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PamMehnert

Hi, I'm Pam Mehnert

As Outpost's general manager, Pam's work keeps her at the office, in meetings, or in front of her computer more than a simple 40 hours each week. However, her passion as a foodie has driven her to take on this challenge for the culinary experience of...
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Pam Mehnert

A Year of Inconvenience

A Year of Inconvenience
For one year, I'm making everything from scratch and forgoing convenience foods. Join me on my journey! By Pam Mehnert on June 2, 2010
I woke up around 6 am on Memorial Day to the sound of rolling thunder and a gentle spring rain against the window. Listening to the rain I thought I probably wasn't going to spend a lot of time outdoors in the garden as I planned, so my mind began to wander, and it went directly to pasta.

Pasta...glorious pasta. Goes well with the many tomato products I wrote about in my last post. I tried making pasta from scratch only once several months ago. The dough was "springy" and I had a difficult time getting it to roll flat with my traditional "roller" rolling pin. So while on vacation in San Francisco last month, I bought a solid maple wood pin as a "souvenir." Then, just a week ago I ordered a Marcato Italian pasta maker online - and it arrived in the mail today. Seriously, I've been thinking a lot about pasta and with summer weather already upon us I'm already starting to miss the quick and easy Outpost lunches of tuna pasta salad, macaroni salad, and penne pasta with turkey.

So I woke up Memorial Day in the middle of a thunderstorm and decided to try my hand at pasta from scratch once again. Lisa and I actually spent the entire day cooking that holiday, and had a ton of fun doing it. Preparing food for the week became an activity, rather than a chore - something I imagined this food quest would feel like every week - although this really was the only time so far where production wasn't accompanied by cursing or fist pounding. I turned a few pounds of slightly bruised tomatoes into diced tomatoes for freezing, made chicken rice soup, refried beans from scratch, flour tortillas from scratch, and fresh fettuccini. Lisa cooked up a savory pot of Dal, which is also easily frozen for future lunch or dinner.

The fun part in the day came from one part innovation and three parts success. The pasta dough came together great using the food processor, and I'm starting to get a feel for dough that should be "smooth" after about a minute of kneading. Without the proper tool to hang the pasta to dry, Lisa quickly suggested a method her Mom used to use when she was little - hang it up using a curtain rod. Imagine what the neighbors must have thought looking out the window, "Oh there go those natural food girls again, decorating with wheat." Our cat Olive was quite amused by the whole process, so hanging the pasta at a level where she couldn't reach became essential. In the end, we ended up with four servings of fettuccini that went directly into storage bags and into the freezer.

I got this pasta recipe from Mark Bittman's book, "How To Cook Everything." Seriously, he tells you how to cook everything! I haven't found a miss in this book yet, and we've been cooking from it for about six years or so. (http://www.howtocookeverything.tv) I'm so ready to take on a round of ziti!

Fresh Eggless Pasta
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more as needed
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • tablespoons butter, softened (or olive oil)

Combine the flour and salt in the food processor, pulsing once or twice. With the machine running, add 1/2 cup really hot water along with the butter or olive oil through the feed tube. Add the water slowly until a ball begins to form (which takes about 30 seconds). The dough should be slightly wet, but easy to pick up. If it's dry and grainy, add a few more drops of water. If it's too sticky, add a tablespoon of flour.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead it for about one minute until it begins to feel smooth. Divide the dough into eight similar size balls, cover them and let the dough rest for about 30 minutes.

Taking one ball at a time, roll the dough as thin as you can roll it, flipping the dough over as often as you can, lightly flouring the rolling surface as needed. (If you have a pasta roller you can use that, but I really enjoy controlling the dough with my maple rolling pin.) Cut the dough into strips for fettuccini, or broad strips for pappardelle. The dough can then be cooked right away, otherwise hang the strands to dry for a few hours. Pasta can be easily frozen for future use.

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