Sourdough, it's not just for breakfast any more!
What's this? Sourdough pasta? Isn't this a bread blog? Nah, it's a sourdough blog. And, honestly, when I heard about sourdough pasta I was skeptical. Pasta isn't risen, so it wasn't obvious that sourdough would add anything to the pasta. Still, as a die hard sourdough nerd, I had to give it a try. And I was surprised.
Honestly, the pasta didn't taste different, but it lasts longer. I tend to make a lot of pasta dough at once, put it in the fridge and roll it out as needed. And the pasta dough tended to brown and get icky on about 2 or 3 days. When I add sourdough starter, the pasta dough stays fresh for at least a week. It also gets rid of some excess sourdough starter, which is also a plus.
Before we go further, let's talk about flour a little bit. You can use almost any flour for this. All-purpose, bread flour, high-gluten, semolina (semola), type 00, even whole grain flours such as whole wheat and rye. I like to mix flours to give the pasta extra flavor, All-purpose and semola is nice, as is all-purpose and type 00. The pasta shown in the pictures was made with half King Arthur Sir Galahad and half Rouge de Bordeaux from Barton Springs Mill. It has a lovely earthy taste and amazing texture. James Brown, the owner of Barton Springs Mill, likes to make pasta with a type 00 flour he makes from his Danko rye.
I like to use the "fountain" method where the dry ingredients are piled into a mound on the work surface and then spread a bit to form a doughnut or lifesaver shape. The liquid ingredients are put into the hole in the doughnut and then they are mixed with the dry ingredients. The flour is added to the dry ingredients a bit at a time. Once the flour is incorporated, the dough is kneaded until it will spring back from a finger press. In later steps, the dough is rolled, which completes dough development.
Pizza dough is a blank canvas you can top with whatever we like, and which we can fold it into a calzone or stromboli, And you can bake or fry pizza dough. But pasta is even more flexible, more of a blank canvas. It is estimated there are over 350 different shapes of pasta just in Italy. Wikipedia has a list of many of the pasta shapes, complete with pictures. And once your have the pasta, the possibilities have just begun! You can boil it, bake, or fry it, stuff it or top it. In this recipe, we'll just make fettuccine, and may include a recipe or two that uses Fettuccine.
Ingredients for 12 seventy gram servings:
|Volumetric Measure (Cups)||Ingredient||Grams||Baker's Percentage|
|3 3/4 Cups||Flour (See note 1)||500 Grams||100%|
|1/4 Cup||Sourdough Starter (see note 2)||60 Grams||12%|
|2 TBSP||Olive Oil||27 Grams||5.4%|
|5 each||Eggs (See note 3)||250 grams (see note 3)||50%|
|1/4 tsp||Salt||1.5 grams||0.3%|
- The flour you use will change the nutritional values of the pasta. Using whole grain flours will increase the amount of fiber in the pasta.
- The starter may be active or discarded starter. If you would rather not use starter, you may omit it and add another egg to the pasta dough.
- Large eggs in the USA average 50 grams each.
Mix the flour(s) and salt. Pour them onto a clean countertop in a mound. Move the flour so there is a large hole in the middle, making the flour look like a doughnut or life saver. Put the olive oil, starter, and eggs in the center. Using a fork, beat the eggs. Gradually incorporate the flour that is surrounding the eggs. If you have a break in the flour wall and the eggs begin to escape, you can move some of the flour to block the great escape. As the mass absorbs more flour, switch to kneading the dough. At first, it will be a shaggy mess, but it will come together.
If the dough is too wet, add a little more flour. If the dough is too dry, wet your hands and knead the water in. A small amount of added flour or water can make a huge difference in the dough consistency.
Once the dough is kneaded and springs back when you press it, wrap it in cling wrap and refrigerate it for at least half an hour.
You can roll out the dough with a rolling pin, but I prefer to use a pasta machine. I have a trusty Atlas machine I've had for over 20 years, and a recently acquired KitchenAid attachment that I'll use for this article. Start by cutting the amount of pasta dough you need off the dough ball. Prepare your dough roller and set it to its widest opening. Flour the dough ball, and roll it flat, around 3/8" or just under 1 cm. The goal is for your dough roller to be able to handle it and roll it further.
Rolling the dough completes its development. After you roll out the dough, fold it in half lengthwise and roll it out again. Repeat this, flouring the dough as needed, 4 or 5 times. The dough will become more pliable as you roll it out.
After 4 or 5 passes at the largest setting, move the setting to the next number and run the dough through again one time. It will get thinner and longer.
Again, set the setting to the next number and repeat. If the dough gets longer than you can handle, cut it in smaller pieces. Flour it as needed to keep it from sticking.
For most pastas I make, the highest setting I want to use is 5. When the dough is too thin too handle, you went too far. When the dough tears at the slightest touch or glance, you want too far. You can fold the dough in half, go back to setting 5 and run the dough through again. Pasta dough is very forgiving.
Once the dough is rolled out, it is time to cut it into fettuccine. Cut it into reasonable lengths, switch to the pasta cutter, and run the pasta dough through the cutter. I use a chopstick lift the dough and deposit it on a drying rack.
Fresh pasta takes very little time to cook. So little time that you should prepare your sauce in a separate pot as it's better to have the sauce wait for the pasta than to have the pasta wait for the sauce.
Bring a large stock pot of water to a boil. Add a sprinkle of salt. Drop in the pasta. About the time the pasta floats, it should be ready, or close to ready. Snag a strand and taste it and evaluate its texture. It will probably be done. If not, let it boil a few more seconds and try again.
At that point, drain the pasta and add it to the sauce pan with the sauce in it. Gently toss the pasta in the sauce. It will be ready in seconds. Plate and serve!
It is worth noting that I prefer to use a stock pot so I can lift out the insert to drain the pasta and still have a pot of hot water. Pasta water helps sauce stick to pasta, If the sauce isn't sticking to the pasta, add a splash of pasta water. Pasta water is great plant food once cooled. And, if you use the pasta water for a few days, your Italian nonna can show you how to use it as the base for a soup.
Below are pictures of fettuccine tossed with butter and Parmesan cheese (simple, elegant and delightful) and our fettuccine with tangy wilted spinach (also a real delight!).