Finally. I’ve finally found a recipe for semolina pasta that is good enough to continue to use, and to recommend to others. Semo-what??? Semolina pasta – also known as macaroni and noodles. You know, those things that we buy dried in boxes at the store and tend to like to smother in cheese and/or flavored tomato sauce.
Semolina flour is made from the endosperm of Durum wheat, which is a very hard wheat and very high in protein. It has the yellow color and similar coarse texture of cornmeal. Regular all purpose flour and other types of flours that are most commonly available at the store are made with different types of wheat.
As part of our goal of sustainable self-sufficiency and making more things from “true” scratch, making pasta has become the norm here unless I am super pressed for time. In its simplest form, pasta can be made with flour and water. I’ve tried that. Regular flour noodles aren’t bad, but even when just barely cooked, they tend to be a little mushier compared to dried pasta from a box at the store. Enter semolina flour that I found at a health food type store in the city.
Well, the first semolina experiment was a waste of flour. It was so bad that it did not get beyond the lump of hard clay stage before I had to throw it away. It was too tough for me to be able to knead, much less roll out and cut. Many websites online said that semolina flour was too hard to use, that it was difficult to knead, much less get it through a home pasta machine. They recommended using recipes that had semolina flour mixed with various quantities of regular all purpose flour – if you insisted on using semolina. Those recipes still did not give me anything that resembled the texture of the dry boxed pasta that we’ve grown up eating all our lives. The homemade pasta I’ve made has run the gamut from way-too-mushy to “Silly Putty” noodles. We actually threw away a pan of Spinach Lasagne this year because the noodles were so rubbery.
Once again I went back to the internet looking for another semolina pasta recipe to try out and came across a site I hadn’t seen before – Pasta Recipes By Italians. Reading through some of the recipes, I noted some differences in both ingredients, and the amount of the ingredients, compared to other recipes I’d tried. Seeing the differences in these recipes made me decide to bite the bullet and try the all-semolina pasta recipe on the website.
Hallelujah! First time making it and it turned out great! It was easy to knead with my hands & it went through the pasta machine – the flattening side as well as the cutting side – without any problems. And I was able to get this dough flattened much thinner than the previous lasagne noodles that I’d had to roll out and cut by hand when the dough was too thick and hard to go through the pasta machine.
I did have to add a little bit of extra semolina flour to the dough, to combat the high humidity and make the pasta dough stop sticking to everything, but even the extra semolina flour did not make this dough too hard to work with. The dough was smooth and elastic, not a lump of grainy textured, half dry clay like I’d wound up with before.
The menu was for lasagne, so first I made lasagne noodles. I cooked them in boiling water but only dropped in a few noodles at time so I could better see how these cooked up. The first few noodles that I boiled were a little underdone – took me a bit to watch how the noodles cooked and pull them out at the right time. Cooking homemade noodles is a lot different from cooking store-bought noodles – even the “fresh” pasta sold in the deli refrigerated section. This recipe needs to be boiled a little bit longer than pasta made with regular flour or only part semolina flour, but not as long as dried boxed pasta. It took just about 2-4 minutes to watch the noodles change color and float enough to be considered “done”. What was really great was that the slightly under boiled lasagne noodles had the same taste and texture as the “just right” boiled noodles once I cooked the lasagna. But the “just right” boiled noodles did NOT lose their al dente texture after cooking the whole lasagne either. And yes, I usually cheat and cook my lasagne in the microwave to save time and also not to heat up the kitchen when it’s hot, which is about 9 months out of the year in Texas.
Now, if push comes to shove and I have to make pasta with just water, or without semolina flour, I’ll do it. But for regular eating, this recipe is my new regular pasta recipe – particularly for “normal” flavored pasta and definitely for lasagne noodles.
100% Semolina Pasta by Kira Volpi, Pasta Recipes By Italians (used by permission)
Lasagne noodles drying on cookie racks. You can cut the dough straight prior to feeding through the machine to make perfect rectangle noodles.
1 1/2 cups semolina flour (coarse grainy stuff that looks similar to cornmeal)
1 teaspoon salt
2-3 eggs (Kira uses 2)
1 teaspoon olive oil
“- you will start with the semolina flour on a large cutting board or counter area to work your pasta dough. Create a well in the center of your pile of semolina flour so you can add the remaining ingredients in the well.
With a fork, slowly blend in the flour in towards the well until you have a paste like consistency and begin kneading. After I spend the time following the mixing and kneading instructions above I end up with my beautiful ball of freshly made semolina pasta dough. Look how rich and textured it looks now. Just wait till we shape it and or course eat it!
I let it sit for the appropriate hour or more and it is supple and ready to shape.”
Flattened dough going into the fettucine cutter. For prettier noodles you can cut the dough to square it up before sending it through the shape cutter.
Kira goes on to explain how to shape the dough and cook it. Make sure to cover your pasta with at least a wet towel, if not plastic wrap, to keep it from drying out while it sits. You can see photos of the various stages of dough mixing on the Pasta Recipes By Italians website. You can roll the dough out by hand and cut it, or use a pasta machine.
I went down to the number 4 setting on my machine to get to what looked like the thinness that we’re used to having for lasagne noodles. My noodles aren’t very pretty since I did not bother to roll out and cut the dough so that it was straight before running it through the pasta machine – but around here, taste is more important than appearance, particularly when I’m short on time.
I let my noodles dry a bit before cooking, because I had to start well ahead of time to make sure to get the pasta made and ensure it would be palatable before dinner time. You can also cook them as soon as you make them. As with most pasta recipes that have eggs, the recommended storage is for a short time and refrigerated. (Don’t get me started on food safety, what I do for myself may be different from what I tell others to do, plus my eggs come from my own pasture and I don’t have a compromised immune system. Yes, I ate an uncooked lasagne noodle and am still alive to tell the tale. Even raw it tasted pretty good too.)
While I was pleased with the ease of working with the dough as well as how it cooked up and tasted, the next test was the husband approval test. The hubby ate a plain boiled lasagne noodle and was pleased. The Spinach Lasagne turned out great, and hubby said that these noodles tasted better than store bought. SCORE!
There you have it – a tested recipe that can give you the taste and texture similar to what most of us are accustomed to eating from dry boxed pasta – only better. And you don’t have to guess what’s in it with weird named ingredients.
There are a lot more recipes on the Pasta Recipes By Italians website that I plan on trying – the idea of the different flavored pastas is quite appealing – along with other info and tips to guide you. One recipe really called out my name – Chocolate Pasta.
Now all I need to do is figure out how to grow my own wheat and olive trees so I can grow everything I need for this pasta recipe from the ground up.
Drying fettucine on bamboo skewers set across a pot.
**Did you know – sometime during the last 30 years, spelling lasagna with an “a” on the end has apparently become the accepted American spelling of the word, but having an “e” on the end is still acceptable? When I was growing up, lasagne was ALWAYS spelled with an “e” on the end. Just found this out writing this post and going crazy because the spellchecker kept changing my spelling and telling me I spelled the word wrong. So I will continue to spell it with an “e” on the end since that is how I learned to spell it, but if the spell check changes it and puts an “a” on the end….I may not catch the spell checker’s spelling mistake.