I was pretty sure when I heard about the topic for this edition of IMBB (is it already 22?) that I would want to make my own noodles. I love my pasta machine. It's shiny. It's fun to play with it. It's easy to clean, as I brush away the odd bitd of dried pasta and the film of flour. It's one of those satisfying appliances that makes you feel like you are a real cook: no bangles, no electricity, just a hand crank and you.
So I had visions of making several different kinds of pasta; Barrett and I discussed all the colors of the rainbow. But I forgot the one tiny drawback to the lovely pasta machine: making pasta takes a mammoth amount of counter space (ideally the kitchen should be spotless when you start) and for me, anyway, it leaves the kitchen looking like a flour dust storm has just breezed through Paris.
In the end, I limited myself to one experiment with colored pasta: a kind of orangey-yellow. Sweet potato colored, to be exact.
This was my first foray into the world of colored/flavored pasta. Marcella Hazan is clear in her book on classic Italian cuisine:
"Outside of spinach, no other coloring can be recommended as an alternative to basic yellow pasta. Other substances have no flavor, and therefore have no gastronimc interst. Or, if they do contribute flavor, such as that of the deplorable black pasta whose dough is tinted with squid innk, its taste is not fresh. Pasta does not need to be dressed up, except in the colors and aromas of its sauce."
Well. Rules are made to be broken, right?
I was pretty sure, despite Marcella's dire warnings (God forbid I ever try the "deplorable" black ink variety) that sweet potatoes would add a subtle flavor to the pasta. And I wanted to play off that sweet note; I decided to dress the pasta in a simple coating of butter and fried sage, with salt, pepper and a grating of parmesan to liven things up. It turned out very well. The pasta had a kind of toothiness to the texture that is not usually there in the home made version. The sweet potato added sweet and nutty touches to the dish which brought out the strong sage flavor. All in all, I would judge this one a success!
Sweet Potato Pasta with Fried Sage (serves six as a side dish, four as a main)
2 cooked sweet potatoes (mine were baked for an hour in the oven at 190c)
~2 1/2 cups flour (it will depend on the flour you use and how big the potatoes are - allow for more in case you need it)
For the sauce:
6 Tbs butter, divided
a handful of fresh sage leaves, roughly chopped
3 cups grated Parmesan, salt, pepper
This was my first attempt to use the new mixer for mixing pasta. I think it will work in the long run, but I'm going to need to practise, as I'm not as confident as I am with a yeast dough about getting the right consistency. I stopped the machine several times while added flour to test the consistency and in the end took it out before enough flour had been incorporated and had to knead the dough on the counter-top.
Put half the flour in the bottom of a mixer (I think this would be difficult to mix by hand) and create a well in the middle. Put the egg and the sweet potato in the well and start the mixer slowly. Keep mixing until the dough starts to be homogeneous and then slowly add the rest of the flour. You can speed up the machine if you feel confident. Keep adding flour until the dough makes a stiff ball. According to Marcella, you should be able to push your thumb into the dough a couple of inches and pull it away clean.
Separate the dough into pieces the size of golf balls and feed each one through the machine at its widest setting three times - folding the dough in thirds after each pass and rotating the dough 90 degrees before reinserting. Once you have done this with all the pieces (you may need to dust them with flour if they start getting sticky) move the rollers one step closer together and put each of the pieces through once, feeding the short side into the machine to have a long strip. Repeat with each of the settings, moving the rollers closer and closer, until you get a thickness you like. Remember that the pasta will swell slightly in the boiling water.
Before cutting the pasta, lay out the strips on the counter to dry a bit. When you feel you can fold over the strands without them sticking together, put some water on to boil as you are nearly there. Melt half the butter in a frying pan until it froths and before it browns toss in the sage. Toss the pan a bit. Feed each of the pasta strips through the cutting section. I went with medium ribbons, as you can see in the photo.
Toss the pasta in the now boiling water. Quickly grate the Parmesan if you haven't already. When the pasta is done (it will only take a minute or two) drain it and toss it with the remaining butter. Toss it again with the fried sage and butter. Toss it again with the Parmesan, salt and pepper or serve it at the table and let each decide how much cheese to add.
And the Critic approved, thanks to my not telling him about the sweet potato part until AFTER he said he liked it.
Thanks to Cooking with Amy for hosting!