zen and the art of the noodle

Like every hipster kitchen geek I own an Atlas pasta maker. I’ve had it for years. I bought it at a garage sale, i think it had only been used once. Used once and deemed “pain in the ass” and set aside, later to be sold because it was heavy and taking up too much space.
I brought it home and I used it…once.
I didn’t even use for making pasta. I used it for a Martha Stewart recipe for rustic pizza dough.
A few weeks ago I made homemade raviolis and hand formed the dough. A few days later I wanted to make them again for dinner at David’s sister’s house. Wanting to be more authentic I pulled out the pasta maker and rolled out sheets of pasta dough.
It was the first time I’d really made pasta in it. It was disastrous.
Okay, not really disastrous, but there were many mistakes mades. Thoughtless errors that could hae been avoided and a bruise on my forearm that was the result of not having the c-clamp to hold it in place. The raviolis tasted fine, but they were problematic. There were lessons to be learned.
There was leftover dough. Undeterred, the next night I rolled the dough again to make fettucini for dinner. I started to get the hang of it. It’s not a battle to fight, it’s not a triumph that you win.
It’s a calming process.
It’s not unlike making chicken stock, the end result is great, fine, but the process that got you there is what soothes and calms you.
You start with your dough and your machine. You cut your dough into manageable pieces. You start working it through at the widest setting. The dough wants to fight you, the proteins want to bind up, the dough wants to break. Your job isn’t to break the spirit of the dugh, but to finesse it. Much like navigating the holidays with divorced parents, you have to leave everyone thinking they won.
You crank it through, fold it in half, crank it through, fold it in half, crank it through. Soon, it starts cooperating, but it only cooperates so long as you stay calm and focused.
if you fold it too thick, run it through too fast, look at it funny, the proteins could bind and you go back a step or two. And this is good for you.
Stay focused, go slow, don’t rush. If you do you lose a turn, you have to back up. You have to clear your mind of all the frustrations of the day, all the worries of the season. You and your pasta machine and the noodles.
Then you take half a butternut squash, cooked and chopped and 2 peeled, chopped apples and add them to some garlic sauteeing in butter. A good sprinkle of sage and a dash of allspice along with a cup or so of water. cover, turn the heat down and let it simmer. Cook your pasta, drain, toss with the squash sauce.