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I’ve been singing it in the shower.  I’ve been humming it a little too loudly on the train from work.  What’s the Frequency, Kenneth is the tune.  REM is the band (duh).  Michael Stipe is the voice.  I came online today determined to write a post, but all I could do is play this youtube video of an old favorite, marvel at the orange uni-brow and  funky dancing, and relish in the feeling of  spastic excitement I still get when I listen to this song.  I know lots of people wouldn’t say it’s a classic, but I don’t care.  It’s a classic to me.  REM rocks my socks (if I had any).  The term “What’s the Frequency, Kenneth?” came before REM’s time, supposedly originating from an attack on Dan Rather near his apartment in the ’80s, whose attacker continuously asked him “What’s the Frequency, Kenneth?” as he beat him to a pulp.  It seems the song doesn’t have much, if anything, to do with that incident, but used the catch-phrase to express an older man’s frustration as he attempts to understand the younger generation.  (Thanks, Wikipedia!)

What does this have to do with food?  Absolutely nothing.  But here’s how I have decided to pitch it to you in order to convince you it is food-related so you let me guiltlessly listen to this song on repeat for another hour:  REM → vocalist Michael Stipe → happens to be bestest friends with Mario Batali → I made Batali’s pasta recipe and would also like to be bestest friends with Mario Batali → maybe Michael Stipe has found himself eating a plate of Mario’s pasta at Mario’s house on some frigid New York evening (on numerous occasions, I like to imagine) → maybe Michael Stipe loved the pasta intensely, as I do → erego, Michael Stipe and I have something in common and could possibly be bestest friends.  In another time.  And if I were a genius.  And grew a bitchin’  beard.  And wore orange Crocs…

Yeah, there’s no real logic there.  But hey, does it help my cause that pasta is mentioned twice in the previous paragraph?  I’m betting on a yes!

Pasta dough, post-knead and pre-30 minute rest.

Okay, I’ll get serious for a second (just a second!).  Pasta is simple to make.  It just takes a little practice and some elbow grease.  The result is absolutely worth the effort.  Fresh pasta dough is more tender than dried pasta and, with plenty of kneading, can be simultaneously tender and toothsome.  The clean flavor of fresh eggs in the dough can’t be beat.  I topped my pasta off with Mario’s rich and tangy Sausage, Basil and Sun-Dried Tomato Sauce, also in the book and a suggested accompaniment to fresh pasta, but any velvety sauce will do.  Just be careful not to over-sauce!  Let the clean flavor and texture of the pasta shine.  For pasta, it’s ideal to have a pasta machine (the cheap, hand-cranking variety is great and easily found at any kitchen goods store), although you can just roll out the dough as thin as possible and make noodles with a sharp knife, too!

Basic Pasta Dough

from Molto Italiano: 327 Simple Italian Recipes to Cook at Home

Ingredients:

3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for kneading

5 large eggs, organic

1.  Mound the flour on a clean work surface.  With your finger, create a well in the center of the mound.  Add the eggs to the center (they should not spill out the sides of the mound).  With a fork, beat the eggs together in the center of the mound and slowly incorporate the flour from the inner walls of the mound.  As you do this, use your free hand to push flour up and around the mound to maintain the mound shape and keep the eggs contained in the center.  Once about half of the flour is incorporated, you’ll notice a dough starts to form.  Continue to incorporate the remaining flour and begin to knead the dough, using your weight and the palms of your hands.  Once you have a cohesive mass of dough, put it to the side and use a bench scraper to scrape up straggling bits of flour and dough.  Discard.  (Admission: I do not have photos of this first step because my eggs escaped my flour mound and I had a slight freak-out.  This happens sometimes.  Nothing a bit of frantic mopping with hands and intense praying can’t fix.  Practice prepares me for disaster; it does not make me perfect!)

2.  Lightly flour your work surface and knead the dough for another 10 minutes or so.  If necessary, dust your work surface with the additional flour as you go.  You are done kneading when the ball is elastic and sticky (not clumpy and dry).  If the ball is clumpy and dry, just keep kneading.  It also helps to just let the ball of dough rest under a bowl for a few minutes (at which point you can grab a cocktail if you’re frustrated!).   The dough will relax and you can continue to knead until you reach the desired consistency.

3.  Wrap up the dough in plastic wrap and let rest for 30 minutes at room temperature before rolling and cutting.  (If you desire to freeze your dough for later use, once the dough has rested, stick it in the freezer!)  While allowing your dough to rest, set up your pasta machine at the edge of your counter, per the set-up instructions.

Mr. Cranky pasta machine.

4.  Once you’ve allowed your dough to rest, it will be more soft and pliable.  This is the desired effect of the resting period.  Cut your dough into 4 pieces.  Keep 1 out to work on and place the other 3 under plastic wrap to keep from drying out.  Flatten out your piece of dough into a burger shape (slightly thicker in the center than at the edges).  Set your pasta machine to its widest setting.  Dust the rollers with a bit of flour to be sure they are completely dry and free of crumbs from previous pasta-making sessions.  Using one hand, crank the hand to start the rollers and feed the dough in with your other hand.  As the flattened piece of dough emerges, let it fall into your hand and guide it away from the machine, but do not pull the dough (as you keep going and the dough gets thinner, this step becomes more important.  You don’t want the dough to fold on top of itself and create a jumbled mess).  Fold the dough into thirds, flatten it a bit, and roll it out again.  Repeat this process 5 times, then set the rollers to the next-thinnest setting and repeat the folding and rolling process 6 times.  At the third setting, repeat the process, but only 3 times.  At this point, the dough may become too long to easily guide away from the machine while cranking with your other hand.  In this case, just cut the piece of dough in half and continue the process.  If your dough sticks, dust it very lightly with flour.  Continue to roll the dough out through the thinner settings without folding again until you have reached the thinnest or next-to-thinnest setting (depending on the thickness you desire of your pasta).


5.  Using a knife or the cutting setting on your pasta machine, cut the sheets of dough into ribbons, strands, or other shapes.  At this point, you can use the sheets to make ravioli, as well.  Let the pasta dry for a bit on a floured work surface (I used a cooling rack and a baking sheet).  Dust with a little flour or corn meal to keep you pasta pieces/strands from sticking.


6.  To cook, bring a large pot of water to a boil.  Salt the water to taste.  Drop the pasta in and cook until tender.  In my case, I made tagliatelle (a medium-width pasta, like fettucine).  It only needed to cook for about 2 minutes.  Just taste test for doneness to get the texture you like best.  Add to your sauce of choice and enjoy.

Cooked pasta tossed with sauce.





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