by Amélia Ávila (’24) | February 3, 2023
I have seen a lot of pasta this past semester. From the pasta bridge project for physics class to the “aesthetic” pasta-making videos showing up on my feed, I sensed the universe was hinting at something. So naturally, as an avid trier of new things and a self-proclaimed foodie, I decided to open my hand at one of the most widespread, popular dishes – pasta. Though most of my experience with pasta relates to the $1.99 Safeway kind, I was determined to make homemade fettuccine.
Before I started cooking, I decided to learn about pasta’s history. Pasta has existed throughout time and around the world in many different varieties and forms. Italian cuisine’s definition of pasta consists of semolina flour and water, though eggs are also often used. However, the first documentation of pasta-like food dates back to Shang Dynasty China, where many Chinese cooks made noodles using varieties of rice and wheat flour. Additionally, Arab and Amazigh peoples from the Maghreb region of North Africa made pasta from durum wheat, creating couscous. Recently, archeologists have found evidence of the Etruscan civilization in Italy making an early form of pasta using durum semolina flour and water. Much later, during the Renaissance, pasta’s prevalence in Italy became undeniably widespread as numerous shapes and recipes were developed, and this day, pasta is a quintessential food associated with Italian cuisine.
After doing my research, I decided to try a fettuccine recipe I found online which only required flour, egg, salt, and olive oil. Starting with two cups of white flour, I formed a mound with a small well-like opening for the three eggs. After beating the eggs with a fork, I gradually broke down the flour wall and stirred in the flour. Noticing the dough was too dry, I added a tablespoon of water. Next, I used my hands to gather the dough together and kneaded the dough for about ten minutes. The recipe required I let the dough rest for half an hour, so I used that time to start preparing the sauce.
Per requests from my family members, I chose to make a bolognese-style sauce. However, instead of using a recipe, I channeled the inner Giada de Laurentiis in me – a skill I had acquired by watching her show’s reruns with my mother. For the bolognese, I chose to use ground beef, but a vegetarian version can easily be achieved by substituting the beef with baby bella mushrooms. After cooking the ground beef, I chopped onion, garlic, and bell pepper and let the mixture of vegetables sauté for a few minutes on a pan. Afterward, I added canned tomato sauce, tomato paste, salt, and dried oregano for extra flavor. Finally, I lowered the heat and let the sauce simmer for around thirty minutes. By now, the aroma of the sauce had wafted throughout the house, and I was becoming restless to try my meal.
When the dough was done resting, I began to prepare the pasta. Previously, my family had received a small pasta maker as a gift, which proved useful to ensure the dough was at optimal thickness. After rolling the pasta around five times through different thickness settings of the machine, I used the fettuccine attachment to cut the pasta into the intricate strands. Finally, I placed the fettuccine into a pot of salted boiling water; after taking it out of the pot, I added it directly to the bolognese sauce so it could soak up the flavor. Remembering Giada, I topped the pasta with grated parmesan cheese.
I was pleasantly surprised by the pasta’s rich flavor; the pasta retained its own taste all while having absorbed the sauce more than boxed pasta. Rather than the sauce overpowering the neutral pasta, this pasta held its ground.
Despite it being definitely more time consuming than simply buying pasta from the store, I enjoyed the experience of making pasta for the first time. In the future, I might even try to make different flavors of pasta like basil fettuccine. In conclusion, though it might seem like a daunting task, making homemade pasta is not impasta-ble.
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