Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Not The Way I Like To Roll


If you don’t include the countless boxes of Duncan Hines brownies I pumped out, I spent very little time in the kitchen when I lived at home. To be honest, there was no reason to. My mom is an awesome cook (I know everyone with a food blog says that, but it really is true) and it was much easier to just leave things up to her.

Having been cooking for myself for roughly 5 years now, I’m well aware of how long it can take to get food on the table and how dishes that seem simple can actually be fairly difficult. But it’s easy to forget, as illustrated by my latest cooking adventure this past weekend.

During my last couple of years in Michigan, my mom got a pasta roller and would occasionally make fresh pasta. Let me tell you, fresh pasta is freaking amazing. So good, in fact, that it makes it hard to go back to the dried stuff. Rolling pasta is much easier when done as a pair, so I would help her from time to time. In the grand scheme of pasta making, rolling it out is the simplest part (assuming you’re using a machine, not a rolling pin) and I was never really exposed to the rest of the process.

I recently found a store in Tokyo that carried pasta rollers exactly like my moms and picked one up, thinking it would be easy-peasy to make my own super delicious pasta. It’s not. For sure, there are much more difficult things to make, but pasta isn’t something you can just throw together.

The ingredients are dead simple: all you need is flour and eggs. And yet it’s getting those two ingredients together that is the tough part. The general concept is to make volcano of flour with the eggs in the middle and slowly mix the flour into the eggs. Once it’s kind of turned into a ball you knead in the rest of the flour and leave it to rest for a while.

Unfortunately, having never watched my mom put it together, I didn’t really have a sense of what the dough should feel like when it’s done. Recipes use silly and useless adjectives like “silky” and “elastic”, which are pretty much no help at all. So I kneaded for a bit, decided that was good enough, and got ready to give it a spin through the roller. Epic mistake. The dough was still far too sticky and refused to play nice.

Not really knowing how to fix it, we decided to dust it with enough flour to get it through the roller and settled for super fatty noodles (having done some reading, the solution – kneading in extra flour – is embarrassingly simple). As a result, they took longer to boil (fresh pasta normally only takes 2-3 minutes), causing the second batch to start to stick together and dry out a bit. In the end, it still tasted quite good (way better than dried pasta), but certainly not as good as it should have been.

Obviously it’s way cooler to write about smashing successes, talk about how awesome it was, and have everyone go oooh and aaah, but I think it’s good to occasionally include the failures (of which I have plenty) as well. It helps remind me that there is still much to learn.

So what’s the game plan going forward? Clearly step one is talk to mom and learn all her clever little secrets. From there, it’s just a matter of getting in enough practice and becoming comfortable with making the basic dough. Once you you’re able to make dough well, there are a billion options for dishes to make. Personally, I’m most excited to have a shot at making some stuffed pastas and getting creative with the filling. It might take a while before I’m satisfied with the quality of what I’m producing, but I’m sure that, with time, the deliciousness will come!


  1. Looks great! Can't wait to see how you do making stuffed pasta (if only fresh pasta were as easy to find in Tokyo as all that generic spaghetti).

    Where exactly did you pick up the machine?

  2. I got it at Tokyu Hands in Shibuya. Haven't seen them anywhere else around town, but there's probably a shop somewhere on Kappabashi-dori that carries them too.