I Blame My Fear of Ravioli On Claire Saffitz: A Pasta Tragedy

source: The Boston Globe

I blame it on Claire Saffitz.

As much as I adore her, I blame Bon Appetit's Claire Saffitz and her filmed-at-home quarantine videos for being the reason I stood covered in flour, running silky pasta dough through my brand new Kitchen-aid attachment, regretting everything. And when I say "silky" pasta dough I don't mean sexy, uniform sheets of golden dough. I mean pasta dough that is exactly the texture to slip out of my hands like a satin cami, and end likewise, in a crumpled heap on the floor.  I almost expected to turn it over and see a label: DRY CLEAN ONLY. There was nothing sexy about me and this pasta dough.

But let's rewind. Back in my days at the restaurant, I often made pasta dough. Batch upon batch of tagliatelle and pappardelle, and little nests of vermicelli-like noodles. Classic pasta and jet-black squid ink dough. But our formulas were different, and modern. We blitzed flour, eggs, and yolks in the workhorse Robocoup till it was the texture of fine sand, packed it into rectangular vacuum-sealed bags, tossed them in the fridge to rest, and waited for the hydration process. In fact, my pasta-rolling Kitchen-aid attachments were so well-used by myself and the rest of the crew that we loved them to literal pieces. They were never formally replaced, till now. Which is why when the quarantine carb-cravings and online shopping mood coincided with BA's latest video, the conditions were perfect for an impulse decision to finally replace my broken roller attachment. I rationalized this purchase by remembering that since I'm dating an Italian, pasta is permanently in my future. Done deal, purchase made. Amazon said the attachment was out of stock (I guess half the world is deciding to make pasta now instead of sourdough bread. Thanks, Claire.), but that they'd ship it as soon as they got some in.

Yesterday morning, quicker than I'd even hoped, the pasta attachment was delivered to my house. I rushed home from work with a couple dozen eggs and high hopes, stripped the packaging away from the box, screwed the pasta rolling attachment into my Kitchen Aid, and re-watched Claire's video. It seemed easy enough with Hunzi's magical video edits. Not at all how we made it at the restaurant, but then...we had a lot of unique processes at the restaurant, as I've gradually come to realize in this post-restaurant life I now live.

There was definitely none of this nest-shape of flour directly on the counter-top as Claire's calm voice instructed me to do. No ten eggs and eight yolks cracked into the well and haphazardly whisked together with a fork. And there was definitely, (and let me state this twice for dramatic effect) definitely no fifteen minutes of kneading. Maybe Italian mothers and grandmothers have, for centuries, made pasta this way. They certainly didn't use an industrial-size food processor or vac-seal bags. I am sure I was the common error in the equation. But regardless of all these factors, this dough felt all wrong to me.

Still, I thought, adding more and more flour to the absolutely massive heap of dough sticking to the heels of my palms, my fingers, the counter tiles, the grout between the counter tiles, it'll have to turn out. This is Claire freaking Saffitz we're talking about. She's royalty.

And so she is. Though I, evidently, am but a peasant.

After much more than "a few pinches at a time" of flour, my pasta dough was still far, far stickier and softer than that with which I am accustomed to working. I couldn't with good conscience add more flour (I'd already used what felt like twice as much flour as Claire suggested), so I turned a large bowl over it, and let it rest for 30 minutes while mixing the ricotta and lemon filling. Here, my mood took an upward swing. I cleaned the counter and grout, assembled what I'd need for filling said pastas, and finally began the process of rolling out the dough.

The first batch failed. Forgetting that filled pastas need to be a little sturdier than noodles, I'd rolled it too thin. Scrapped.

The second batch stuck to the rollers. Charming.

The third and forth batches made it through the rollers more or less, only to do a mediocre job of keeping shape as I punched them out with my small, scalloped cutter. Not long after filling my quarter sheet-tray with a shoal of Impressionistic ravioli, I abandoned that shape and pivoted to "agnolotti" which not only look more professional, but only required a knife and a bit of clever folding to accomplish. The second quarter sheet-tray finished, I lost my will to live...or to pasta, as the case may be. I simply had too much dough and not enough chutzpah.

Yes, there was a Google search for "can I freeze pasta dough?" Yes, there was a quiet under-the-breath muttering about how very little of the double batch of dough I'd actually used in the four dozen bits of stuffed pasta that finally made it onto the trays. Yes, there was a frustrated noise and several choice words when I realized the remaining dough had hermetically sealed to the dark green tiles (and grout) of my kitchen counter. A bench scraper is the one item I have yet to procure for my own kitchen; I savagely scraped the heap of pasta dough off the counter with an Anthropologie cheese knife, and onto a piece of plastic wrap.  As I hoisted the boulder of pasta dough off the counter, a real side of me wanted to throw it into the trashcan. But no, I'd risked life and limb at Aldi to get the eggs used in this dough. I am a great many things, but "Someone Who Wastes Eighteen Eggs During A Pandemic" I am not. Into the freezer with the trays of ravioli and agnolotti, ostensibly never to be thawed again.

No witnesses were present, but it is possible a small whimper escaped me when I turned my gaze to the aftermath of all this pasta-making. Flour on every surface; errant wads of pasta dough heaped in corners; eggs shells; more flour; the sticky, Jabba-shaped footprint of the main lump sprawling across the battlefield of the cheese-knife's last attempt. And all that grout to clean.

Reader, I cleaned it. But 5:30 found me cross-legged on the couch, laptop open, heart too faint to cook a single ravioli. If it tasted as rough as it looked, I didn't want to know. I couldn't bear to learn I'd wasted three hours of my life on something of even less worth than the eight hours I spent on Tiger King. Instead, I texted Andrew dark predictions about the outcomes and nursed my wounded feelings. My sister got home from work a few minutes later. I avoided the subject of pasta until she asked if I'd be fixing dinner soon, to which I requested silence on the matter, and a quesadilla. She realized I wasn't kidding, and fixed me the quesadilla.

Claire Saffitz is still the queen. I still swear fealty to the Bon Appetit test kitchen team. And yes, I still plan to tackle pasta again, perhaps with a different formula that works better in my unskilled hands and tiled counter top. But until then, I'll be here writing, hiding from the truth about my ravioli.

No comments