The History Of Pasta: Spaghetti & Linguine Edition
The history of what we know today as pasta begins in Sicily dating back as far as 1152AD. Writing dating back to the 1st and 2nd century historian and author Athenaeus of Naucratis provides a recipe for lasagna which he attributes to the 1st century Chrysippus people of Tyana: sheets of dough made of wheat flour and the juice of crushed lettuce, then flavored with spices and deep-fried in oil. They would later fill these sheets of dough with meats resembling modern day pasta dishes. Common forms of pasta include long shapes, short shapes, tubes, flat shapes and sheets, miniature soup shapes, filled or stuffed, and specialty or decorative shapes. As a category in Italian cuisine, both fresh and dried pastas are classically used in one of three kinds of prepared dishes. As pasta asciutta (or pastasciutta) cooked pasta is plated and served with a complimentary sauce or condiment. A second classification of pasta dishes is pasta in brodo in which the pasta is part of a soup-type dish. A third category is pasta al forno in which the pasta incorporated into a dish that is subsequently baked.
Pasta is generally a simple dish, but it comes in many varieties due to its versatility. Some pasta dishes are served as first courses in Italy because the portion sizes are small and simple. Pasta is also prepared in light lunches, such as salads, or large portion sizes for dinner. It can be prepared by hand or food processor and served hot or cold. Pasta sauces vary in taste, color and texture. When choosing which type of pasta and sauce to serve together, there is a general rule regarding compatibility. Simple sauces like pesto are ideal for long and thin strands of pasta while tomato sauce combines well with thicker pastas. Thicker and chunkier sauces are better able to cling onto the holes and cuts of short, tubular, twisted pastas. The extra sauce left on the plate after all the pasta is eaten is often mopped up with a piece of bread.
Chefs know that when choosing flower for their product they must first consider the final product desired. To achieve a firm, resilient product, like pasta, high-protein flour will give your pasta the strength to withstand being stretched and pulled without tears forming in the dough. If you want a light fluffy cake protein levels should then be lowered to around 8%-10% by weight. The lower level of proteins allows for the dough to form together while being silky and smooth to taste. Other factors including acidity, moisture content, humidity of workspace, time and firmness of dough all affect the final pasta product.
All-Purpose Flour – A blend of hard and soft wheat; it may be bleached or unbleached. It is usually translated as “plain flour.” All-Purpose Flour has 8% to 11% protein (gluten). All-Purpose Flour is one of the most commonly used and readily accessible flour in the United States. Flour that is bleached naturally as it ages is labeled “unbleached,” while chemically treated flour is labeled “bleached.” Bleached flour has less protein than unbleached. Bleached is best for piecrusts, cookies, quick breads, pancakes and waffles. Use unbleached flour for yeast breads, Danish pastry, puff pastry, strudel, Yorkshire pudding, lairs, cream puffs and popovers.
Almond Flour (Gluten Free) – Just a touch of this flour (about 1/4 of the flour mixture) is all you need to add moistness, a little binding, light almond flavor, and density to baked goods. It is especially good in pastry crusts, cookies, and quick breads.
Barley Flour (Low Gluten) – A non-wheat flour made from grinding whole barley. It is a popular alternative to wheat flour because, unlike many non-wheat flours, it contains some gluten. This flour has a mild, but slightly nutty taste. This flour also has fewer calories and more than four times the fiber of all-purpose. When consuming products made of barley flour instead of All-Purpose Flour, one can triple the fiber intake. When making yeast bread recipes, there is not enough gluten in barley flour to properly develop the bread, and it is recommended swapping only one quarter of all-purpose flour for barley flour in yeast bread recipes, it is great in quick breads and pancakes.
Bread Flour – Is white flour made from hard, high-protein wheat. It has more gluten strength and protein content than all-purpose flour. It is unbleached and sometimes conditioned with ascorbic acid, which increases volume and creates better texture. Bread flour has 12% to 14% protein (gluten). This is the best choice for yeast products.
