Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Cooking Floyd: Dark Days Challenge: Dec. Week 4

Kale Pasta

Recently I've been exploring making our pasta.  It took me several tries to be able to produce a consistent nicely textured basic all-purpose flour and egg pasta but once I did I wanted to try making different kinds and flavors of pasta dough.  My first variation was a buckwheat dough for Butternut Squash Raviolis.  (You'll also find a tutorial for making basic pasta on that post.)  This time I wanted to add kale since I had a bagful of kale flakes from kale chips that had turned out too bland for snacking.

Kale is a very cold hardy green.  It'll withstand a hard frost and with a little protection, like a plastic covered tunnel, it can be taken right through the winter and continue to produce.  So far we're having a mild winter and fresh local winter greens are thriving.  If you're growing in containers, kale will grow in large pots that can stay outside in a protected sunny place.  Rig up a frame around the pot and cover it with sheet plastic once the weather gets cold and harsh and the kale will continue to produce.

  Kale Pasta Dough
3½ cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup (or more) flaked dried kale
1 tsp salt
4 eggs
1 tablespoon olive oil
a little extra water
In a large bowl, combine the flour, flaked kale, and salt.  I crunched the dried kale up fine in a plastic bag and then removed any pointy, woody pieces of stems or veins.  If you had a large screened sifter or seine you could sift it through that but I found the flakes went to the bottom while the stem pieces stayed on top and I could just lift them off.  Use a minimum of a half cup of flakes but feel free to add more if you like, up to a cup.

Make a well in the center of the flour and into this crack the eggs and add the olive oil.
Beat the eggs and olive oil together and then begin incorporating the flour from the side of the well a bit at a time.

Once most of the flour and eggs have been mixed, turn the dough and the remaining flour in the bowl on to a work surface and begin kneading the rest of the flour into the dough.

Continue kneading the dough until all the flour has mixed in and the dough itself is elastic but not sticky.  You may have to sprinkle the dough with a bit of cold water in order to reach this stage depending on how much kale you added and how dry or humid your house is.  Sprinkle the dough with only a half a teaspoon of water at a time and work it all in before adding more.  The dough can go from dry and cracking to elastic in the blink of an eye once the proper moisture has been reached.  Don't be discouraged by the kneading at this stage, the more you knead, the better the gluten in the dough develops, and the silkier your pasta will be.

The dough now needs to rest for about 30 minutes.  You can let it rest in one big ball or divide it into quarters now.  Either way, cover it so it doesn't dry out.  Resting allows the gluten fibers to relax, making it easier to work with.

While the dough is resting, set up your pasta machine and flour it.
This is a very basic, inexpensive machine that I got for $25 at a place called Kitchen Collections.  They have a store in the NRV Mall if you're local and mail order if you're not.  Pasta machines like this one that are the same but made of (supposedly) more durable materials and come with optional electric motors can run well over $100, but I've used this one hard and it's held up well for several years now.  The grandkids love to help crank the pasta.  That alone justifies the investment!

Take one of your quarters of pasta dough and on a well floured surface, roll it out into a rectangle.  Do this with as few rolls of the pin as possible because too much handling of pasta dough that has additions (such as kale) makes it become brittle and it will snap or break.  So just approximate that rectangle.

Now run it through the largest setting of the pasta machine,
fold it in thirds like a letter,
and run it through the machine again.
Do this a total of three times only.  This conditions the dough.

Now run the dough through the progressively smaller settings on the machine (only once at each setting) until you come to the next or next to last setting, depending on how thin you want your dough to be.

Cut the sheet of dough into the lengths you want your noodles.

Move the handle of the machine from the roller to the cutters and sprinkle flour on the fettucine cutter.  My machine has cutters for fettucine width and taglietelle width.
That's the fettucine width in the rear, taglietelle in the front.
Crank the sheet of dough through the cutter, flour the cut pasta generously, and lightly roll into a bird's nest.  Or you can hang the pasta to dry (I use to use a foldable wooden laundry rack, set on newspapers and well floured), or lay it on a well floured clean sheet on a flat surface.  Lots of flour sprinkled everywhere is key to keeping the pasta from sticking to itself or anything it touches while drying.

If you don't have a machine, use a rolling pin and roll the dough out as thinly as possible on a well floured surface into a very large rectangle as wide as you want your noodles to be long. Roll the rectangle up lightly from the long side and then cut into fettucine-sized widths.  Unroll the slices and you have your noodles.  Flour and dry them as you prefer.

You may not want to use the entire batch of pasta at once.  I lay the bird's nests in an air tight plastic container, laying a sheet of wax paper or foil between any layers, snap on the lid, and freeze it.  Thoroughly dried lengths of pasta (not nests) can be gently laid in a sturdy plastic air tight container and stored in the pantry at room temp.  The dollar store is a good source for flat plastic containers of pasta size.  Home made dried pasta is more delicate than store bought dried pasta and you want to protect it from breaking.

To cook your pasta, bring a large pot filled with amply salted water to a boil.  Drop the noodles in, give a stir, and allow to cook at the boil for just a few minutes, 4 or 5, until they are done to the "bite" that you prefer.  You may have to turn your heat down to a gentler boil because I've found fresh pasta has more of a tendency to foam up and overflow the pot at a high boil.  Drain, reserving a cup of the pasta water, and toss with the sauce of your choice.  If the pasta and sauce appear dry, add the reserved water a bit at a time until you reach the consistency you like.

The sauce I'm choosing for tonight's dinner will be made from a packet of our frozen, herbed and slow roasted Principe Borghese tomatoes mixed with a packet of pesto made when the basil was growing at full tilt.  I think the kale pasta would be equally good simply dressed with garlic butter and grated cheese.  Either way it's comfort food for a wintry evening.


  1. We have the same granite counter top! I didn't know you were doing dark days - me too!

  2. Awesome recipe. I still have tons of kale. Thanks for the directions!

  3. Too cool! You put a lot of hard work into this!