least an hour. Then you get to move on to the fun part – rolling and shaping the dough
As I said you don’t need a pasta roller, but it is really cool to watch a thick piece of dough quickly grow into a long and thin sheet with just a few passes through the roller.
After a piece of pasta is rolled into a thin sheet it is time to shape it. Again, you can use a specific tool to get the job done, or simply use a knife to cut the pasta into the desired shape. This year we had gotten my Dad a ravioli cutter as a Christmas gift, so we put that to use.
There are a lot of different types of ravioli cutters and pans, but the handheld cutter is my favorite. It cuts and crimps at the same time, but most importantly it seals the two sheets of pasta together tightly so the cheese doesn’t leak out when cooking.
Once all the dough has been shaped it is time to cook and eat. Simply cook the pasta the same way you would store bought pasta and enjoy!
Below are the recipes for the pasta dough and the sauce. Experiment, share and enjoy!