Failures in Pasta Making

A while back I tried my hand at homemade pasta.  Several cookbook authors and bloggers praised the ease and glory that was home made pasta dough, so I gave it a whirl.  I had grand visions of the culinary delight that would be made out of my butternut squash and pile of flour and eggs.  Instead, I ended up with a frustrating time-consuming experiment gone bad.  It did not sour me from the kitchen, but it did momentarily quell my adventurous urge to cook new things in the kitchen.

This fiasco reinforced several lessons I’ve already learned about cooking.  When trying a new technique or food item beyond your comfort zone, it is helpful if you have someone more experienced to shadow or watch do it first.  If relying on pictures and blogs and books, you have to be aware that it may not turn out correctly the first time.  As you go through the process, be mindful of what you’re doing so that in the end, you can assess what went wrong, where it went wrong, or (even if everything went right) how you can improve upon it for next time.

My butternut squash ravioli ended up as large square pasta pockets cooked in cloudy squash laden water.  Halfway through the ravioli making and cooking process, I quit trying and thinly cut up the rest of the dough into linguini-esq bits and shapes.

My dough itself tasted yum. The trouble started in rolling it out and making raviolis completely freehand with no special equipment and no previous experience.  Making raviolis out of wonton did not prepare me for this.  Rolled out, the dough overtook the several feet of counter space that I had to work with, leaving me with almost no room to set down everything else I needed.  My dough started drying out too quick which meant that I couldn’t get the stupid raviolis to seal.  If they seemed sealed they came apart later in the cooking water.  The whole process of fighting with the dough and filling to form the squares took much longer than anticipated, which added to my frustration.

Looking back, I now see a number of things that I could have done differently.  For one, instead of trying to roll out all the dough at once, I should divide it into smaller manageable balls.  Only my working ball should be left out while the others are kept tightly wrapped and possibly refrigerated.  My butternut squash filling was delicious but it also was a bit soupier than a basic cheese filling.  Until I’ve got ravioli making down, I should keep with a firmer filling that would be more forgiving of flawed assembly technique.  Pasta, even fresh pasta, increases in size during cooking, so its important to keep in mind that those nice seemingly perfect sized manageable squares will puff up to overtake a plate.  If there is any question about the quality of dough seals it may be wise to consider changing the cooking method. Instead of a boiled ravioli disaster it can be a baked ravioli success, for instance.

Cooking is like anything in life.  You win some, you lose some, you’re sometimes on your game and sometimes not.  Having occasional disasters and great failures is part of the process.  The important thing is to learn from them so that you do not succumb to the same disasters and failures a second time (they can be new failures and disasters).

I don’t plan to attempt fresh pasta again in the near future.  The taste obtained was not worth the heartache and suffering caused on my end.  I may revisit fresh egg pasta making in the future but next time I will make something simple, like lasagna noodles.

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