(By Hannah Dela Cruz, blogger and cookbook author)
Fresh pasta made well is one of the most impressive dishes you can prepare for your family or your guests. Even when served with the simplest of sauces, setting a big plate of handmade pasta in the middle of a dinner table is always met with “oohs” and “ahs.” It’s hard to conceive of ways to improve on it, but incorporating sourdough discard into pasta dough adds the magic of fermentation and truly transforms it.
Benefits of sourdough:
Sourdough discard is any leftover portion of starter that is not used in breadmaking. Don’t let its name fool you, sourdough discard can improve food in a myriad of ways, adding moisture to cakes and nuanced flavors to crackers and pie crusts. When added to pasta dough and allowed to ferment for long periods of time, the yeast metabolizes the starches and sugars in flour, resulting in pasta that’s more nutritious and easier to digest. Plus each starter imparts its own flavor into fresh pasta so the one you create will be singular and unique to you.
Tips for Success
Homemade pasta is deceptively simple, it’s made out of basic ingredients that are probably already in your pantry. With such a short ingredient list, success depends on your technique, and how well you treat your dough.
Flour choice: Pasta is traditionally made with 00 flour, a low-protein flour with a very fine grind. Due to the rising popularity of homemade pasta, you can easily find and buy 00 flour online or in gourmet grocery stores. If you can’t get your hands on any 00 flour, all-purpose flour works great and was what I used to develop this recipe. If you’re an experienced pasta maker, feel free to experiment with whole wheat or alternative flours but know that you may need to change the ratio of ingredients listed here and your results, the taste and texture of your pasta, may be completely different.
Build strength and extensibility: In order for your dough to stretch out into long strands of noodles without breaking apart you’ll need to build both strength and extensibility into your pasta by creating a strong network of gluten. There are two ways to build gluten in your dough: resting and kneading. Both are equally important in this process. Kneading ensures your ingredients are thoroughly mixed, and causes gluten strands to become stronger and longer. Allowing your dough to rest will decrease elasticity, allowing it to stretch.
Allow your dough to rest: It may be tempting to rush through this process and attempt to roll out and cook your pasta dough right away; as hard as it may be you must resist the urge! Patience is key here. Allowing your dough to rest for at least 6 hours (preferably 24) relaxes those strong gluten strands you created and will make it easier for you to stretch and roll out your pasta. Not allowing your dough to rest and forcing it down your pasta machine may result in your dough breaking up and instead of nice long strands it will break up as it cooks, and you’ll end up with short, gummy pasta. Plus you lose out on all the benefits of fermentation if you don’t allow your dough to rest and ferment.
Use semolina to prevent your dough from clumping: There’s nothing more frustrating than your pasta noodles sticking together after the hours you’ve spent creating and rolling out your dough. To prevent your noodles from sticking, place a bowl filled with semolina, cornmeal or another non-gluten flour and cut your noodles directly into the bowl (if using a pasta machine). Wheat flour could be absorbed back into your dough causing them to stick together, so it’s best to use an alternative flour. Toss the pasta in your alternative flour of choice and gather them into nests before cooking them.
High heat and short cooking time: Unlike dried pasta which could take up to 10 minutes to cook, fresh homemade pasta only takes 60 to 90 seconds. Make sure you get your water up to a rolling boil before adding your pasta and be ready to drain your pasta soon after it begins to float. Tasting your pasta is the best way to gauge whether it’s done to your liking; waiting a second or two too long could make your pasta water logged and soggy so make sure you act fast. If you make your pasta correctly it will retain a toothsome quality, but don’t expect it to be “al dente” like dried pasta.
Sourdough Pasta Recipe
Yield: Two servings (300 g dough).
Timing: Active: 45 minutes; Inactive: 7 to 18 hours; Total: 13 to 18 hours
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Equipment: Brød & Taylor Folding Proofer, fork, rolling pin, plastic wrap, bench knife, pasta machine (optional), knife (optional)
Mix your dough: Place your flour on a clean butcher block or plate. Create a well in the center of the flour; you want to be able to see the surface of your plate or butcher block. Add the sourdough starter, egg, yolk and salt into the middle of the well. Using a fork, beat the eggs and sourdough starter together, begin slowly incorporating the flour from the interior wall of your well little by little until it forms a thick paste. Continue until you’ve formed a very thick paste and a good portion of your flour has been incorporated.
If you’re using a plate, dump the mixture on your clean work surface. Using a bench knife, fold the flour into your paste. Continue folding until your most of the flour is incorporated, then begin bringing your dough together using your hands with a light kneading motion.
