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Fresh Pasta (Pasta Fresca)
11/23/2011 | Sheryl McGlochlin

Article image: Fresh Pasta (Pasta Fresca)

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
½ tsp salt
3 large eggs
1 Tbl olive oil or vegetable oil

1. In a large bowl, stir together flour and salt. Make a well in the center of the mixture.
2. In a small bowl, lightly beat the eggs with oil. Pour egg into the well of the flour mixture. Gradually draw in the flour from the inside of the well with a fork, beating in the same direction. Mix until the egg is well integrated with the flour.
3. Sprinkle kneading surface with small amount of flour. Place dough onto surface and knead until dough is smooth. Add more flour as needed to form a firm but pliable dough. Using the heels of your hands, flatten the dough ball and knead it from middle outward, folding it in half after working it each time. Do not let it rest during the kneading process. Knead for 8-10 minutes. Cover dough loosely with plastic wrap and let it rest 15 minutes to 3 hours.

Rolling by hand:
After the dough has rested, remove it from the plastic wrap. Flatten into a disk aprox 4-5 inches in diameter and 2 inches thick. Place on lightly floured work surface. Place a long, narrow rolling pin across the center of the dough. Apply pressure and roll the pin away from you. You are pushing the dough not pushing down on the dough. Roll the pin back towards the center and repeat the same move 4 times. Turn the dough slightly and repeat the same moves until you have turned the dough in a full circle. The dough is now in a smooth circle aprox 1/4 inch thick. Now you can continue to roll the dough to reach the desired thinness - 1/8 inch is good, 1/16 inch is even better.

Lay a kitchen towel on the counter. Place the dough on the towel and let dry for 20 minutes. Turn once during that time.

Cutting dough by hand:
First of all, do not be fanatical about perfection! If you want to trim your dough to a rectangle, go ahead. Cut pasta into long strands with a long, thin knife.

Pasta shapes; dough cut 1/4 inch wide is tagliatelle, 1/8 inch wide is fettuccine, 1/16 inch wide is taglierini.

Drying the dough:
Spread the strands out across a kitchen towel so that the air hits as much of the surface area as possible. Let the dough dry for two hours or overnight. Turn occasionally. If you are going to store the long noodles for 2 weeks to 3 months, you can roll the strands around you fingers into nests. Let the nests dry for 24 hours. (Freeze pasta for up to 8 months)

Rolling Pasta by Machine:
Attach pasta machine to the work surface. Divide the dough into six equal portions. Use you hands to flatten one piece of dough to a 3 inch diameter circle; keep remaining dough covered. Dust dough lightly with flour. Adjust machine to widest setting. Pass dough through roller. Be careful as you hold the dough as it comes through the machine as not to puncture it.

Fold the dough strip into thirds, set the roller on the next notch and feed the dough through. Repeat the process of folding the dough into third and passing it through the second notch three times. Dust dough lightly with flour as needed. Feed the flattened piece of dough, narrow end first, through the machine at each of the remaining settings. For all shapes except fettuccine, pass the dough through every notch; for fettuccine, pass dough through to the next-to-last notch. Lay finished dough strips on kitchen towel to dry for 15 minutes.

Cutting by Machine:
Attach the cutting attachment to machine. Take a strip of pasta dough and pass through the attachment. Collect the noodles at the base of the cutting attachment. Lay noodles on dish towels and let dry 30 minutes or overnight. (Or make pasta nests, then dry)

Making Ravioli:
The dough strips do not have to go through the drying sequence after coming out of the machine to make ravioli. Although they can dry for 10-15 minutes and ravioli can still be made. Make long strips (aprox 20 inches) of pasta, the strips can be cut as wide as you desire; for small ravioli cut dough 2 inches wide; for large ravioli cut 4 inches wide. Work with two strips at a time. Cover the rest with a dry dish towel. Place 1 tsp filling (for small), and 1 Tbl filling (for large) in intervals along one strip of pasta. Brush the other pasta strip lightly with egg white or water. Cover the pasta with the filling on it with the other strip of dough. Using a pastry wheel or knife, cut pasta into squares. Press around each bundle to seal edges. Repeat with the remaining pasta strips.

Cooking Fresh Pasta:
It is impossible to say exactly how long to cook fresh pasta. The thickness, the flour used and the freshness all play a part in determining the cooking length. Check after two minutes of cooking time, taste constantly. All pasta should be dropped into a pot of rapidly boiling water, except stuffed pastas. These should be simmered gently as to not break the casing. Freshly made pasta is better tasting after drying 8 hours, some say after 24 hours. Pasta made with 100% semolina flour is at its best when freshly cut and cooked.

A few words about flour:
Tipo 00 is a highly refined Italian flour. 00 refers to the finest setting on the flour mill. When you work with Tipo 00, you'll find the dough grainier at first than other pasta dough, but, after a few minutes of kneading, you'll see that it becomes smoother than other dough.

Regular Unbleached Flour: This is a good all-around choice. The pasta it yields is firm, but not as resilient as with Tipo 00. This flour produces a pasta that is appropriate for a wide range of sauces, from light to heavy.

Semolina: This flour is made from hard durum wheat. Make sure you get semolina that has been finely milled. Semolina will yield a tough, chewy, more rustic pasta. This pasta will stand its own with a hearty meat sauce. This flour can be blended with other types of flour. Be creative. Adjustments might have to be made in the egg-flour ratio, as semolina requires a bit more egg.

Flavored Pasta
Adding a small amount of pureed, cooked spinach or other vegetable to pasta dough to color it is a traditional Italian technique. Most of these additions add little flavor. Some strong-flavored spices, herbs, and other ingredients can give pasta a distinctive taste. Pasta sheets can contain whole herb leaves, the addition is primarily for appearance.

In most cases, add the flavoring to the flour and eggs at the beginning of the mixing period. Adjust flour and egg as needed. The whole herb leaves would be added at the time of rolling. Sandwich the leaves between two sheets of pasta, then pass again through the roller.

Pasta Fillings:
Filling 1:
6 oz baby spinach leaves
1/3 cup pine nuts
1 tsp dried Italian seasoning, or fresh minced basil
salt and pepper to taste
1/3 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese

Cook spinach leaves in small saucepan with ½ inch water. Cook until spinach is tender. Drain and run under cold water. When spinach is cool enough to handle, squeeze out excess water. Wrap in paper towel and squeeze again. Chop spinach.

While spinach is cooking; place pine nuts into a mortor and pestle, mash until smooth. Add seasonings and cheese, along with spinach and stir to mix through.

Filling 2:
1 lb ricotta cheese
2 eggs
1 Tbl chopped parsley
½ cup grated parmesan cheese
salt and pepper to taste

Mix all ingredients together in a medium bowl.

Filling 3:
1 cup cooked ground pork
2 eggs
1/4 cup lightly toasted bread crumbs
½ tsp dried basil or marjoram
½ tsp minced garlic
2 tsp minced parsley
salt and pepper
enough heavy cream to help combine and make a paste

Mix all ingredients together in a medium bowl.