Jan 17, 2010

Experiments in Pasta Production, One Question at a Time

First question:  what’s the difference between pasta made with semolina flour versus all purpose flour?  To answer the question, I made three batches of pasta using the following recipe and varying the proportions thus:  only semolina flour, half semolina flour and half all purpose flour, and only all purpose flour. 

Basic pasta recipe:
1 cup flour
½ teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 teaspoon olive oil

in one bowl, mix together flour(s) and salt
in a second bowl, beat the egg and olive oil together
combine wet and dry ingredients
knead until elastic, working in flour (takes 2 – 3 minutes)
let dough rest about 20 minutes at room temperature
use pasta machine to shape dough into pasta
boil pasta for 2 minutes

There were two major aspects to today’s exercise:  how easy the dough was to work with, and how the pasta tasted in the end.  To my minor disappointment, I found these two aspects of pasta making in direction opposition to one another.  That is to say that the semolina flour only dough was the easiest to work with but made the least pleasing pasta, and the all purpose flour only dough was a pain to work with, but resulted in a pasta that I preferred.  The half and half dough was…well, right in between.  I’ll go into more detail. 

Semolina only experiment:  semolina flour is a courser than all purpose flour.  It’s similar to fine corn meal in appearance and texture.  It was surprisingly easy to make into a dough.  I guess I thought it wouldn’t have enough gluten in it to become elastic, but it did, though it took maybe a minute more or so of kneading than the other two doughs I made.  It was easy to run through the pasta machine, and didn’t stick to itself.  It made beautifully separated fettucine and spaghetti noodles.  The noodles sat in a pile at room temperature for an hour or so and when I cooked them – they stayed separated.  As far as making great looking pasta, the full semolina won hands down.  As for the weight and texture of the semolina pasta:  the pasta was the lightest of the three I made. The texture was a bit mealy and ever so slightly rubbery.  I’d say that if you like a light and bouncy pasta, go with all semolina flour.  It’s a joy to work with.  However, my personal preference is pasta that is smooth, heavy, and bordering on gummy. 

All purpose flour only experiment:  the dough was soft and sticky.  I tried rolling it out to various thicknesses in preparation for the spaghetti and fettucine rollers, but it didn’t seem to matter.  Even when heavily floured, the noodles did not separate as they emerged from the machine.  It was not a pretty pasta.  Sad part is, I liked the all purpose flour noodles the best because they were smooth and dense, with that little bit of that stick-to-your-teeth quality that I long for in a winter pasta. 

A happy compromise - half semolina flour and half all purpose flour experiment:  This dough was almost as easy to work with as the semolina only dough.  The finicky part is that the dough had to be rolled out to a specific thickness in order for the noodles to come out well separated (number 5 on my machine).  My husband thought these noodles were the best in terms of weight and texture.  I agree, they were great noodles, and I would use this recipe in the future. 

1 comment:

  1. i love this post! the experimental element is great, and i feel much more informed for the next time i try and make pasta.