Buckwheat Pasta on the Chitarra

Buckwheat pasta

OK, this was an experiment. I’ve only made pasta from scratch twice before. Both times I followed the recipes on my New Years Day post. For some crazy reason, today we tried to use a different flour so we chose a buckwheat flour. I didn’t adjust the recipe and made it just as if it were regular white flour. After I got to the part that it was resting, I decided to search online for buckwheat noodles. Yikes, I thought – I quickly learned that buckwheat doesn’t have enough gluten to hold the pasta together. Everything I read explained why I had so much trouble with my dough. What happened was that it stayed very sticky like it was too moist but it was also very brittle and kept breaking, like it was too dry. What I learned was that you need to mix in some regular white flour to give it the gluten to give it strength and keep it from breaking up. It looks like a good ratio is 25% white flour and 75% buckwheat flour.

Buckwheat flour

Working with the dough was a challenge because it didn’t have the white flour added. When I try this again, I am going to follow the recipe at FXCuisine.com for Italian Alpine Buckwheat Pasta because it sounds really good.

This recipe gives you 5 to 6 servings. If you make more than you need, don’t worry. I’ve learned that you can freeze the extra and it will keep the fresh pasta taste and texture. Each time I have made past, I made extra and froze it because it is great for a fresh pasta experience in the middle of the week when you don’t have time to actually make fresh pasta. Keep this little tip in the back of your mind the next time you make fresh pasta.

Ingredients

  • 2 1/4 cups buckwheat flour
  • 3 eggs
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon lukewarm water

The basics of making pasta is actually pretty easy. Make your mound of dry ingredients and then build a well in the center where you put your eggs, olive oil and water. Gradually mix the flour into wet mixture. You’ll slowly run out of dry flour on the outside of the well. By this time, you need to keep mixing. I always find this point to be alarming because it doesn’t seem like it will actually mix together. In a sense, it seems too dry but then I keep mixing and suddenly, it comes together. This time, it stayed tacky but it didn’t feel too moist. I kneaded it for longer than I thought necessary and then decided to let rest and see what happens. I thought that if I kept kneading it, the pasta would firm up a bit and be less sticky. This didn’t happen, even after adding a little more flour.

Buckwheat dough resting

I let my dough rest for 30 minutes and then took it out to roll it. I pulled off about 1/4 of the dough and started to roll it. It was still pretty tacky and even with a dusting of flour, it didn’t want to roll out very well. I finally got this piece rolled out and started on the next piece. While I was rolling out the second piece, I decide to dust it with regular flour, this helped a little so I tried to incorporate it into the dough. This actually seemed to helped. I added about a tablespoon of regular flour into this fist-sized ball of dough. I then added regular four to the remaining dough, kneaded it some more, and let it rest again. At this point, I still had my original rolled out section so I decided to leave it as a comparison but I did give it a dusting of regular flour and let it sit out covered with a towel while I let the rest of the dough rest.

Rolled Dough

While all this dough was resting, I did a little more research online and came across Rustico Cooking. They have a post about using the chitarra and one of their suggestions is to let the dough dry a little after you’ve rolled it out. They suggested about 15 minutes but I went about 30 minutes. This did seem to help compared to previous attempts. The 30 minute wait time would probably be too long for standard pasta but I think it was good for the buckwheat pasta.

When I rolled out the remaining pasta, it was a little easier than the first section, but it was brittle and sticky. I just took my time and tried to roll out smaller sections at a time. I ended up with some scraps of rolled dough. We put it in a zip-lock bag and are freezing it. I don’t know what we’ll do with it but we’ll find something 🙂

We used our chitarra to cut the pasta. This fun little pasta cutter comes from the Abruzzo region of Italy. It makes a square shapes pasta and it’s probably the easiest cutter you can use.

Dough on Chitarra

Cutting the pasta on the chitarra

For dinner, we used the pasta from the first batch, that is the pasta that didn’t have any of the regular white flour added to it. It cooked up fine and had a earthy flavor. It wasn’t as creamy as when I have made the pasta with regular flour, but it went perfectly with the lentils. I will update this post once we use the noodles from the dough that had the white flour added. In the meantime, we put the pasta noodles into a zip-lock bag and stored it in the freezer.

Pasta & Lentils

Lentils are supposed to bring you good luck for the new year, according to Italian tradition. This tradition goes back a long time and it’s said the little bean’s shape signify coins – thus the association with prosperity for the coming year. I’ve never cooked them before so I was surprised at how easy they are to prepare. I am used to thicker beans that require long soaks to soften them.

For this New Years Eve dinner, I adapted a recipe I found in Breaking Bread in L’Aquila. This recipe comes from Santo Stefano di Sessanio. I didn’t intentionally change the recipe but I did change it because I didn’t have all the ingredients she calls for. Plus, the side note says you can make substitutions and the whole book is about home cooking and using what’s available.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cup of dry lentils
  • 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 ounces of pancetta (cut in 1/4 inch pieces)
  • 1 large onion, chopped. We used a large yellow onion
  • 1 clove of chopped garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 pound of spaghetti (I used our homemade pasta)
  • Salt & Pepper to taste
  • Fresh grated Parmigiano
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley for garnish

Instructions

Bring salted water to a boil in a medium sauce pan. Now, add the lentils, cover and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Cook until the lentils are tender but not mushy. The official recipe says this should take about 20 minutes. Since I haven’t cooked them before, I did just as directed, however, my lentils were more on the mushy side so I will probably cut back on the time by a couple minutes. I think 17 to 18 minutes might have been best. Once cooked, drain the lentils and set aside.

Lentils boiling

Using a large pot, cook your pasta. I used the pasta we made on the chitarra but if you’re using packaged dry pasta, just follow the directions on the package. My pasta took longer than expected but it was kind of thick. Like, a .lot thicker than normal but we actually really liked it. Who knew it would make a difference?

Pasta

While you’re cooking your pasta, heat the olive oil in a medium sauce pan over medium-high heat. Add the pancetta, onions and garlic. Here’s where we differed. I used bacon because I didn’t have pancetta. Also, we didn’t have enough bacon but we had this with pork roast, so I used some of the drippings from the pork roast to add a meaty flavor. Cook this for about 7 to 10 minutes. I went until the onions were starting to get translucent. At this point, add the lentils, salt and pepper. Also, drain your pasta and reserve 1/4 cup of the water to add to the lentils to make them creamy. To be honest, I skipped the step of adding water because I thought it looked moist enough. Sprinkle with parmigiano and garnish with the parsley.

I wish I had taken a better picture of the final product, but to be honest, my household was too hungry to wait for another picture. I’ll try this recipe again and try to get some better pictures then.Lentils