Let’s be honest here – stress sucks.
What’s even worse is that we all battle it daily.
Some days we can address it in the moment and cast aside that ball of lead that sits in our tummy, and other days we take a pass…. swallowing hard, absorbing that weight and just move on.
Those other days are hard, friends. Hard for anyone who feels lost in the forest of stress and yearns to see sky. In today’s world, that feeling of getting lost in the woods happens often. It happens often to me.
I’m not the only one feeling this way, right? I know I can’t be alone out there; that there are people who need a release, something that they can do that isn’t complicated, isn’t expensive and gives them what they really needed: TIME. Time to work through whatever is weighing us down, and maybe even an activity that yields something useful… maybe even an activity that (dare I say) is enjoyable?
Yes, I think we all need some of that!
One thing I learned when I chose myself over a career, is that the kitchen is an extremely effective therapist for me. I don’t know about you, but making good food for others and WITH others always makes me feel better. There’s something about the connections that form in the kitchen and around the table that always seem to make the dark clouds of stress part.
Lately, if I get into a particularly bad funk, I turned to making pasta.
I mean, stress definitely is NOT good, and pasta most certainly IS sooooooo logical, right?
Am I advocating Carb Therapy?
Yes. Yes, I am.
Carbs my friends…. let the carb creation flow through you.
If I am being completely transparent, I would say I’d never thought that stress was something I battled on a regular basis most of my life. Now? Well, now that I am trying to start a business, be the best mom I can be, build our homestead and expand our hobby farm to make a sustainable income to continue to stay home? Yeah…. I war with it OFTEN. And looking back at the career I left? OH, it was there alright … I just was REALLY good at burying it.
I absolutely love making pasta from scratch. It’s a hands on project that never fails to help me dissect and chip away the bits of lead collecting deep inside threatening to weigh me down; that threaten to stop me from rising UP.
It is also something that is undeniably easier that most people think.
No, it’s not as easy as buying a box of dried pasta at the store, but:
- it tastes better
- is better for the environment (yes, carbon footprint reduction and all…. no creating waste for the landfill/recycle center either!)
- is cleaner (as you know exactly what went into it)
- adds to your kitchen skills
- gives you a great activity to do with your kids, partner or friends
- is a repetitive activity, so if you need monotony to disconnect and work through something, pasta making is an AMAZING tool in your self-care kit.
Today, I decided that I was going to make 2-3 pastas, work through some road blocks I was encountering with a few projects and make a delicious family meal. My hubby is quite disappointed I opted out of making ravioli (but surprise surprise, it’s on my list for next week… shhhhhhh!)
I also decided that I didn’t want to bust out all the crazy machines and rollers and equipment … I wanted to really own the process and take time for myself so I could unwind and decompress. Not a lot of time, just like an hour or so.
Want to work through something? Knead dough for 8-10 minutes… it’s a workout AND a great way to shut everything else out and concentrate. Got stress? Visualize that problem is the ball of dough and get to it! It is amazing how quickly you can unwind while kneading dough.
Another amazing thing about making pasta? IT IS NOT COMPLICATED. NOR IS IT EXPENSIVE. NOR DO YOU NEED THE BEST EQUIPMENT.
Got flour? Water? Salt? Eggs? Depending on what kind of pasta you want to make, these 4 basic ingredients are all that are required.
If you have hands and an hour, you can make pasta with 3 of those ingredients. Hand-shaped pastas are amazing because of their simplicity. Once the dough is ready you literally need two things: your hands and something to portion the dough. If you want to impart any design onto them, other basic kitchen items can help… like a microplaner or a hobnail glass or even the bottom of a cut crystal vase.
Let me show you how easy this is, and help you unwind a bit.
LET’S MAKE PASTA!
What are some examples of pastas that can be shaped by hand? Goodness, there are so many of them! A few are:
(NOTE: this is also a great WASTE NOT habit. Whenever I make any sort of sheet or stuffed pasta, you can guarantee Cavatelli is also being made from the scraps. I don’t know about you, but I HATE to waste things.)
Want a confidence booster that is also delicious? Learning how to craft some of these pasta shapes will empower you to be more comfortable making lots of pasta, friends. You don’t need a fancy machine, or a roller or even cutters… you can make these with just your hands FROM START TO FINISH, if you choose not to use mixing tools or a knife to portion it!
Puts a whole new spin on Sunday Supper, that next dinner party, girls’s night or sleep over you are hosting, doesn’t it?
And while I might use this as a stress reliever, you can use it as a family bonding activity… WITH DELICIOUS BENEFITS!
It starts with the dough. Not all doughs are created equal…. not all are up to the task for which you want to give them. Rav dough is for stuffing, extruding dough is for extruding. You get the drift.
Now dough for hand shaping?
