Friday, April 5, 2013

Homemade Linguine with Mushroom, Thyme and Lemon

When I look at my newly-bought pasta machine, I can't help smiling like a proud Wall Street banker who has just nailed a great deal. I'm serious, I still think it's one of the best kitchen investments I've ever made! It has made life much easier for me, especially when my life now pretty much circles around pasta-making from scratch. 

Aren't they pretty? Hm, sometimes I really wonder if I actually think they're pretty just because I made them. But look! Delicate and highlighted with fine sand-like semolina, the unintended twists and curls are just like gentle waves stretching across the moon-lit ocean. 

Linguine is spaghetti squashed flat, best served with light vegetable sauces. Introduced to this pasta dish through the beautiful Nigella Lawson's cooking show a few years ago, I've been making this since then whenever I want a tasty meal real quick. Really, there's nothing to cook apart from the pasta! The mushrooms are served fresh. 

You know this pasta recipe is a keeper just by looking at the genius polygamy of mushroom, thyme and lemon. Like tomato and basil, mushroom and thyme, and thyme and lemon are best friends matched by heaven. So nothing can go wrong here. Perfect timing for me to share with you a little trick I recently learnt from Jamie Oliver on his 30-minute meals series. Before you pick the thyme leaves off the sprigs, wake them up by dipping them in hot water. It takes less than a second but you can immediately smell the thyme then. So good.

Homemade Linguine with Mushroom, Thyme and Lemon
(Serving size: 4)
- 350g homemade linguine
- 300g white button mushrooms
- juice and zest of 1-2 lemons
- 8 sprigs of thyme
- 4-5 cloves of garlic
- 10 tbs of extra virgin olive oil
- salt and pepper
- grated Parmigiano Reggiano

1. Slice the mushroom and finely mince the garlic. 
2. Place the mushroom and minced garlic in a large bowl with the lemon juice, zest, thyme leaves (better wake up the flavor by just dipping the thyme sprigs in hot water for a second before removing the leaves) and olive oil. Sprinkle some salt and pepper. Set aside in the fridge. The longer you let the ingredients rest and marinate in the fridge, the better it taste, so aim for at least 30 minutes. 
3. Cook the pasta. Usually fresh handmade pasta takes only around 5 minutes to cook, but the most reliable way to check if it's done is to try it yourself. 
4. Once the pasta is ready, head back to the fridge and take out your bowl of mushrooms.
5. Use a pair of tongs to remove the pasta from the pot and toss them into your mushrooms. Toss to combine. You may spoon in some pasta water to loosen everything up.  
6. Finish off with some grated Parmigiano Reggiano and eat with joy.

Homemade Linguine
(Servings: 3 people)
- 200g* of "00" flour** 
- 2 eggs
- 2 pinches of salt
- extra flour for dusting

Instructions (Making the dough)

1. Place the flour on a flat surface. Dig out a well in the centre and crack the eggs into it. Add to it a pinch of salt.
2. Start mixing the eggs and flour in the centre with a fork at first. Then mix everything with your hands. If you want to add some colour your pasta, you may add the tomato paste or the minced herbs at this stage. Mix and knead until everything is combined.
3. Be patient, knead the dough until it's smooth and silky, firm and dry. If the dough is too sticky, add some more flour. If it's too dry and cracks as you knead it, add a little bit of water or the tomato paste/ minced herbs. Ultimately, you want a dough to be like playdoll, rubbery and elastic.
4. Wrap the dough with glad wrap and let it rest for 30 minutes to let the gluten relax in the flour.

Instructions (Rolling and Shaping)

5. Dust the station with a little flour. The least flour you use here, the better.
6. Cut your dough in half. Cover one half of the dough with a damp tea towel to prevent it from drying. Meanwhile, place the other half of the dough on the dusted surface. Press and flatten it a bit with your fingertips. 
7. (Without a pasta machine) Start rolling with a rolling pin. Turn your flattened dough 90 degrees and roll again. Keep turning and rolling until it is thin as a playing card or 2 playing cards max. If you're making stuffed pasta like ravioli or tortellini, make sure it's as thin as possible.
8. (With a pasta machine) Feed the dough through the machine at the widest setting. Then fold the dough twice towards the middle. press it with your fingertips and feed the dough through the machine at the widest setting again. Repeat this for two more times. The feed the dough through the machine at a narrower setting one at a time. Keep doing this until the dough is thin to a point when you can see your hands through it.
9. Use a knife to carve out thin 3mm-wide strips of pasta.  
10. Gently place your linguine on a board dusted with semolina. This will prevent the linguine from sticking together.
11. Let them dry for 5 minutes before cooking. Once completely dried, you may even keep them for weeks in a container.

*Try to find a cup that holds 100g or 200g of flour when full. This will save you from the trouble of weighing the flour every time you make pasta.

**"00" flour is finely ground and sieved flour. It is commonly known to make better and lighter pasta than normal all-purpose flour.

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