My food processor might just be my new best friend. I mean I love my KitchenAid stand mixer too, but I might just love my food processor just a little bit more–at least, until I get the pasta attachments for it. Then those two will be a love match.
Pasta’s been on my to-do list for some time, but I always hesitated because I wasn’t sure of the difficulty level. If you have a food processor? Don’t hesitate. It is EASY. The hardest part was getting my hands on a pasta roller, which also turned out to be easy. I live in a town with a huge Italian population. Love them; love the food. I’ve been told that owning a pasta roller, or at least being related to someone you can borrow one off of, is almost a cultural requirement. It doesn’t matter if it’s never been used, such as the one I borrowed (brand new, still in the box). It’s the owning part that’s important. (See below recipe for more info on using the pasta roller)
I’ve been flirting with spelt flour, which to date I haven’t really figured out how to use successfully in all baking endeavours–yet. Spelt is a low-gluten ancient grain form of wheat, and its a bit of a priss. It does not react the same way regular wheat flour does–it has a slightly different water solubility, more complex proteins that are less heat tolerant, and less of the stretchy properties because of the low gluten. So, if you were to do a straight substitute for spelt in most applications, you might end up with a dry, brittle, crumbly product.
But there’s a lot of great benefits to spelt too, which is why I persist. I know it can be done and delicious; I just need to learn the quirks. There’s two forms of spelt readily available in most grocery and health stores: all-purpose (white) spelt, and whole-grain spelt, which like whole wheat flour, can be slightly more bitter to the taste and also more difficult to work with–in both cases, the bran’s sharp edges cut gluten strands, hindering rising power and durability.
I used the white spelt exclusively in the making of my Coconut and Lemon Shortbread bars and was heartened by the spectacular results. So, putting baking aside for now, I decided to give spelt a try in pasta. Many fresh pasta recipes use all-purpose flour, which is lower in gluten than bread flour. Enriched by the pretty green of fresh blanched spinach and the goodness of eggs, a 50-50 mix of white and whole grain turned out fab. Durable enough to make it to the pot whole, light and delicate on the plate, still with much of the goodness of the whole bran intact.
Truly excellent, either simply by itself with garlic and oil, or topped with a little roasted chicken. I’ve made tons of this, trying to stockpile some for when I have to give the pasta roller back.
It may be a futile effort.
Whole Spelt Spinach Pasta
|Prep time||20 minutes|
|Cook time||2 minutes|
|Total time||22 minutes|
|Meal type||Main Dish, Side Dish|
|Misc||Freezable, Serve Hot|
- 1/2lb Whole spelt flour
- 1/2lb All Purpose white spelt flour
- 5oz fresh spinach
- 1 teaspoon table salt
- 1 whole large egg
- 6 egg yolks
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
Rolling out pasta by hand requires strength and patience, but a pasta roller makes it quite easy to keep yourself in fresh delicious pasta. Follow the manufacturer's instructions, and run the dough through the largest setting 6 or so times, folding it over on itself to ensure the dough is well blended, smooth the edges and make a more regular shaped rectangle. This will make for less ragged cutting in the end. If the dough is too sticky, dust the surfaces with a little more spelt flour.
For more information on how to blanch spinach, read this article.
|Step 1.||Blanch the spinach in boiling water for 30 seconds. Cool it in the ice bath, and then squeeze the spinach mostly dry, reserving a little spinach liquid. The spinach should still feel a little wet, but will not drip much water when squeezed moderately.|
|Step 2.||In the bowl of a food processor with a regular cutting blade, combine the spinach, salt, and flour and run until the spinach is finely chopped.|
|Step 3.||While the food processor is running, add the oil, egg, and egg yolks. The dough should come together into gumball (or larger) sized lumps that ride the blades. If the dough continues to look like bread crumbs, add the reserved spinach liquid a tablespoon at a time while the food processor is running.|
|Step 4.||Take the dough out and give it a brief knead with your hands to make sure there are no unmixed spots. Roll out dough very thin, a handful at a time, using a well-floured rolling pin or a pasta roller. Cut to desired length and shape (I recommend fettuccine). If you are cutting by hand, roll the sheet into a jelly roll before slicing for more even ribbons.|
|Step 5.||Boil the pasta in salted water for about 2-3 minutes, or until al dente. Serve topped with a light sauce of garlic and olive oil, or similar.|
|Storing fresh pasta|
|Step 6.||If not using the pasta right away, dry the cut pasta for about thirty minutes before storing in a bag in the fridge (use within 2 days). Fresh pasta may also be frozen - dry for 45 minutes to an hour before storing in a bag and freezing. Use care moving dried pasta; it will be more fragile.|
Recipe adapted from Emeril’s Spinach Pasta Dough.
More on pasta machines – I used the Fox Run Pasta Machine which had settings from #1 (widest opening) to #9 (thinnest). It was a solidly-built stainless steel hand-crank appliance (impressively built like a brick outhouse, actually), which clamped to my table. At under $50 on Amazon, it’s actually a fine piece of kitchen equipment in today’s world of cheap manufacturing. I would totally buy one for myself. I might still do it, actually, because the KitchenAid attachments are over three times the price. Only downside to the Fox Run machine is that it didn’t seem to come with any cleaning tools. But I can go find some pipe cleaners.
Don’t grab a huge chunk of dough to start with – as you’ll see, a little ball can go a long way. Pasta machines may vary a little bit, but the idea is to roll it through the largest setting, folding it over on itself, until you have a decently formed slab. This will take many passes (probably six or seven). Then you run it just once through each of the next settings until you get to the thickness you want. In the earlier settings, even as high as in the third, try to fold over any ragged or protruding edges to help form a nicer, square edge, cause otherwise you will have lots of little broken pasta bits to contend with while you’re cutting.