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October 2, 2013

CHEF KELLY TEACHES FRESH PASTA MAKING IN THE BON APPETIT CULINARY CENTER

Autumn is a wonderful season to visit Italy, and Nautica, Marina and Riviera all have several calls there in the coming weeks. The air is cool and crisp, and even the most popular tourist sights are less crowded than they are at the height of summer. As Blogger-at-Large for Oceania Cruises, I especially like visiting Italy during this season because I love nothing more than a big plate of fresh pasta primavera with fall vegetables.

Pasta Class2In the Bon Appétit Culinary Center onboard Marina or Riviera, you can learn to make fresh pasta yourself and enjoy it any time of year. I recently participated in the Passion for Pasta class in the culinary center, and Chef Kelly taught us all the secrets to making delicious fresh pasta at home.

As Chef Kelly began the demonstration, we soon learned that making fresh pasta is quite simple once you get the hang of it. You need only three basic ingredients: 250 grams of flour, 150 grams of eggs and ¼ teaspoon of olive oil. The key is to be exact in measuring the flour and eggs to get the right balance of moisture in your dough.

Always weigh the flour to get an accurate measurement because packing, storage and settling will cause the volume of flour to vary. And keep in mind that a jumbo egg weighs almost 50 percent more than a medium egg, so the size of the egg is also important. Typically three medium eggs will give you 150 grams. If you have large eggs, you can withhold some of the egg white if necessary so you don’t get too much moisture in your dough.

IMG_7824 - Version 2

Chef Kelly also shared another important tip about using eggs: An egg has about 70,000 pores, so you should always keep eggs in their container in the refrigerator rather than transferring them to a built-in egg holder. Otherwise, the eggs will absorb the odors in your fridge much like a box of baking soda will do.

IMG_7828 - Version 2Once Chef Kelly had taught us the basic ingredients, it was time to learn the technique. In a mixing bowl, she made a well with the flour and added the eggs and olive oil. Using a fork, she broke the egg yolks and stirred together the eggs and olive oil. She mixed the dough in the bowl just until it became sticky and then turned it out on the work surface to bring it together.

“Every pasta dough has a personality,” Chef Kelly said. “You’ll quickly find out whether your dough is a real ‘softie’ that will be fun to work with or whether it’s going to make things a little more difficult for you.”

Here was where we learned to become true chefs. As you knead the dough, it will start out grainy, but the more you handle it, the softer it will get. Chef Kelly said she didn’t recommend using a machine with a dough hook to mix dough because you need to feel its personality and “listen” to the dough as it comes together.

“You should need the dough by hand for about three to five minutes, until it feels soft like a baby’s butt,” she said. “It will talk to you and tell you when it’s ready. Listen for the dough to say, ‘Stop touching me. I’m done.’” 

As we all put the technique into practice in our own workstations, we quickly understood the truth behind Chef Kelly’s words. There is no better way to learn a culinary technique than by using your own two hands, especially when you’re in a state-of-the-art culinary studio with a master chef to assist you along the way! 

Once we were finished, we had a dough that was soft, pliable and slightly tacky but did not stick to our hands. Pasta dough has to rest before being cooked, so the gluten will create a strong bond in the dough to keep it from falling apart, and yet not be tough. So we tossed out our “practice dough” and proceeded to prepare the pasta with some dough that had already rested in the refrigerator overnight. Chef Kelly said that you can also rest your dough at room temperature for few hours if you’re going to prepare it the same day.

Beginning with the pasta machine as its widest setting, Chef Kelly fed the rested dough through the machine ten times, folding it and forming it into a rectangle as she went. She continued feeding the dough through at narrower and narrower settings, adding only enough flour to prevent the dough from sticking to the machine. When the dough was too long to fit around a fork, she cut it in half and then continued passing it through the machine until the dough was thin enough that she could see her hand through it.

Once everyone had prepared a thin dough, we let it rest briefly again and then ran it through the fettuccine attachment on the pasta machine to cut it. Our fresh pasta was now ready to cook! 

Pasta Class1You might have noticed that we did not add salt to the dough. This is because salt can turn pasta dough brown. Instead, we cooked the dough in water that had been salted to the level of seawater, about 1/3 cup of sea salt per gallon of water. When the water was boiling, we added the pasta and cooked it until it floated in the water, about one to three minutes.

While dried pasta is best complemented by a robust sauce, fresh pasta should be the “star of the show,” so Chef Kelly suggested pairing it with lighter, buttery sauces or fresh veggies. In this class, Chef Kelly helped us prepare a lovely dish by gently searing some sage in a little olive oil and tossing in some walnuts with the fresh pasta. Of course, no matter how much you enjoy cooking, its greatest reward is dining on the fruits of your labors! 

Below is a wonderful fresh pasta dish from Chef Kelly. This recipe calls for carrots, zucchini and snow peas, but feel free to experiment with any of your favorite fall vegetables. Bon appétit!

 

PASTA PRIMAVERA                                                           

{ SERVES 1 TO 2 }

1 carrot, julienned

½ zucchini, julienned

10 snow peas

¼ cup clam juice

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

¼ cup minced shallot

¼ cup dry white wine

6 shrimp, shelled and deveined

¼ cup heavy cream

½ teaspoon lemon zest

Pinch of red pepper flakes (optional)

4 ounces fresh pasta

½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

2 basil leaves

 

Heat a medium pot of generously salted water over high heat, to bring to a boil.

In a medium sauté pan over medium heat, cook the carrot, zucchini, and snow peas in the clam juice. When al dente, remove the vegetables from the pan and set aside.

In the same pan, melt the butter. Add the shallot and sauté for about 2 minutes, or until it is soft and translucent. Add the wine and cook an additional 2 to 3 minutes, until the wine almost evaporates and the mixture is nearly dry, or “sec.”  

Add the shrimp. Cook the shrimp on one side for about 3 minutes, until pink. Turn over the shrimp. Add the cream, lemon zest, and red pepper flakes. Allow the mixture to come to a gentle boil. When the liquid begins to reduce, add the cooked vegetables.

Add the pasta to the boiling, salted water and cook for 1 to 3 minutes, until it floats. Drain the pasta and add it to the shrimp and vegetable mixture. Toss in the cheese. 

Stack the basil leaves, roll them into a cigar, and slice into a chiffonade. Serve the pasta with a garnish of basil chiffonade.

Comments

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Thanks for the recipe! I just started making my own fresh pasta and it is vastly superior to the generic store bought.

You're welcome, Billy! Glad you enjoyed the recipe!

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