Nettle Pasta (And A New Toy)

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A New Pasta Machine

I bought a pasta machine.* Extravagant, I know but I’ve been talking myself out of it for a while and as I’ve been unable to get hold of my usual spaghetti since the lockdown, it seemed a justifiable purchase at this point. 

It’s fun to make your own pasta occasionally but it can be a laborious process, this is a game changer! 

Making Pasta

Making Pasta

I’ve used a pasta machine before in my cheffing days but it’s been a while so it took me some time to remember the process… Then it all came back to me, that damned pasta machine! 😣

Feeding huge sheets of pasta through the machine for the ravioli, over and over, thinner and thinner, oh so carefully until… the very last run, a little nick in the roller would rip it to shreds reducing me to almost tears and turning the air blue! 

The Joy Of Taking Your Time

But this, this is an entirely different experience. Made all the better for the contrast.
The pasta machine is smaller, so I’m working with more manageable quantities of dough, the roller is in pristine condition, smooth and shiny, no nasty nicks. It is peaceful in my kitchen, just me quietly and lovingly preparing a meal for myself and loved ones. I’m not making ravioli this time and the pasta doesn’t need to be anywhere near as thin for fettuccine which makes it much easier. 

Some traditional processes can take cooking to a higher level; Making curry paste in a pestle and mortar for example; toasting the spices to fill the air with fragrant smells, gently pounding and grinding them together with fresh herbs and spices, slowly breaking down the fibres, inhaling the heady aroma. 
Sure, it’s quicker and easier to chuck it in a blender or buy a paste but quick and easy isn’t always better. There can be so much joy and satisfaction to be had in taking time to prepare good food. 

I found a similar enjoyment making this pasta, soon getting into a melodic rhythm. It doesn’t take long once you get started either so it’s easy to make enough for several meals in one go. You can dry or freeze the pasta for later use, or keep it in the fridge for a day or two. 

Nettle Pasta

How To Make Pasta

The first time I ever made pasta was as a child, with my aunt in Serbia. We made a pile of flour with a well in the middle, added an egg and mixed it together before kneading, rolling, cutting and hanging the noodles to dry over a chair (at least that is how I remember it, it was a long time ago!).

Though traditional pasta is often made with eggs, I didn’t use them in my recipe. Essentially, you’re just make a dough; add liquid to flour, that’s it. 

Getting the right consistency is important though. Pasta dough should be firm and pliable not soft like bread dough. You can just use any old flour but selective choosing will improve the end result. Here is a brief explanation of the types of flour you can use from The Pasta Evangelists. 

Half Pasta flour and half Semolina flour is what I use, which seems to work well but I plan to do some experimenting now I’ve got a new pasta machine to play with!
I added some Hemp protein powder, just because I had it in the cupboard and it seemed to match the green theme. There are so many possibilities… I’m considering trying dried nettles next time and I can think of lot’s of other ingredients that could add colour and nutrition! 

Nettles

Nettle Pasta (with Hemp)

I used Bianca Zapatka’s recipe as a basic guide.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup of Organic Pasta Flour
  • 1 cup Organic Semolina flour *
  • 2 TBS Organic Hemp powder
  • Salt
  • Nettles (a couple of handfuls)
  • Water
  • 1-2 TBS Organic Olive Oil

*Make sure to use Semolina flour not Semolina, which is much coarser. I nearly made this mistake!

Method:

  1. Add the Nettles to a pan with 100ml of water and some salt, simmer gently until the Nettles are soft enough to puree (add more water if needed).
  2. Meanwhile mix the dry ingredients together in a bowl or dough mixer.
  3. Puree the Nettles and the cooking water until smooth, adding a little of the oil or water to keep it moving. 
  4. Make a well in the middle of your flour mix and add the pureed Nettle. You can mix it with your hands, a spoon or a dough hook if you have a mixing machine. (I’ve even used a bread maker on the dough setting)
  5. Keep kneading until you have a smooth firm dough, adding a drop of oil or water if it’s too crumbly, just enough to bring it together, you don’t want a sticky dough, add flour if you need to.
  6. Rest the dough for about 20 minutes, make sure to cover it to stop it drying out. I used this time to get my pasta machine set up. (If you’re not using a pasta machine make sure your counter is clean and dry, sprinkle with a little flour)

The Fun Part:

I’ll be honest, it is more fun if you have a pasta machine but it’s not essential. Just roll the dough, about a quarter at a time, as thin as you can (remember that it will expand when cooked) and cut into desired shapes. 
For Fettuccine, flour the dough and fold before cutting to make it easier. 
Pasta machine

Using The Pasta Machine

If you’re using a pasta machine, take a chunk of dough, flatten it with your palm, make sure the machine is set to zero (I forgot the first time and fed it through without checking, I thought I had messed up the dough because it flaked into pieces!) and slowly feed your pasta through, dusting lightly with flour. Fold in half and repeat the process 5-6 times. 
When you have a long thin rectangular shape, cut in half and turn up the setting to number 1 and feed through again, turning the pasta so you’re not always feeding it the same way. 
Keep repeating the process, turning the setting up one number each time. The dough is quite robust, just make sure to gently stretch it out with your hand as it comes out so it doesn’t fold and stick together.
It may take a few times to get the knack of which hand to use… you’ll need one hand to feed it through, one to turn the handle and one to catch it as it comes out… I know, that’s too many hands! 😂 But don’t despair, you won’t actually need three hands, just alternate between turning and feeding. You’ll get the hang of it but then the whole thing will be reversed when you get to feeding it through the shape attachment.
For Fettuccine you only need to go to setting 5. Catch it with your hand as it comes through and remove any jagged shapes, you can either hang it to dry or if cooking straight away, just add to a bowl with some flour to stop it sticking.    

Nettle Pasta boiling

Storing And Using Your Pasta

The pasta can be dried and kept for quite a long time or it can be refrigerated for a few days, frozen (and cooked straight from the freezer) but like me, you’ll probably want to eat the first lot immediately! 

I only used about half the dough and kept the rest wrapped in the fridge for a couple of days. I had intended to dry some but ended up eating the second lot a few days later.

Boil the pasta just as you would for dried pasta but it will take much less time depending on the thickness. For fresh Fettuccine about 3-4 minutes, taste it to make sure it’s ready. 

Asparagus
Mushrooms and Onion

We enjoyed the first batch with Asparagus and Chestnut Mushrooms from my Riverford Veg box* Sauteed with Onion and Garlic.

The Pasta Machine

If you’ve been thinking about buying a pasta machine, I can highly recommend this one. It’s very solid and sturdy, easy to use. It clamps to your kitchen counter for extra stability so make sure you’ve got somewhere to attach it, it fits nicely on the edge of my standard counter top but I have to remove a drawer to be able to tighten the clamp. It’s no great effort though and totally worth it!

 


There are cheaper models available and obviously I haven’t tried them all but judging by all the reviews and my own experiences, this is a high quality machine in the medium to low price range.

Thank You For Reading

I hope you enjoyed reading. Have you made Pasta before? Share your experience with me by leaving a comment below. And if you try my recipe, please tell me what you think, feedback is always welcome. 😊 

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