Science of Pasta

Homemade pasta. Exceptionally light and always delicious. For centuries the simple marriage between water and flour (and sometimes egg)
have produced the plethora of noodle-shaped cuisine all around the worldPasta.JPG.

For us, it’s simple really; an inexpensive trip to the market and a boiling pot of salted water is all we need. With this formula any noodle, pasta, or dumpling is effortlessly cooked within minutes. But what’s really behind this multinational food and how can we make it at home?

Before science, let’s travel back through history. Noodles, pasta, dumplings, and even bread originated from grinding hard grains. Though stubbornly protected by layers of husk, the earliest records of noodle-like foods were found in tombs of nomadic tribes in northern China. Their traditions evolved into the thousands of variations of grain-based goodies we have come to love today; from ramen to pasta, and lo mien to spätzle.

As simple as this thousand year tradition may seem, the science behind our beloved, boiled foods is fascinating. No matter the culture or region, they are built upon stretchy networks of gluten, a protein whose sticky properties are only unlocked when introduced to water. Gluten has always been a gastronomic hero for its decisive and indistinguishable ability to trap air (think fluffy sourdough), fortify texture (pasta’s al dente bite), and absorb flavor (imagine succulent, savory ramen). Simply put, gluten ‘glues’ food together.

Only recently has gluten come under culinary scrutiny. Is it safe? Why do we need it? What about our noodles!?

To set the record straight, gluten is important for the chemical properties we’ve come to love and cherish in flour and grain-based foods. Thankfully there are plenty of alternative binders, thickeners and gels equipped with nearly all the same abilities.

So, whether its duck eggs, vegetable oil and rice flour coming together to create Cantonese Ho-Fen. Thick rye flour and whole milk to make German knöpfle. Or, rich egg yolks, a splash of oil and “00” flour to produce Tagliatelle. Simple ingredients and centuries worth of tradition make noodles, pastas, and dumplings pretty cool.


Tagliatelle

 167 g    “00” Caputo Flour                                                                                                    44  g     egg yolk                                                                                                                        1  tsp   olive oil                                                                                                                splash of water

  1. Pour flour onto work space. Create a ‘well’ in the center of the mound.
  2. Whisk egg yolk into ‘well’, make sure not to break surrounding wall of flour.
  3. Add olive oil, water and a pinch of salt (optional).
  4. Incorporate dough, it should feel sticky and wet.
  5. Once incorporated knead dough for approx. 5 minutes.
  6. Continue to knead dough until silky, coherent ball forms.
  7. Cover dough and allow to rest in refrigerator for approx. 30 minutes.
  8. Roll and cut dough using pasta machine or like Nona, by hand.
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