Tuesday, June 7, 2022

Prepper’s Pantry: Pasta

Being partially of Italian and Sicilian heritage on one side of my family and Eastern European on both, pasta of various types is a staple in our kitchen as my genetics require regular servings of pasta and egg noodles to remain content. Pasta is also pretty simple to make and doesn’t require much in the way of ingredients, making it an ideal dish for preppers. 

At its heart, basic pasta is a simple combination of flour (usually Durum Semolina) and water in the right proportions. A good noodle dough can also be made with flour and egg, or a combination of flour, water, egg, and oil, but these extra ingredients aren’t an absolute necessity for good noodles. Beyond those basics all sorts of additional flavorings can be added to fresh noodles, most commonly herbs and spices, and if rolled out carefully small seeds can be mixed in, although there is a concern with tearing the dough.

While pasta can be made entirely by hand, there are a number of labor saving options, from the classic Marcato Atlas manual pasta maker, an attachment for a KitchenAid mixer, or a dedicated electric pasta maker. Yard and estate sales are good places to look for these items, often at a sharp discount.

The author's Marcato Atlas

Most pasta makers will come with a small recipe book, but there are many more comprehensive ones available. My personal favorite is an older copy of The Pasta Machine Cookbook, but there’s also an updated edition. For those who like ravioli, there are manual, Atlas, and KitchenAid options to make those as well. Since I don’t make them very often, I only have an older variation of the manual ravioli press, though I have considered getting the Atlas attachment.

Preparation of most types of flat noodles is extremely straight forward: Mix the ingredients according to the recipe, roll out to the appropriate thinness, and then cut into the desired shapes. Unless it’s being cooked right away, pasta needs to dry a bit before being stored; there are a number of racks available on the market (such as this or this) for that step. While most are made of wood or plastic, metal drying racks can occasionally be found.

Short term storage (a few days) can be in any container with a tight fitting lid in the refrigerator; any longer than that and the pasta should be more thoroughly dried, wrapped tightly in plastic wrap or vacuum sealed to reduce oxidation, and then frozen. Even then, it should be eaten within a month or so, as its flavor and texture are likely to change over time.

Once the pasta is made, it’s ready to be cooked: just drop it in a pot of water boiled with a pinch of salt, which increases the boiling temperature slightly. If you made the paste with an egg, the suggested minimum cook time is usually around five minutes to make sure any C. botulinum spores are killed; pasta made without egg can be cooked for a shorter time based on desired tenderness.

Once the pasta is done to the desired tenderness, drain the water, top with your preferred sauce -- conventional wisdom states that the thinner the pasta, the lighter the sauce: gravy for thick egg noodles, a hearty tomato sauce for linguini, and a simple olive oil (or butter) and garlic for angel hair -- serve, and enjoy.

Bon appétit!

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