I have been thinking about pasta a lot lately. More specifically, I have been thinking about filled pastas…ravioli, cannelloni, even lasagne. I used to make all kinds of filled pasta dishes. Some of my favourites were giant shells filled with spinach and cheese, pumpkin and walnut filled ravioli with sage butter, and a rotolo (a large sheet of pasta spread with fillings and rolled up like a Swiss roll).
Since going without wheat I have been mostly satisfied with the dry gluten free pastas that I could buy at the supermarket. There a plenty of those to choose from, including a few that have some quinoa or buckwheat to lift their nutritional value. However, I have had a longing for fresh pasta that I could fill and shape like I used to.
I have had a bit of a search online and there are so many different recipes for wheat/gluten free pasta dough. The question might be asked why I don’t just try one of those instead trying to add to these. Well, to answer, I was aiming to come up with a recipe that I could mix up in a few different ways. For example, if my pasta dish was going to be vegetarian I would like to add some quinoa flour for extra protein. Or perhaps for a different flavour some buckwheat flour. And of course, sometimes you just want regular plain pasta.
If you have never made your own pasta dough before let me encourage you to give it a go. In some ways, making a wheat/gluten free dough is easier; because there is no gluten you don’t have to worry about the do becoming tough from too much mixing. You can mix your dough by hand as I have described in the recipe or in a food processor. I prefer to mix by hand simply because I don’t want to make more dishes to wash! As for cutting the dough into shapes, the sky is the limit. You could just cut lengths for fettuccine, circles to fill and fold over, or just square and rectangular shapes to make fazzoletti (handkerchief) pasta.
1 cup brown rice flour
½ cup tapioca starch (this softens the dough, making it more pliable)
½ cup of your choice of white rice flour, quinoa flour or buckwheat flour
½ teaspoon guar or xanthan gum, optional
generous pinch of sea salt
1 tablespoon water
Blend the dry ingredients in a bowl with a whisk. Tip out onto a clean bench, making a mound with a well in the centre. Break the eggs into the well and beat with a fork, drawing in the flour from the sides of the well. Continue beating until the mixture is thick and then use your hands to mix in the remaining flour. If the mixture seems a bit dry add a little water. Knead the dough until it is relatively smooth; it won’t be stretchy like a wheat dough. Wrap in cling wrap and rest for 30 minutes.
Divide the dough into four portions. Take one portion and roll out using a pasta roller or with a rolling pin between two pieces of baking paper; keep the rest of the dough covered while you do this. The dough should be almost thin enough to see through, less than 1mm. Use a little rice flour to dust things down if the pasta is sticking.
If you do not use all the pasta straight away, you can keep the dough in the fridge for a couple of days to be rolled out later, or you could freeze rolled pasta sheets between layers of cling wrap in an airtight container. You could also make a big batch of filled pasta and freeze some to be cooked from frozen later (meat fillings should be cooked before filling pasta).
To cook the pasta, bring a large pot of salted water to the boil. Add the pasta, gently stir, and cook using the below time as a guide:
Unfilled pasta, such as fettucine and fazzoletti -approximately 5 minutes
Filled pasta shapes, such as ravioli (meat fillings should be cooked) -8 minutes
Baked pasta, such as lasagne or cannelloni – 25-30 minutes at 180 degrees C
*The best way to check if your pasta is cooked to your liking is to remove a peice from the pot and have a bite!
Tips for using a pasta roller
My pasta roller has a dial marked from 0 to 8, with 0 being the thickest and 8 the thinnest. I will refer to these numbers to help explain my method.
Flatten a portion of dough between your hands. Feed through the roller with the dial on the thickest setting. Fold the rolled dough in half, turn 90 degrees, and roll again. Do this a few times so that the piece of dough is shaped like a rectangle and has the same width as the rollers.
Begin to increase the dial to roll the dough thinner. To prevent tears in the dough as you roll, I have found that it helps to trim the edge that is fed into the roller with a knife after I have rolled through setting 1. If the dough’s shape has become a bit wonky you can roll, fold and turn 90 degrees as you did on the thickest setting to get it back into a rectangle.
I found that I only needed to roll up to setting 6; any more would have made the dough too thin and fragile.
Lay the rolled sheets on a bench lightly dusted with rice flour. If you are going to roll all the dough at once, keep the sheets covered with a cloth or cling wrap to prevent drying out. Alternatively, roll and fill or cut each portion in batches.