Monday, March 22, 2010

Throw a Party & Roll Your Own

I recently discovered that I've accumulated quite a few photos of pasta making parties from the past year. Himself and I agree that those evenings were some of the best and most fun we've ever had. Anyone can make pasta alone, but making it in a group is such fun. All you need is a pasta rolling machine, a few appetizers, a handful of friends, some wine and a little music, and the party makes itself--and dinner! Let's face it--it just doesn't seem like work at all when you're with friends.

Pasta is one of those things that, the more you make it, the easier it is to do. And there's nothing quite as pleasurable as a bowl of the fresh stuff--you'll swear off boxed pasta, for sure. You can get a good, basic hand-crank pasta maker for $30 to $40, so it's not a budget breaker. I've seen the nonas in Italy turn out tons of pasta using only their rolling pins, but you'd probably lose a few people if you tried that. Plus, the hand-crank machine itself is kinda fun.
Andy's getting the hang of making dough from scratch.

 Or IS he?

Ally masters the ins and outs of the pasta maker, no prob. 

 Heirloom tomato salad with fresh burrata on a toasted baguette is a good starter to nibble on while you wait for your turn with the crank. But anything--olives, bruschetta, whatever--is great. 

Mark's quickly gotten the ravioli stuffing down to an art (this guy is a physicist, so I knew pasta making would be a snap for him). 

 Ally cuts the ravioli while a pot of boiling water awaits... Yeah, that's a six-quart Kitchen Aid mixer in the background, but I'm not interested in getting the pasta making attachment for it. The hand-crank model is more textural and more satisfying.

 The ravioli shouldn't all be of uniform shape and size. If it is, it will look store bought, and you don't want anyone thinking that when you've done the work yourself. But the size should be consistent enough that it will all cook in the same amount of time--and fresh pasta takes only a couple of minutes in the boiling water.

Maybe black isn't the best color to wear when you're playing in the flour. By the time Missi and I finished, it looked like we'd been dusting for fingerprints. Of course, you can always look at your clothing and play a game called "Who touched me THERE?!"

Missi and Casey got a little competitive with their pasta making. I think she's trying to distract him while he's at work here...

Back in the fall Himself and I spent a weekend in Santa Barbara making pasta for a photo shoot for "Endless Pastabilities," a story I wrote for Edible Santa Barbara. We all had a blast turning out dough and pasta, scavenging in the garden for fresh ingredients and discussing the unlimited things you can do to create unique pasta dishes.
 Lights! Camera! Action!

I'm such a spokesmodel for fresh pasta!

Fresh herbs pressed between two sheets of fresh pasta dough makes a lovely presentation.

While you can accomplish this alone, it's good to have an extra pair of hands near by when you're feeding the pasta through the press.

This dough with fresh herbs laminated into it is lovely stuff--tasty, too!

Everyone pitched in, including editor Krista and photographer Steve.

When all the work was done and all the photos taken, we sat down to a dinner of five different pastas, including pasta made with pistachio flour and dressed with cardamom, dried apricot and toasted pistachios; chestnut flour pasta dressed with jalapeno peppers, fresh mint leaves and cacao nibs; and regular pasta dough with fresh herbs pressed inside of it and tossed with some good olive oil and a bit of Parmigiano Reggiano.

If you've made the sauce and the ravioli filling in advance, then you can pour some wine and focus on taking turns making pasta. But please, please please...if you're going to have a pasta-making party, don't embarrass yourself by using store-bought sauce! If it's springtime, pasta primavera is in order--just grab what's in your garden or what you've picked up at the farmers' market. A basic pasta sauce of crushed tomatoes, garlic, a handful of fresh herbs, a few red pepper flakes and a couple finely minced anchovies, cooked for just a few minutes is bliss in a bowl (and for those of you who don't like anchovies, fear not--you won't taste them, you'll only get a richness of flavor that rounds out the other ingredients).

I invite you to stage your own pasta making party and send me your stories and photos. Hmm, is "invite" the appropriate word, or should I say "challenge?" If the pasta turns out disastrously, you can still have a good laugh about it and then order a pizza--that is, until I tell you why you MUST make your own!

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