Buckwheat Flour (Gluten Free) – It is packed with nutrients, readily available, easy to work with and has a nice nutty flavor. Check out the article “Buckwheat Flour – Adds Nutrients and Flavor to Baked Goods” on the Cooking America website.
Cake Flour – A fine-textured, soft-wheat flour with a high starch content. It has the lowest protein content of any wheat flour, 8% to 10% protein (gluten). It is chlorinated (a bleaching process which leaves the flour slightly acidic, sets a cake faster and distributes fat more evenly through the batter to improve texture. When making baked goods with a high ratio of sugar to flour, this flour will be better able to hold its rise and will be less liable to collapse. This flour is excellent for baking fine-textured cakes with greater volume and is used in some quick breads, muffins and cookies. If cake flour is unavailable, substitute bleached all-purpose flour, but subtract 2 tablespoons of flour for each cup used in the recipe (if using volume measuring).
Chickpea Flour (Gluten Free) – Also known as garbanzo flour, gram flour, and besan. Made from dried chickpeas ground into a flour. Used in many countries, it is a staple ingredient in Indian, Pakistan, and Nepal cuisines. You can use this flour as an egg substitute in vegan cookery. You can substitute up to half the amount of all-purpose flour called for in a recipe with chickpea flour. It is also very easy to make your own Chickpea Flour by processing dried chickpeas in your blender or food processor.
Corn Flour (Gluten Free) – A powdery flour made of finely-ground cornmeal and milled from the whole kernel. Corn flour comes in yellow and white and is used for breading and in combination with other flours in baked goods. White corn flour is used as a filler, binder and thickener in cookie, pastry and meat industries.
Instant Flour (Wondra from Gold Medal) – Is granular and formulated to dissolve quickly in hot or cold liquids. It will not work as a substitute for all-purpose flour. Although there are recipes on the container for popovers and other baked goods, it is used primarily in sauces and gravies.
Millet Flour (Gluten Free) – Millet is one of the oldest foods known and possibly the first cereal grain to be used for domestic purposes. Millet flour is most commonly used in desserts and sweet breads largely because of the grain’s naturally sweet flavor. When substituting for wheat flour, it is usually best to start with about a 3-to-1 ratio of wheat to millet
Organic Flour – Used in the same way as regular flour. It must follow U.S. Department of Agriculture regulations to be labeled “organic.” Using this flour is a matter of personal preference, but, in backing it behaves the same way their non-organic counterparts do.
Pastry Flour – Also is made with soft wheat and falls somewhere between all-purpose and cake flour in terms of protein content and baking properties. Pastry flour (also known as cookie flour) has a protein (gluten) of 9% to 10%. Pastry flour can be used for making biscuits, piecrusts, brownies, cookies and quick breads. Pastry flour makes a tender but crumbly pastry. It is not recommended for yeast breads. Pastry flour (both whole-wheat and regular) is not readily available at supermarkets, but can be found at specialty stores and online. You can try to mimic it by using a 2-to-1 ratio of all-purpose flour to cake flour.
Pumpernickel Flour (Low Gluten) – This flour is made from coarsely ground whole rye berries. It is the rye equivalent of whole-wheat flour. Pumpernickel breads tend to be dense, dark, and strongly flavored.
Quinoa Flour (Gluten Free) – It is one of the most nutritious grain flour available. Quinoa is considered a grass/seed and not a grain. This powerful little grain is a great addition to any diet, but is an ideal solution for those following a gluten free, vegan or vegetarian diet. You can substitute this flour for half of the all-purpose flour in many recipes or completely replace wheat flour in cakes and cookie recipes. This is a very expensive flour to purchase.
Rice Flour (Gluten Free) – Rice flour is a form of flour made from finely milled rice. This flour can be made from either white or brown rice and can be used interchangeably. White Rice Flour (also called Mochik) is lighter, milder, and easier to digest than wheat flour. Some find white rice flour to be slightly gritty, but many find it preferable to bean flours. It is great as a thickening in sauces. You can also make your own rice flour – just place rice of your choice (white or brown) in your blender and process until it forms a powder.
