Rachel's Pasta Party

I led a cooking party for my friend's daughter's 13th birthday this week, and as these parties typically go, the girls had fun, learned some new things and enjoyed a great dinner. Rachel had picked an Italian theme:

Caesar Salad
Meatballs
Sauce Trio - Marinara, Alfredo, and Pesto - with Bowtie Pasta
Cheesy Garlic Bread
Spice Cake (above, made by her grandmother)

While we were waiting for everything to finish cooking, we did a test run of making pasta by hand and I taught them both the southern Italian technique with semolina, barley flour, and water as well as the northern Italian technique of egg pasta. I know this looks like we used four eggs, but to the delight of the girl's, both eggs we cracked into the semolina were twins, so 4 yolks out of two Nest Fresh Eggs made for a rich pasta! Homemade pasta isn't something you probably want to do every day, but it can be fun for a special occasion, and using semolina makes a roughly textured pasta that really grabs onto to the sauce and holds it.

Semolina Pasta
Yields about 1 pound

1 cup semolina
1 cup unbleached all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 large eggs ( or if you get double yolks, two will probably work!)

Combine semolina and flour and salt - mix well and form a well in the middle, leaving about 10% of the semolina mixture off to the side in case your dough is too wet. (It's always easier to add more dry ingredients than it is to add more wet ingredients, especially when making egg pasta.)

Crack eggs into the center of the well you've created. Lightly beat eggs (in the well) with a fork to break up the yolks, then start pulling some of the semolina mixture from the sides. When the dough starts coming together, begin using your hands to knead the dough into a ball, adding a little more semolina and flour if the dough is sticky or wet.

Once the dough has come together and is smooth, let it rest under a towel for 30 minutes before rolling it out (by hand with a rolling pin or through a pasta machine) and cutting into the desired pasta shape.

One simple way to cut the pasta by hand is to fold the rolled out sheet of dough over as if you are folding a pleated drape, then cut it into thin ribbons for fettucine or thicker ribbons for pappardelle. Toss with a little semolina so the pieces don't stick together and let it air dry for a couple of hours before cooking.

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