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Q&A -- Pasta Around the Mediterranean

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Excellent article! Thank you.

The Balic family pasta sounds delicious. I love the idea of pasta soaking up the juices from a roast.

So what did I buy recently that was labeled fine semolina? It is like a very fine grainy cornmeal. Any way to utilize that in pasta making?

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Thanks for the kind comments.

RE: Semolina flour. Durum wheat flour is Semolina flour and is much more coarse in texture then soft wheat flour (harder to mill). Different manufacturers produce slightly different products and the levels of gluten and fineness of the flour can vary. So in Italy people userly have a specific brand that they trust. The easiest thing for you to do is to use the flour to make some pasta. If it gives you the type of pasta that you want then great, if not you can look for another brand.

I quite sure that it will be OK to use though.

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Adam, thank you for the well researched and well written article. Your approach was especially interesting, as the larger subject of pasta outside Italy is not as thoroughly covered in the literature as it should be.

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Adam, thank you for the well researched and well written article. Your approach was especially interesting, as the larger subject of pasta outside Italy is not as thoroughly covered in the literature as it should be.

Robert - if you are interested in a much more detailed examination of pasta around the Med. then I would point you to the Clifford Wright book that I mentioned in the thread. An excellent book (although I wish that he was more detailed in his referencing).

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slkinsey   

Adam - Just saw the class, as I was overtaken with holiday preparations when it posted. Wolderfully written and most informative! I have some half-formed questions for you, but need to give your article another read first.

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Thanks Sam, but you will have to ask you questions in the next few days as I am off to Australia soon.

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Blondie   

Great job, Adam. The Chestnut Papardelle with Wild Boar sounds fantastic.

Do you have any tips on storing the excess when making fresh pasta?

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Excess?

Fresh pasta can discolour on storage, due to development of melanins and soft wheat flour pasta becomes very brittle when dried. So for soft wheat pasta I would use it up on the day or prehaps even freeze it fresh, but not dry it. For Semolina/Durum wheat pasta I would dry it store in a cool dry place.

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slkinsey   

I have had good results freezing fresh egg pasta in "nidi."

That said, it doesn't keep indefinitely in the freezer. It seems to dry out over time, and it's easy to break by knocking something into it while it's frozen.

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Blondie   

What about about adding other items to the dough (like spinach), and your opinion on using a food processor or mixer to knead the dough?

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What about about adding other items to the dough (like spinach), and your opinion on using a food processor or mixer to knead the dough?

I haven't done it much as I don't really like flavoured pasta (not that the spinach gives that much flavour), as I like the contrast between the sauce and pasta. I have made saffron flavoured pasta (for the mussel pasta recipe), but concluded that I prefer to add the saffron to the sauce.

I'm sure there would be no problem with using a food processor with a plastic blade, but I haven't done it. I can't judge the difference it would make without having compared the two techniques.

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slkinsey   
I haven't done it much as I don't really like flavoured pasta (not that the spinach gives that much flavour)...

Exactly! It's a huge pain in the ass, and you can't taste the spinach anyway. I've also never been a big fan of flavored pastas, because 9 times out of 10 you can't taste the flavoring in the pasta anyway (and when you can, you often wish you hadn't). I went to a lot of trouble one time to make "gremolata flavored" pasta alla chitarra that I served with sugo di osso buco (riffing on the whole gremolata with osso buco thing). Couldn't taste the gremolata at all. Would have been much more effective to simply dress the pasta with the osso buco sauce and sprinkle gremolata over it.

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What about about adding other items to the dough (like spinach), and your opinion on using a food processor or mixer to knead the dough?

Sorry to be so late...blame it on the season. I have tried making dough by hand, Cuisinart processor, and Kitchen Aid. My best results have been from the food processor with the STEEL blade, not the "dough" blade. I am referring to fresh pasta made with flour and eggs only. It takes about 2 minutes and the dough is ready to be put through the (Atlas) hand-cranked pasta roller. No need to knead...the Atlas does it for you. Makes a lovely pasta.

I agree that adding other ingredients does not add much to the taste plus makes getting the pasta the right consistency much more difficult. But one reason to bother might be for the presentation of a particular dish...colors can be impressive.

I have wondered if squid ink pasta actually has a distinct taste?

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Glad to see that the pasta making worked out well. Good tips on the best methods to use as well.