Rye Flours (Low Gluten) – There are light, medium, and dark colored varieties of rye flour. The color of the flour depends on how much of the bran has been removed through the milling process. Because rye flour is low in gluten, some suggest substituting 1/3 of the amount of rye with wheat flour to ensure the bread will rise properly.
Self-Rising Flour – Also known as Raising Flour and sometimes as phosphated flour. This is a low-protein flour with about 1 1/4 teaspoons of baking powder and a pinch of salt added during milling for every cup of made. It is especially suited for biscuits, muffins, cakes, and pastries. It is also available bleached or unbleached. It is often recommended for biscuits and some quick breads, but never for yeast breads. Exact formulas, including the type of baking powder used, vary by manufacturer. Recipes that call for self-rising flour do not call for the addition of salt or leavening agents.
Semolina Flour –It is made from durum wheat, the hardest type of wheat grown. The flour is highest in gluten. When other grains, such as rice or corn, are similarly ground, they are referred to as “semolina” with the grain’s name added, i.e., “corn semolina” or “rice semolina.” It is also used in making the pasta we carry at Olivina Taproom.
Sorghum Flour (Gluten Free) – A very good substitute for wheat flour in many recipes, especially if combined with other denser flours.
Soy Flour (Gluten Free) – Made from ground soy beans. Full-fat and low-fat soy flours work best in sweet, rich, baked goods like cookies, soft yeast breads, and quick breads. Soy flour can be substituted for approximately 10% to 30% of the wheat or rye flour in most recipes.
Balancing PH – As an example, alkaline noodles are very popular product for Asian dishes. The alkalinity allows the dough to turn a yellow hue as well as resemble the mouth feel of egg like dough. A simple addition of 1 teaspoon of baking soda to your pasta sauce can be lighter on the stomach, however, when changing the acidity of any product one can expect a chemical change in flavor.
Moisture - Moisture is one of the most crucial factors when forming dough. A pasta dough that has high moisture will be soft to the touch and very fragile, a wonderful choice for fried noodles. If you were to add moist noodles to any acidic or water-based sauce, the moisture of the dish will turn the noodles into a mushy mess. However, if your dough does not contain enough moisture, the protein strains are unable to form together leaving your pasta ball incomplete. The industry standard is 30% moisture of pasta balls. Anything below 20% will not allow the dough balls to form. Anything over 45% moisture will turn cooking water into a starchy solution.
Kneading - The kneading process is very important because pasta must withstand various chemical changes. If your pasta noodles are not formed properly they will disintegrate and turn the pasta water into a starchy liquid. Over-kneading the dough may cause problems later, so simply apply moisture and allow pasta to rest.
Humidity - Humidity is just as important as the moisture of your dough. If your workspace is too humid, this can make the kneading process very difficult and troublesome. However, a very humid environment can work to your favor as well. If, by some chance, you make the pasta too dry or too over-worked, simply wrap the dough in plastic wrap that is coated with oil. To speed the process up for very dry pasta balls, you can loosely wrap the dough ball and place a warm wash cloth on top and place a large mixing bowl over bowl, forcing your pasta ball to relax.
Firmness - The firmness of your dough is the final factor to consider. All pasta requires a certain amount of kneading and forming before it is ready to eat. When you form your pasta ball from flour and egg you will notice your pasta ball is very loose. This is because the protein fibers have formed to a point but are not very resilient to chemical change. Folding and kneading your pasta dough via a machine or rolling pin will tighten the protein fibers, thus allowing it to withstand the boiling process as well as the ability to soak up water and acid without falling apart.
During our first class we will discuss forming pasta balls and demonstrate the proper kneading process. Next, we will cover how to form your pasta with a hand crank pasta maker. For help you may refer to the guide above or the step-by-step guide below to assist in your troubleshooting.
