There are many outstanding brands of dried pasta, but simply dumping noodles out of a box lacks creativity for many adventurous cooks. Homemade fresh pasta is much more interesting, both because it's fun to make and because you can customize it to your heart's content. For example, beet juice can turn your pasta vividly pink for special occasions. It's no more difficult than making regular pasta, but gives a memorably different appearance.
Measure 1/3 to 1/2 cup of homemade or store-bought beet juice, and pour it into your smallest saucepan. Bring it to a gentle simmer, then reduce the heat and let the juice evaporate until it reaches about half its original volume. Set the juice aside to cool.
Mound flour on your countertop, and keep more nearby to use as needed. You'll need roughly 3 eggs for every 2 cups of flour. Make a well in the middle of the flour, and crack your eggs into it. Stir the eggs lightly with a fork, then add the concentrated and cooled beet juice.
With your fork or a gloved hand, gradually work the mounded flour into your liquids. Once it becomes too stiff for the fork, switch to using gloved hands. Keep going, adding a light dusting of flour as needed, until you've incorporated all the liquids into a stiff but still pliant dough.
Cover the dough with a sheet of plastic film wrap and let it rest for at least 20 minutes, or preferably 1 to 2 hours. This allows time for the dough's gluten to relax, and for its moisture content to equalize.
Divide the dough into four to six balls, and flatten each one with the palm of your hand. Set your pasta roller to its widest setting, and run the first portion of dough through it. Double it over, and run it through again. Repeat for each remaining portion.
Adjust the pasta roller to the next-thickest setting, and run each sheet of dough through it. Repeat, until you've reached your desired thickness or the thinnest setting your machine permits.
Dry the dough for 20 to 30 minutes, turning once, until it's slightly leathery but still completely flexible. Pass it through the cutting section of your pasta roller, shredding it into fettuccine, tagliatelle or whichever other size you prefer.
Cook the noodles immediately, or spread them on sheet pans to dry overnight. Once dried thoroughly, the pink noodles can be bagged and frozen for later use.
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- Beet juice stains clothing, hands and work surfaces with a long-lasting dye, so if you own a stand mixer that's often the better alternative. Use the paddle attachment until the dough comes together, then switch to your dough hook.
- Use the sheets of dough -- "sfoglia," in the Italian term -- to make striking ravioli or canneloni, rather than cutting them into thin noodles.
- The quantity of beet juice determines how pink your pasta will be. One-third cup of juice reduced by half is enough to make a three-egg batch of pasta quite pink, while 1/2 cup makes it a vividly hot pink.
- The pasta won't have the beets' earthy flavor if it's made with this quantity of beet juice. If you'd like your pasta to taste of beets, use roasted beets and puree them instead. The texture is more porous, but the noodles have the sweet and earthy taste of beets.
Fred Decker is a trained chef and prolific freelance writer. In previous careers, he sold insurance and mutual funds, and was a longtime retailer. He was educated at Memorial University of Newfoundland and the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology. His articles have appeared on numerous home and garden sites including GoneOutdoors, TheNest and eHow.
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