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Thursday, October 6, 2011

Homemade Noodles or Pasta strands

   Today is National Noodle Day. I guess that goes right along with being National Pasta Month. I asked my husband what he wanted with noodles today, so I could whip some fresh ones up, and do you know what he asked for? Fettuccine Alfredo.
   Well, I have never made noodles for that before, I usually make noodles for chicken soup or turkey soup, after Thanksgiving, but, hey, he wants fresh made noodles with Alfredo sauce? I'm in! What's the worst that could happen? The noodles are so awful, I'll have to pull a pack of dried pasta out of the cabinet and boil new ones, but I honestly doubt that's going to happen, as long as everyone realizes that without a pasta roller, (no, that's one kitchen gadget I do not yet own, but I'm working on it) the noodles will be a bit thicker than the dried ones you buy in the store. All the better, if you ask me.
   Hmmm....Son number two will be home tonight, as this is his last day to work for the week--he works four 10-hour days, so I had better make sure I have plenty. That "boy" loves his pasta!
  The easiest pasta or noodle recipe I have found calls for 1 cup of flour, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, 1 egg, 1 teaspoon olive oil, and up to 2 tablespoons water. I just multiplied that by three to make sure I made enough noodles for dinner. These come out denser than commercially prepared noodles, but my family loves them. 
   I mixed up the batch in my Kitchen Aid stand mixer, because my hands cramp when I try to knead, which is why until I got the Kitchen Aid I did not make much bread. Now? fuggedabowdit!
   After mixing the ingredients and kneading the dough for about 5 minutes, I let the dough rest for another 10 minutes; helps the gluten to relax, which, in turn, helps the noodles stay tender. I cleared off a large section of my (much too large) island, dusted it with flour and cut the dough into 2 sections.         
   Keeping one section covered with a damp dishtowel, I rolled out the first section as thin as I could get it, and as close to a rectangle I could get, and believe me, that part is not easy. You roll one way, turn the dough a quarter turn to the right (or left) and roll again, turn, roll, turn, roll, (I'm sure you get the picture). By turning and rolling you get almost a rectangle or square. Don't worry if you rip the dough. Sprinkle a drop or two of water on the dough by the rip, overlap a good piece of dough and roll it in. And don't get anal about it being perfectly square on the edges...come on now, you're not a machine, and who's going to know? You? Are you going to tell? Well, neither am I. You can trim away the squiggly end and toss them, if you like, but this is homemade, a little imperfection is, well, just perfect in my mind.
   The dough ended up rolling thinner than I have ever gotten it before. I used a pizza cutter and cut into nice fettuccine noodles, put them on a rack to dry for about and hour, while I waited for my husband to come home.

    I don't make the sauce until everyone is home, Alfredo sauce does not hold well.  The sauce consists of 1 stick of butter (unsalted preferably), 2 cups of heavy cream, (no this is not a low-calorie dish), 1-1/2 cups of Pecorino Romano cheese, grated, preferably freshly grated, just make sure you use real cheese and not some faux cheese.
   Melt the butter in a heavy bottom saucepan, I use a 3 quart size, you can probably get away with a 2 quart. Wait until the butter is just a pool of liquid. Slowly add all the cream, stir, and heat slowly just until it comes to a simmer.  Unless you are ready to drain the macaroni, do not go any further at this time. 
   Get your salted water to a boil in a LARGE (8 quart) pot. Macaroni cooks best in lots of water, and sorry no-salt people, you HAVE to salt the water to cook all macaroni. Even just a teaspoon of salt will be better then none, trust me. Put the noodles in the boiling water and stir with a slotted spoon or spider strainer to make sure it is not sticking to the bottom. Now is when you add the Pecorino cheese to the cream and butter over the lowest possible heat, stirring. Stir the noodles in their pot every now and again, it takes 5-8 minutes to cook these thicker than store bought noodles, and they will start floating to the top of the pot. Al dente, "to the tooth" is the way to go here.  
   Drain the noodles well in a large colander and slip into a large glass bowl. Immediately pour the Alfredo sauce over the noodles and toss gently. with tongs and spoon. Grind fresh pepper, if desired over each individual serving.
   Hold onto your hats, you are in for a real treat. This is decadence in the macaroni/noodle world and only special noodles get to swim in such luxury.
   I really hope you give this a try, even if you don't attempt the homemade noodles, get a good brand, preferably imported, noodle and try the sauce. It is really easy, and worth the little extravagance once in a while. Oh, it is definitely not a meal to make often, the fat and calorie counts are quite high, but for a special occasion, go for it! 
   Looking forward to your comments, questions and feedback!

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