So to start this magical process
you will need the following
2. Solid, Flat Surface
3. Appropriate Flour
4. Measuring Cups
5. Whisk or Fork
6. Seasonings and Oils
7. Warm Distilled Or Tap Water
Spaghetti and Linguine
The standard pasta recipe is as follows:
1 Egg • 1 Teaspoon Olive Oil
1 Cup of Flour (60/40) • ¼ Teaspoon of Salt
1/4 Cup Warm Water
Begin with 1 cup of flour and place it onto a hard surface. With your measuring cup, create a crater in the middle of the flour. Pour warm water into center of break the egg and place into the center of the flour well. Add the extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper and any DRY spices now. Use a fork or whisk and carefully beat the mixture while slowly pulling the flour into the mixture. Once mixture thickens, slowly continue adding flour. You can pinch some from the edges and sprinkle over top, do not rush this step as you don’t want to allow it to make a mess. After a few moments, the dough will turn very thick. Make sure you can pick up the mixture with your fingers without it sticking to much before starting the kneading process. Once your pasta dough has formed to the consistency that you can work with, begin kneading process by pressing the dough flat then folding it onto itself. Make sure to add a bit more flour ONLY when it sticks to your fingers or hands BUT DO NOT ADD IT TOO FAST. Make sure you take your time to form the gluten wall. Depending on the resistance of the dough you can roll it out with one or both hands into a shape resembles a “Play Doh Snake” once the dough stretches past the edges of your hands fold onto its self and repeat the process till all ridges are smooth on the pasta. Ball the dough be folding both ridges together to form the dough ball. Use your non-dominate hand and slightly cup the dough ball with the folded part of the dough facing your palm. With your dominate hand roll in a clockwise or counter clockwise rotation to create friction on the bottom of the dough ball to close any air pockets or cracks within the folded dough. With your index finger lightly press the dough, hard enough to make a 1 cm indentation and allow for the dough to rise back to its original position. If this is not the case, press the dough into a round flat shape. The next phase of kneading, if “needed,” will be the corner fold technique in which you start at the top of the dough or “12:00 clock” press flat against a lightly floured surface, then folding the pressed shape of the dough into the of the dough. Repeating the process all the way around the dough to create to rotations. Repeat the folding technique to close and shape the pasta dough. The dough will fill light and with a firm springy feel. The dough itself will be slightly white with no cracks or ridges and your hands themselves should feel soft and clean of dough for the most part. Once your dough is kneaded wrap it in plastic wrap and allow to rest for 10-15 minutes for a single serving of pasta. Any more than 4 portions will require 30 minutes to rest before forming the pasta noodles. Now that your pasta dough has rested for the appropriate amount of time, next begins the kneading phase where we strengthen the resistance of the pasta dough. (For use of rolling pins refer to ravioli section of this packet).
You will know the dough has rested for the appropriate amount of time if it does not stick to your plastic wrap, if it has developed a light shiny sheen to the outside surface and if you cut through the center of the dough, that there is no air pockets or none formed pasta dough flour. Take your pasta ball from the plastic wrap and then wrapping up the remaining dough into the plastic wrap. Flatten and round your dough ball out rubbing flour into its skin. Place in your pasta rolling sheeting section. On the largest setting, begin to roll the pasta, flattening it out. When the sheets become too moist, they will begin to stick to everything, so make sure to add flour to the sheets. Rub flour into skin - do not press into the skin. A trick to resilient dough is “7 on 7,” meaning 7 mm (or, the largest setting) and running the sheets through seven times. Once you have finished sheeting your pasta dough, begin to thin your sheets by reducing the size on your pasta machine. Refer to guide in back on appropriate sizes for each pasta. Flour your dough before cutting and flour and fluff when you have finished cutting. Place in tightly covered bowl in fridge for up to 3 days uncooked. Cooked pasta with olive oil coating will last 4 days if refrigerated.