Tips for Making Perfect, Top Chef Canada-Worthy
Perfecting pro-level pasta at home may seem like a daunting feat, but we’ve got you covered with these tips from Top Chef Canada’s recent pasta-making elimination, plus a few recipes to get you started in your own kitchen. From soft and supple gnocchi to tender ravioli, this advice from professional kitchens will get you rolling in no time.
The Best Flour For Homemade Pasta
The lucky cheftestants got to work with freshly milled flour from urban mill Brodflour, but chances are, you’ll have to settle for supermarket flour. Nonetheless, a few wise choices will help your success rate when making pasta. The specialty flour known as 00 or tipo 00 is the traditional pick when it comes to making pasta, due to its fine grind (this attribute also make it a good option for pizza dough). Depending on the kind of pasta, which dictates other factors such as the amount of eggs added, coarsely ground semolina or all-purpose flour can also be used in forming pasta dough.
Eggs in Fresh Pasta
For some types of pasta, especially fresh egg pasta, the golden yolks lend a sunny hue to the finished product. Recipes vary in terms of the number but it is generally around a 1:1 ratio of eggs to cups of flour. Some kinds of pasta dough, such as tagliatelle, use a combination of two whole eggs and four egg yolks per four cups of flour for added richness.
Eggs also play a crucial role in the elasticity and texture of fresh pasta, although dried pasta is often made with no more than flour and water.
Methods For Making Homemade Pasta
Although the tried-and-true method of making a well in the flour and adding the wet ingredients in the centre, then drawing the flour slowly inwards, works well to combine the ingredients gradually, this process can be automated using a stand mixer or other equipment (Alton Brown has an easy food processor method for his ravioli dough, for example). The dough is then kneaded, shaped into a disk and rested before rolling through a pasta machine or by hand using a rolling pin for flat types of pasta such as fettuccini, or shaping using molds or one’s hands with smaller shapes, such as pici.
Homemade Pasta Shapes and Tips
There’s still more choices awaiting you: pasta shape dictates cooking method, time and even which type of sauce you should use. In a stressful double-elimination, the remaining five chefs had to choose their pasta types, make their own dough and create their best dish for guest judge Danny Smiles (a former Top Chef Canada contestant himself and now owner of three including Osteria Fortuna, planned). Adding to the pressure was the freshly milled flour, which will cause pasta dough to oxidize (changing colour and flavour) if made too far in advance. As a result, chefs couldn’t use the one hour prep time the day before to make their dough, instead needing to make it the day.
At home, however, you have the advantage of all the time you need to tackle a fresh pasta project. Take some inspiration from each of the Top Chef Canada contestants and their dishes to create your own prize-worthy creation.
How to Make Homemade Orecchiette
Orecchiette is made by hand, with the pasta maker’s thumb forming the distinct indents that give each piece its distinctive “little ears” shape (Francis used a non-traditional method of forming it on a paddle, giving the pasta small ridges). Although he had never made orecchiette before, Francis’ precautions in making a test batch to experiment with the fresh flour and his technique paid off. The judges raved about his version with broccoli sauce, crunchy broccoli stems, fried spelt grains and an Asiago emulsion. Judge Danny Smiles observed that the dish adhered to its roots from Puglia, where orecchiette and broccoli are frequently used together.