Ah, pasta. That gloriously simple, yet so versatile staple of so many diets around the world - including ours! The biting chill of winter's temps is just another excuse to whip up some warm, delicious pasta dishes. Coho Restaurant is a great place to go for some when you don't feel like cooking it yourself - but if you do, our own Chef Bill Messick has some pro tips for you!
Chef Bill loves pasta because there are so many ways to make it. Any basic recipe starts with flour and water; eggs are optional, but Chef Bill recommends them for a fuller flavor. Here's his recipe for perfect pasta dough:
6 egg yolks, 2 cups flour, 1 cup semolina flour, 2 tsbp olive oil, 2/3 cup water
On using semolina flour v. regular all-purpose, Chef Bill says that "since semolina has gluten, it gives the dough more elasticity" and makes it easier to work with.
So what's his favorite kind?
“I like to make agnolotti; what I like about them is that they’re a perfect bite size - you can have a bit of every component of the full dish with your pasta. Agnolotti are also a good shape for holding sauce," he says.
You can add sauces, vegetables (Chef Bill likes mushrooms), and other components to the dish, and end up with a perfect mix of pasta, veggies and sauce in every spoonful.
When making your pasta, it is best to make and cook it the same day, or freeze it right away. You can freeze any kind of pasta, too! Make sure to work the dough thoroughly (use level 4-5 on your rolling pin), unrolling it and rerolling it several times so it won't break when you're forming it into a certain type of pasta, such as ravioli, later. Another important key is to add a bit more water to the dough; it can be on the wet side and be dried out as you roll it out.
Dry the dough on a sheet pan with parchment paper in between each layer (wrap each layer in plastic wrap as well); you want to keep it from being exposed to the air, because too much air exposure will result in cracks.
When making ravioli, take care to make them small enough - just a tablespoon of filling per piece is plenty - if you're freezing it. Otherwise, the pasta will be overcooked by the time you're finished. If you aren't freezing it, the raviolis can be a bit bigger.
So there you have it - now get cooking and host an Italian night in your own kitchen!