The last time I made pasta, it seemed too easy. The flour and eggs combined smoothly to make a uniform, creamy yellow canvas.
The dough slid effortlessly through the pasta machine, each time a little thinner, until I had several immaculate sheets waiting patiently under a kitchen towel.
This time around, I wanted to up the health factor a bit, so I substituted whole wheat flour for half of the white. Equal parts whole wheat and white.
That’s where the trouble started. Right from the get-go.
I made my usual flour hill, forming a well in the center for the eggs. I thought about mixing the eggs in a bowl before adding them to the flour, but it made for a prettier picture to have the yolks intact.
Within a few moments, I had egg yolks slipping through my fingers and sliding threateningly close to the edge of my chopping block.
Luckily, though, I eventually managed to combine the ingredients. But the dough wasn’t smooth like last time. I could feel the grit of the whole wheat flour as I worked the dough with my fingers. Instead of buttery-yellow, I had a mass of brownish, bulky dough to work with.
Undaunted, I soldiered on and let my dough rest while I prepared the filling.
Now that went exactly as I had imagined it. Smoky bacon, sharp garlic, peppery shallots, fresh peas and mushrooms and creamy goat cheese made for a filling that tasted so fantastic, I “tested” it a few more times than necessary.
I do these things for you. Really I do.
It came time to roll out the dough. I borrowed my friend’s pasta machine once again, and set it to the thickest setting. I prepared myself to collect the pasta as it rolled easily through the mechanism.
Whole wheat dough, I discovered, was a bit trickier to work with than all-white dough.
I had to make sure the rectangles of dough weren’t too large; if they were, the dough broke apart and made uneven, wrinkled sheets. I had to make sure that the dough was well-floured before I sent it through the machine, or it would bunch up in one corner or another, making a squiggly sheet – not so hot when you’re trying to make stuffed pasta. When it came time to fold the dough over the dollops of filling, it wasn’t as malleable as all-white dough. I had to be gentler with it, more forgiving.
A lot of patience. A lot of mistakes. A lot of frustration. A lot of do-overs. A lot of learning.
And, in the end, a lot of fun.
The ultimate payoff of a healthy goal – a job well done, even if it was – especially since it was – more challenging than I thought it would be.
For the dough:
- 1 1/2 c white flour
- 1 1/2 c whole wheat flour
- 2 tsp salt
- 5 large eggs, plus one for egg wash
- 2 T olive oil (more as needed)
- Cornmeal, for dusting
- 2 shallots
- 4 cloves garlic
- 1/3 lb bacon (about 6 slices), cut into chunks
- 1 cup water
- 8 mushrooms (plus more for sauce, see below)
- 1 c peas (plus more for sauce, see below)
- 1/3 c ricotta cheese
- 1/3 c soft goat cheese, plus more for garnish if desired
- 1 T olive oil
- 2 cups fresh spinach, de-stemmed
- 8 mushrooms, sliced
- 1/2 c peas
- 2 cloves garlic, sliced thin
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 2 Tbsp unsalted butter
- Parmesan cheese, for garnish
1. Make the dough: On a large working surface, make a mound with the flour and salt. Make a large well in the center for the eggs. Gradually work the eggs into the flour. When the dough is pretty well-formed, make another well in the center and add the olive oil. Add more olive oil if the dough is too dry. The dough should be just moist enough to come together. When the dough is well mixed, pat into a rectangle and cover with plastic wrap. Set aside for 30 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, make the filling: Combine the bacon, shallots, and garlic in a food processor. Mince well. Add to a hot sauté pan along with 1 cup water. Bring it to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-high and simmer until most of the liquid has evaporated, stirring occasionally. Meanwhile, combine the peas and mushrooms in the food processor and process until well minced. Add to the bacon mixture and cook for an additional five minutes or so over medium heat, until the bacon is browned and the mushrooms have softened. Pour into a bowl and set aside to cool. When it has cooled, add the ricotta and goat cheese and season to taste with pepper.