Homemade pasta-a fun activity with kids…
…and boy is it worth it! My aunt gave me this hand-cranked pasta maker called the “Pasta Queen”about a hundred years ago and I believe I used it once when I was like 25 and then put it away for good, intimidated by my first experience with it.
The Pasta Queen:
I have been meaning to bring it back out again and being Easter, I decided this was the right day to take on such a labor-intensive activity. I enlisted my 5-year old and my 3-year old to help and the results were priceless. If you are a baker, this is something you should try because it is not that difficult. But let me warn you-we got pretty messy!
I used Mario Batali’s recipe for fresh pasta, which seems to be the same one I found everywhere. You take 3 1/2 cups of white flour and dump it on a floured table and make a well in the center with your fingertips (5-year old’s job). Then you crack 4 eggs into the well (enter 3-year old) and drizzle a tablespoon of olive oil in there too. You gently mix up the eggs and the oil with a fork. Then you knead the whole thing together with your hands, just like you would bread.
You knead for 5-6 minutes, then wrap it in plastic wrap or a towel and let it sit for 30 minutes. Once it has rested, you cut it into pieces and start putting them through the thickest setting in the “Queen.” Then you run the same piece through a thinner setting, then again until it is the thin/thickness you desire.
Above you see my 3-year old putting the dough into the machine. After you get the dough pieces thin enough, you move the crank down to either the spaghetti or the fettucini setting (that’s all I have on my machine but I know you can get all kinds of settings). You then stick the thin dough through and crank out your pasta. See below.
Next, we take a brief pause so my son can pretend he is Louis Prima as we dance around to Buona Sera in the kitchen.
Finally, we dump our pasta into boiling, salted water, and cook for like 2 minutes. While it cooks, we saute a little garlic with breadcrumbs and fresh parsley and red pepper. When the pasta is done, we toss it with the breadcrumb mixture and add some grated Pecorino Romano cheese on top and enjoy!
For variety, we grated some lemon zest into one of the balls of pasta to see if that would give it a nice essence. Of course we had leftover sheets of fresh pasta, so we sprinkled some semolina flour on the sheets (you could use regular flour or cornmeal but without something, it will stick) and wrapped them in wax paper and stuck them inside a plastic bag and into the freezer.
The kids had fun, we made a mess and boy was this the best pasta I ever had!