Create strength and elasticity: Once your dough has formed a cohesive mass, knead it using the palm of your hands until it looks fully incorporated and feels smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes. Wrap your dough in plastic wrap, pleat the plastic to prevent air pockets and oxidation.
Rest period: Place your dough into the Brod and Taylor Folding Proofer set at 78 °F / 26 °C and allow it to rest for 30 minutes. This rest period will help build strength and elasticity while minimizing oxidation.
Knead your dough: Unwrap your dough and place it on a clean work surface. Knead the dough for another 5 minutes. Wrap your dough and place it back into the Brod and Taylor Folding Proofer.
Fermentation: Allow your dough to rest for 2 hours inside the Brod and Taylor Folding Proofer. After two hours, move your dough into the refrigerator for an overnight rest. (If you want to enjoy your pasta on the same day, allow it to rest inside the Brod and Taylor Folding Proofer for at least 6 hours before rolling it out).
Tip: It’s important to let your dough rest for at least 6 hours before rolling it out and enjoying it. This rest period will allow the gluten in your dough to relax and allow you to roll it out easily. Without allowing your dough to relax, your pasta could become very brittle and break up during cooking.
Using a pasta machine: Divide your pasta dough into 2 equal portions and work with 1 piece at a time, make sure you wrap the other one back in plastic wrap so that it doesn’t dry out. Place the dough cut side down on a lightly floured work surface. Using your hands, flatten the piece of dough out until it’s roughly even in thickness. Lightly flour your rolling pin and roll the dough out until it is ¼-inch thick, try to roll it out as closely to a rectangle as possible (measurements don’t matter as much here, we’re shooting more for thickness)
Once you’ve rolled your dough out to the desired thickness, lightly dust it with flour. Pass it through the thickest setting of your pasta machine and roll it out at least 3 times. Getting the right thickness in the beginning is important here, if your pasta dough is too thick it may be too difficult to roll out and break apart.
Continue passing your pasta dough through the machine, gradually reducing the settings one pass at a time, until the pasta achieves your desired thickness.
Attach your pasta cutter to your machine and place a bowl filled with semolina under. Pass your pasta dough through your cutter into the bowl of semolina. Toss the noodles in the semolina and twist it neatly into a nest. Allow your pasta to rest uncovered while you roll out the remaining portion of dough.
Rolling out pasta by hand: Divide your pasta dough into 2 equal portions and work with 1 piece at a time, make sure you wrap the other one back in plastic wrap so that it doesn’t dry out. Place the dough cut side down on a lightly floured work surface. Using your hands, flatten the piece of dough out until it’s roughly even in thickness.
Lightly dust your rolling pin with flour, flatten your dough using light and even pressure. Flip your dough 90 degrees and repeat. Continue flipping your dough 90 degrees and rolling it out until it’s 8 inches wide. Once your dough is wide enough, continue rolling your dough and flipping it 180 degrees. Roll your dough out until it’s 24 inches long, you should be able to see the outline of your hand through the sheet of pasta.
Cutting pasta by hand: Once your pasta is thin enough, lightly dust it with semolina flour and roll it onto itself. Using a sharp knife cut your dough into your desired shape, ¾-inch slices for pappardelle or thinner for fettuccine and spaghetti.
Cook Pasta: Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil, add salt to the water. Cook the pasta for 60 to 90 seconds. This pasta cooks quickly so watch for doneness or it will become too waterlogged and soggy. Drain pasta and enjoy with your sauce of choice.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Blanch the spinach in the water for 1 minute or until the leaves have wilted and the stems are soft. Drain and squeeze all of the water out of the spinach, you should end up with a tight ball of spinach the size of a golf ball.
Combine the spinach, egg and yolk inside a blender or food processor. Blend your mixture until it’s very smooth (large pieces of spinach will impede gluten development). Place the spinach mixture and sourdough starter into the middle of your flour, mix and cook according to instructions.
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Sun-Dried Tomato Pasta
Homemade sun-dried tomatoes are a great way to preserve the bounty of the summer. To make sundried tomatoes, set your Sahara Folding Dehydrator to 140 °F / 60 °C and arrange tomatoes sliced in half lengthwise cut-side up on the racks. The tomatoes are done when they feel dry but pliable. Don’t dry them for too long or they will become tough and brittle. Pack dried tomatoes in oil.
Combine the sun dried tomato, egg and yolk inside a blender or food processor. Blend your mixture until it’s very smooth (large pieces of sundried tomatoes will impede gluten development). Place the sun-dried tomato mixture into the middle of your flour, mix and cook according to instructions.
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