Every time I teach a pasta class I am asked if I make pasta all the time at home, since I make it look so easy in class. My answer is I really should, but I actually do not. The main reason that I don’t is because I haven’t got an easy place to set up the pasta rolling machine. It needs to be clamped to a solid surface with a good lip. My Dad used to clamp his pasta maker to a 2×3-foot piece of ½-inch plywood. He would leave it attached and store it leaning up behind the door in his walk-in pantry, ready for use. From what I recall, he didn’t make pasta that often either.
One of my most popular cooking classes through the years has been my Parent and Child Pasta class. This is a great way for parents to spend time with their kids (as is any Parent and Child Cooking Class), it’s fun, anyone can do it, and they really have something to show at the end of class. Everyone gets the same sense of accomplishment from making pasta, and my Kids Pasta classes and Teen Pasta classes are popular. (There’s a Teen Pasta Workshop coming up in Madison on May 14th. Email me to register.)
Somehow taking one cup of flour, ½ teaspoon of salt, about a tablespoon of olive oil and an egg and turning it into a 3-foot sheet of pasta impresses people (especially if you can eat it within minutes). There is definitely a Wow! factor here. And once you get on a roll (pardon the pun), you can make quite a few batches before it becomes a chore.
As anyone who has walked down the pasta aisle at the grocery store can attest, there are an amazing number of variations of pasta. Include the fresh pasta in the refrigerated section and it is most impressive indeed. Most of the pasta shapes have evolved to match a type of food or sauce. For example, a nice luscious sauce clings more to larger, wider pasta and pasta shaped like scoops can catch small mouthfuls of a Bolognese sauce. Different shapes have different “mouth-feels” that are perfect for specific flavors and sauces. My personal favorite pastas include angel hair, orzo and linguini. I am pretty simple. I have, however, tried twenty-five or thirty different sizes, shapes and cuts of pasta. There are still hundreds if not thousands of other types of pasta out there in the world, to bite into. So far, I have never met a pasta I didn’t like.