Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Pasta Workshop

Keith and I received a gift for a private cooking lesson from Artepicure last Christmas. We made sure to take advantage of this class before we moved away from the Boston area. The walk to the school was a little sketchy, but the classroom itself was full of character. The instructor and his wife live in the studio, and they have the most incredible collection of art... the walls are COMPLETELY covered with their collections.

The Class: Pasta Workshop
This class teaches the art of fresh pasta making. We will make potato gnocchi, filled ravioli and a hand formed pasta shape. This class will explain the science behind the choice of different flours, the proper cooking techniques for obtaining the best results, which sauces go with what shapes and the ease in which anyone, with a little understanding, can create beautiful artisan pasta at home.

My one disappointment with the class was that Keith and I did not prepare the sauces that went with pastas. But the meal we prepared was fantastic.

The best tip of the day was to use a food scale to measure the ingredients for pasta. The volume of flour can change a lot depending on humidity, but if you rely on the weight then you will get perfect pasta dough every time.

Two pasta doughs, one with egg (right) and the other without (left). The eggless dough was easier to kneed.

We made an egg pasta dough to create the butternut squash ravioli. (The instructor made the filling, but this is something that I've done myself before.) The big aid was how to fill and cut the ravioli easily (see pictures below.) When I made ravioli myself, I cut out circles and then folded them in half with the filling on the inside. I can see how I could make them much faster using this method. I also learned how great it is to use a pasta roller - rolling the dough out by hand is so hard!

I forgot to take a picture of the final dish, but the ravioli were served in a sage and browned butter sauce.

The second pasta we made was Orrechietti (translation - little ears). These were completely hand shaped. First, you roll out the dough into a snake, and then cut it with the pastry scraper into even pieces. You then press each piece down with your thumb to form the ear-shaped pasta.

I thought the flavor of the dough was great, but the texture of the shape was a bit reminiscent of spaghetti-o's (especially since it was served with a tomato sauce.) This would be a great shape to make with kids - it is a fun "craft" project.

Last (but not least), we made gnocchi. This was the dish that we were anticipating the most, since Keith loves gnocchi so much (I love them, too.)

This was the star of the day. These gnocchi just melted in your mouth. They were served in a creamy pesto sauce (just heavy cream and pesto and bam!) I have never tasted gnocchi this fresh in my life. This is a great kind of pasta to make at home, because the equipment that you need is minimal (just a potato ricer). Sure, having a gnocchi board would be great, but you can score them with a fork or just leave them unscored. This dough is so fast to make, I can see myself making gnocchi frequently (which will make Keith very happy!)

Immediately after the class, I went home and added some of the tools from this workshop to our registry (food scale, gnocchi board, pastry wheel and pastry scraper.) After this lesson Keith was also on board for the KitchenAid Pasta Roller Attachment)

Class Notes (I am afraid that I am going to loose the sheet that came with the class, so I am making note of the proportions for each of the pasta doughs here. )
  • Egg Pasta Dough
    • 9 oz all-purpose flour (2 cups spooned and leveled)
    • 1 tablespoon kosher salt (or 1 tsp table salt)
    • 2 large eggs
    • 1-3 tablespoons cold water
    • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Pasta Dough
    • 12 ounces all purpose flour
    • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
    • 6+ ounces cold water
    • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Gnocchi
    • 1.5 lbs russet potatoes (We learned that the most common error in gnocchi preparation was the wrong choice of potatoes.)
    • 3.5 ounces unbleached all purpose flour
    • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
    • 1 egg, lightly beaten

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