Simple. Like 2 (TWO) ingredients simple, people. Ok, also some salt, too.
It uses flour (a semolina flour is traditional as it lends to better drying) and water. And a bit of salt. Yeah, the dough is that simple!
- 1 cup of semolina flour
- 1 cup 00 flour (all purpose also will work)
- 3/4 cup warm water
- 1 tbsp Salt
- dissolve the salt into the warm water
- place both flours into a bowl and mix to thoroughly combine
- pour flour mixture onto a clean work surface in a mound
- with the bottom of a measuring cup, create a well that is approx. 4-5 inches wide while also leaving about 1/2 inch bottom to the well
- using a fork to mix (not breaking the bottom of the well) slowly pour in the water/salt mix while pulling in some of the flour mixture. This will slowly blend the two and form a dry dough.
- Take over with your hands and knead until the dough comes together. It will be very rough a first, but will eventually form a ball. You might need to spritz with some water if it is not coming together.
- Once you can form it into a ball, start timing yourself. Knead the dough for approx. 8 minutes until it is elastic and almost glossy. Like a ball of play doh that will bounce back if you gently poke it. (Kneading is just driving the heel of your hand into the dough ball, stretching it a bit, folding it back onto itself again with your non-dominant hand and also rotating it 45 degrees… then driving your heel into it again….. this develops gluten and gives the pasta its pliability as well as its ability to hold up to storage, boiling and roughhousing with sauces. In other words, it makes the dough STRONG. And yes, as much of a pain as it is… it is needed. Kneaded? It’s needed, you get it. LOL)
- Once you reach that nice dense, play-doh-y texture, form a ball and tightly wrap with plastic wrap.
- Allow to rest for 30 minutes before shaping. If you won’t use it within 30 minutes, place in fridge. Use within 24 hours.
FORMING YOUR PASTA
- cut a 1/2 portion off of your dough ball with a knife or bench scraper
- roll out the dough into a long rope that is approx 1/2″ in diameter
- with the knife or bench scraper, cut the rope in 1/2 inch discs
- taking each little nubbin (yes, a nubbin) and then shape it. (now, here is where you can do a few fun things…. you can shape it on a flat surface by rolling it forward, you can roll it forward on a gnocchi paddle, on a microplaner, on a glass with a fun pattern on it… it’s that easy!)
- roll them onto a baking sheet dusted with semolina and top with more semolina.
- Leave to dry in a cool, dry place overnight. Ensure some airflow to help with drying them out
Pici (Piccolo Pici Or Pici Breve depending on how long you make it)
- Take a 1 inch section of your dough ball and using your hand, press it down/out to a thickness of approx 1/4″ high… it might be anywhere from 3-5″ wide (you can also use a rolling pin if you like, but dust with flour… the dough might stick using a wood instrument versus your hand)
- taking your knife or bench scraper, portion the working dough into 1/4′ slivers
- taking a sliver, roll it under your hands on a dry, clean work surface, with a little bit of pressure and gently moving your hands away from each other… stretching the dough into a thin rope. (Pici is like a thick spaghetti that when cooked expands to almost an udon style noodle)
- When you stretch it into a thin, uniform rope, place onto a baking sheet dusted with semolina flour and dust a bit more on top.
- Continue with remainder of your dough
- You can dry on your sheet or cook pasta while still pliable
- cut a 1/2in portion of the dough ball
- using your hands, flatten and shape the dough portion to approx. 1/4″thickness
- Using knife or a bench scraper, cut into 1/4″ slices
- using your hands, take one piece, roll into a rope approx 1/4″ thick and 4 inches long. Make a second rope
- Take one small rope and connect the two ends, creating a ring. Do the same to the second piece.
- Take both rings and laying them on top of each other, slowly twist them together, creating a ‘twisted ring’
- Set onto a baking sheet dusted with semolina flour.
- Continue with remainder of dough
Now, with one ball of dough (the recipe portions I did here) I made 3 dinners worth of pasta for 2 people and a small lunch portion for myself.
NOT BAD, for 2 cups of flour and some water and salt, eh?
I also had a blast doing it, was able to get some quiet time in the kitchen and used the repetitive work to tune in and become a bit more mindful about my day.
Making pasta is a great way to just shut out all the noise and give yourself some time to just be with yourself. It is a great way to work through problems you are having an issue solving, challenges you cannot see the resolution to or a mental block you are facing.
For me? Well, I have a LOT of irons in the fire right now and don’t feel like I am making much headway. This little kitchen project helped me work through some options, re-organize my approach and really dedicate some uninterrupted time to let me honestly prioritize versus just going through the ‘list’.
Want more pasta goodness? More fun in the kitchen for your health, happiness and family dinners?
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Happy cooking and let me know what dish you end up making with your pasta!