September 28, 2012
whole spelt pasta
I've been experimenting more with spelt flour these days, using it for making our bread, and also for making the pasta we eat at home. In my current bread-making experience, in which I use a high-hydration dough with a natural leaven, spelt flour, with its lower gluten content, needs less moisture than wheat flour, and also tends to be a little looser or dodgier to handle when shaping before baking. But for making pasta, spelt flour is just as easy to work with as wheat flour, and I actually prefer its taste.
When I first tried to make my own pasta, I researched recipes from cookbooks at home, and then perused other food blogs. I found David Lebovitz's and Leite's Culinaria posts on homemade pasta to be the most straightforward for adapting into a whole grain version, and this recipe is essentially a combination of the two. Since I'm using a whole grain flour instead of an all-purpose white flour, I increased the amount of liquid. The ratio for this whole grain pasta essentially ends up being one egg and one tablespoon of fat per 100 grams of flour. Although some people use just eggs for making pasta, I like the texture and sheen the pasta takes on with the additional fat, and the clarified butter adds another layer of flavor to the spelt flour as well. You can also use extra-virgin olive oil, which contributes its own great flavor too.
By far, the easiest way to make homemade pasta is to use a pasta machine of some sort, whether it's a hand-cranked machine, or attachments to another machine, such as a mixer. That's the method I advocate here, but if you really want to roll the pasta dough out by hand, make sure you have a sturdy, wide rolling pin, and a big, wide, lightly floured surface to roll it out onto. The easiest way to dry the pasta, after it's been cut, is to lay it out flat on towels which you can lightly flour if you want; the waffle-weave texture of the towels I use seem to work fine without flouring. This pasta was dry enough for storage after about twelve to sixteen hours. Once you successfully make your own pasta, I think you really will prefer its freshness and taste to that of the store-bought variety. After a bit of practice, you can crank out a batch that will be ready to eat in less than two hours. With homemade pasta's superior taste, you can dress it in the simplest or most complex of sauces; like a great supporting actor, it makes everything served with it just that much better.
Whole Spelt Pasta
(recipe adapted from davidlebovitz.com and leitesculinaria.com)
2-2/3 cups / 300 grams whole spelt flour
3 large eggs
3 tablespoons / 45 grams clarified butter
1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt
pasta machine or sturdy, wide rolling pin
Measure the flour into a large bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs together until blended. Melt the clarified butter in a small saucepan, or for fifteen seconds on high in the microwave, and slowly stir into the eggs. Make a well in the center of the flour and pour in the egg mixture. Using one hand, stir the egg mixture into the flour until you have a shaggy dough, working until all the flour is incorporated. Turn the dough out onto a flat surface, and knead until smooth, about 3 minutes. Shape into a large disk and place in a container with a lid and let rest for one hour.
After one hour, remove the dough and cut into four equal pieces. Work with one piece at a time, covering the remaining pieces so they don't dry out. Flatten that piece by hand into a rough rectangle about 1/8 of an inch thick. Set the pasta rollers on your pasta attachment to the widest setting (usually #1); if using a pasta-making attachment on an electric mixer, set the rollers to the widest setting (#1), and turn the mixer on at the lowest setting. Feed the dough through the rollers to flatten it, letting the pasta drape over your hand as it comes out. Fold that piece into thirds and feed it through again. Repeat this process about six times, until the dough is smooth and rectangular. Adjust the setting of the pasta rollers to the second widest setting (#2), and feed the dough through once. Adjust the pasta rollers once more to the third widest setting (#3), and feed the dough through again. Lay the pasta sheet on a towel, covering it to keep it from drying out, and repeat the above process with the remaining three pieces.
Once you've finished rolling all the dough, switch to the fettucini attachment on your pasta machine. Feed one pasta sheet through at a time, letting the pasta drape over one hand as it comes out in a fettucini cut, and catch the rest with your other hand as it finishes. Carefully transfer the cut pasta back to the towel and lay flat to dry until ready to cook. Repeat the same process with the remaining sheets of pasta. If you're going to let the pasta dry out completely before cooking it, then as soon as you have finished cutting it all into fettucini, carefully separate the strands as they lie flat on the towels, so none are overlapping. Once completely dry, they will be impossible to separate without breaking. Let the pasta dry for about twelve to sixteen hours before storing, or use immediately. For storage, I wrap the pasta in parchment paper and then plastic wrap; handle the dried pasta carefully, as it is very fragile once dry.
If you're going to use the pasta immediately, prepare a large pot of water, about four quarts of water to a pound of pasta, and add enough salt so the water is as salty as sea water when you taste it. Bring the water to a boil and add the fresh pasta; stir the pasta when you first put it in to separate the strands and keep them from sticking; keep the water at a medium boil while cooking. The fresh whole spelt pasta cooks in about four to six minutes; check for doneness every two minutes. The dried whole spelt pasta cooks in about twelve to fourteen minutes, again, check for doneness every two minutes once you're past the eight minute mark. Drain the pasta completely in a colander when done, but don't (ever) rinse it with water. Have whatever sauce you're using ready before the pasta is done, and dump the drained pasta back in the pot with the sauce to coat well, and serve immediately.
Makes about 1 pound of fresh whole spelt pasta