I prefer to add the sepia/squid ink to the sauce, but for presentation reasons I am sure that you could flavour the pasta. The pasta can taste of the ink, as it is strong flavour, but I think that adding the ink to the sauce fresh would allow you to control the flavours better. On the other hand squid ink ravioli with a white of coloured filling would look interesting.

One thing that you can do for reasons of presentation is to use a stencil to make shapes on the pasta out of herbs etc. at the stage in the pasta making where you are putting the past though the rollers. Or you can incorporate whole leaves, such as flat leaved parsley etc.

There some pasta recipes that suggest the addition of Vin Santo, to flavour the pasta. I have my doubts about this, but it is a possiblity.

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Adam:

Excellent work. Thank you.

Question. I want to make a chocolate pasta. Don't try to talk me out of it. My recipe for pasta is the same ration of semolina and OO flour. Would you suggest I replace part of the OO flour with cocoa, and if so, do you think 1/2 cup will be enough? What problems should I look out for when executing the formula?

Thanks so much. Your piece really got me excited.

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Actually, I have had chocolate flavoured pasta in Cinque Terra. Ravioli with stripes of chocolate (I think that a plain and chocolate flavoured pasta was braided together, then put through the pasta maker).

I think that to much cocoa powder, could make the pasta quite bitter and dull the other flavours. You could use 75% CB chocolate instead. I would melt it and incorpated it into the dough just before the kneading stage.

As for exact amounts, different cocoa powders and chocolates have different strengths of flavour. I'm afraid that I would experiment by adding a little, then increasing the amount gradually until the desired colour was gained.

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Adam, a truly superior piece of work. In particular, the balance between history and recipes is perfect.

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Thank you Bill, that is very kind. My impression was that as a item of food writing is that it needed pictures. :laugh: . Time and work constraints prevented this, but it was an interesting thing to learn.

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Marlene   

Recipes from this course are now available in RecipeGullet. A link to this course has been provided in the introduction section of each recipe. :smile:

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jzchef23   

great article. I am trying out a a butternut squash pappardelle and can't seem to get the dough to work right. I tried a mix of semolina and AP flour, but it always needs more and the final product is flavorless and too tacky to work with. Any suggestions?

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MobyP   

I'm sure Adam will have the answer, but if I can ask, what do you do to the squash before using it? It would seem to me that you would really have to slow roast it for a while, well seasoned with maybe a little balsamic to glaze and a little thyme, to concentrate the flavours. Then, you can't use too much in the pasta mix without causing damage to the final texture. So probably 1/2 or 2/3 rds of a cup of puree at the outside per 400g flour. What proportions were you using?

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slkinsey   

My experience has been that making flavored pasta is usually not worth the trouble unless the flavoring agent has a highly concentrated flavor, like a spice. Spinach pasta, for example, is pretty but doesn't particularly taste of spinach. This is especially problematic if you sauce the flavored pasta with anything more than a little butter and cheese, as a flavorful sauce will completely obliterate the subtle flavor of whatever you tried to work into the pasta dough.

For something like squash, I think you're better off going for gnocchi.

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Sorry. I have been away for a few days. I think that Moby and Sam covered it well. The tackiness can be due to several things, but id you describe what propotions you use then, it might be easier to help out.

To add to Sam's comments, Butternut squash lacks the intensity of flavour of th Italian pumpkins I have used. These are almost red coloured in flesh and intense in flavour, but even then they are mostly used as a stuffing or as a base for gnocchi. I think that butternut squash* is still and issue, one suggestion is to use half squash, half orange fleshed sweet potato, which has a better colour and flavour.

A recipe from gnocchi would be:

250 gm butternut or other flavourful squash

250 gm orange fleshed sweet potato

100 gm 00 or AP flour

1 tsp baking powder

1 large egg

2 tsp grated parmesan or aged pecorino

pinch of nutmeg**

bake the squash and sweet potato at 180C until soft. Puree flesh, incoprate dry ingredients and mix in egg.

Bring a large pot of well salted water to boil, pipe in gnocchi mixture into water, snipping off 2-3 cm lengths. Cook for 2-3 minutes and then drain well, these can be stored and reheated in the oven. Great with a sage butter sage.

This recipe was addapted from Anna del Conte's "Gastronomy of Italy".

* Based on my experience, there are different strains of this veg, some better then others

** nutmeg can be replaced with a couple of finely ground amaretti biscuits.

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