Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Homemade Whole Wheat Fettucine & Mushroom Ragu

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One magical Thursday a mystery package arrived at my front door.  A very generous [and awesome] family member, aware of my penchant for pasta, shipped me an authentic pasta machine.  Needless to say, I was ridiculously excited and had to try it out immediately - as in that night. 

Incidentally, I happened to have all of the ingredients on hand to make whole wheat pasta and a somewhat bastardized version of Mario Batali's mushroom ragu.  

What I learned is that, once you have the pasta maker, the recipe for pasta is incredibly simple. It requires two ingredients: flour and eggs. 

To make 1 1/4 lbs of pasta you need:

3 1/2 cups of flour [all purpose, whole wheat, or a combination] 
5 large eggs 

First place a mound of the flour on a large cutting board. 

Make a dent in the mound of flour and crack all five eggs into the center of the mound. Then take a small whisk or a fork and whisk the eggs together. 

Start working the outside of the mound of flour into the center to form a dough. Keep pushing the dough up against the wall of the mound. You'll need to knead the dough for about 10 minutes to get it to the  "doughy" consistency.  

 Once the dough is fully incorporated, form it into a ball.

 Wrap the ball in plastic wrap and set aside for 30 minutes. 

While the dough is resting, start making the mushroom ragu.  To simplify things, I started with a jar of tomato sauce and "improved" on it by adding the ragu ingredients. Here's what you need:
  • 1/2 yellow onion 
  • 1 pint of mushrooms, I used oyster mushrooms, but you could use shiitake, porcini, or any other mushroom of choice 
  • 1/2 cup of red wine (the golden rule is to pick a wine you want to keep drinking throughout the meal)
  • cherry tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon of unsalted butter 
  • parmigiano-reggiano cheese 
  • a pinch of crushed red pepper
  • salt & pepper 

First clean the mushrooms by wiping them with a damp cloth. Although there is a fair amount of debate on this subject, I am from the school of thought that believes: whatever you do, do not run them under water to clean them. 

Dice the onions into tiny little pieces and saute them in 1 tablespoon of olive oil. 

Once the onions are softened and have turned a golden brown color, add the mushrooms and cherry tomatoes into the pan and saute until they are softened and slightly shriveled. This will take about 8-10 minutes.  

For the tomato sauce base, Mario Batali recommends you make his simple tomato sauce. Since it was a weeknight, I decided to use Trader Joe's Arrabiata sauce, which has a little bit of a kick.  

Add 1 cup of the tomato sauce, 1/2 cup of dry red wine, 1 tablespoon of butter,  a pinch of crushed red pepper, and a sprinkle of salt.

Bring the sauce to a boil and then simmer until it reaches it reaches a thick consistency. 

Right about the time the sauce is done, the dough should be ready to turn into pasta.  Take the dough and roll it out with a rolling pin as flat as you can.  Or you can improvise with can of salt ...totally okay.  

Your pasta machine should be set to the main roller.  Take a little bit of flour and dust the machine so the dough doesn't stick. 

Slide the dough through the two rollers in the pasta machine to further flatten it.

It took about 5 times through the rollers, as well as various adjustments to the machine to reach the desired thinness of the pasta. 

We broke the pasta into several smaller pieces to make a couple of very long flat sheets.

The pasta machine comes with several attachments to make various pasta shapes, including spaghetti and fettuccine. Once you switch the attachment, it's very easy to slide the sheets of pasta through to cut the pasta into fettuccine. Now is also a great time to bring a pot of water to a boil to cook the pasta.  

Once the water is boiling, drop the fettuccine in and cook for 3-4 minutes. Then, use tongs and stir the cooked pasta into the mushroom ragu to evenly coat it in the sauce. 

We served the mushroom ragu with simply steamed green beans and topped it with flakes of fresh parmigiano-reggiano cheese.

Even though this wasn't the quickest meal (it took about 1.5 hours start to finish), I thought it was well worth the effort. Next time, I'll probably try a mix of whole wheat and all purpose flour, but I wouldn't change a thing about the sauce. It was absolutely delicious! 

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