The Pasta trials have begun and we are trying to push the envelope to how we build, dry and cook fresh pasta. The beauty of such a simplistic item as fresh pasta is that you can be as creative as your imagination will take you as long as you keep with a consistent texture that will allow you to dry and boil the pasta. We have taken the approach to the pasta trials in three different steps.
Making the pasta
When looking at the basics of fresh pasta (eggs, flour and salt) there are variations depending on how you were raised, what culture you are influenced and your imagination. We started with two basic recipes that utilized either water or cream to moisten the dough on top of the egg (you can blame a few of our grandmothers for that one). Its in this step that we took a lot of creativity, from making pasta without egg at all, to minimizing the egg and aging other forms of moisture.
In this stage we have tried the follow (just to name a few):
Pureed vegetables (tomato, squash, pumpkin & eggplant)
The problem with vegetables is that they often time will lack flavor once they have been cooked down to any consistency that you can use to moisten the pasta dough. Though items like zucchini and tomato can be used to make quite flavorful pasta there is a lack of true flavor in the pasta. The reason lies in the lack of salt or natural seasoning in the vegetables themselves; what little is there dissipates as you cook them down to mix with flour.
Creative ingredients (Pickled Onion, PBJ & BBQ)
Similar to the issue at hand with vegetables getting the ingredients to a working consistency often times diminishes the flavor. Take for example the first couple tries where we made BBQ pasta, starting with a simple BBQ sauces as the base with the flower and slowly working our way to more of a dry rub approach and finally utilizing the pork fat from smoking and utilizing seasoning to expand the flavor.
When making the peanut butter and Jelly pasta we actually had better results using fresh ingredients (peanut dust, grapes and sugar) to get more flavor into the pasta. When using off the shelf peanut butter and jelly there was a strong sugar component (expected) but little flavor when the process was complete (at least to the extent to which we were trying to gather).
The Pickled onion went through several variations until we settled on a more fermented approach to the water and vinegar before adding it to the pasta. Learning from our previous trials we had found that often times an over the top smell and taste are needed at the point of mixing to ensure when dried and baked there is flavor left.
Drying the pasta
This was a step that took several recipes before we realized the level of flavor we could get into the pasta at this step in the process to maximize overall flavor profile and consistency without over processing the pasta and ensuring the minimalist nature to which pasta is created (simple and few ingredients). The key was finding the right timing to apply certain flavors to the pasts while it’s trying and to what medium (seasoning – Dry or sauce-wet), once we entered this step with the imagination and information from past failures we started to get more successful and flavorful pastas.
Cooking the pasta
For the trials so far we have merely done boiling or steaming (for flavor testing) and nothing more. We will be looking into this further as we get stronger recipes that we feel can stand up to testing different mediums (baking, frying etc.).