The Hunt for a Fresh Pasta Recipe

Well, it was bound to happen. The first snowfall of the season arrived yesterday and brought with it over 200 crashes in just under 3 hours. Uhg. Suddenly the decision about which new tires to buy and if they should be winter tires seems crucial. Needless to say, I did not take my skidding sedan out for a spin yesterday.

Instead, I turned my kitchen into a test kitchen. The mission? To create a fresh pasta recipe that is easy, soft, versatile, delicious, and nutritious (and doesn't use eggs).

I know that semolina flour is the best for pasta; it creates the perfect texture and flavor for pasta. While semolina flour doesn't have a horrible nutritional profile compared to say all purpose flour, I wanted to mix it up a bit.

So, what other flours have a great nutritional profile? To decide which flour(s) to use in my pasta recipe, I looked at the following flours:
I compared calories, fat, protein, carbohydrates, fiber, and iron. Here's what I found!

This chart shows stuff we want less of in a flour. So, theoretically, the shortest line should be the healthiest.

As you can see, fat is negligible. Coconut has 4 grams, everything else has around 1 gram of fat. Calories range from 94 (kamut) to 140 (brown rice and semolina), but most are in the 110-120 range. Carbs also don't very too much with the least being 16 grams (coconut) and the most being 30-31 grams (brown rice and semolina).

This chart shows all the stuff we want more of in a flour. So, theoretically, the longest line should be the healthiest.

Semolina was at the top of the chart of bad stuff and in the middle of the pack for the good stuff. This makes it not terrible, but it can be improved. Therefore, I want to create a recipe that combines a couple flours together to maximize both the texture and the nutrition. Because of the snow, I was limited to what I had on hand... which included about 1/4 cup semolina flour... not much to work with. :( So, I decided to go the gluten free route and use garbanzo bean flour and brown rice flour.

So, I made 5 different fresh pasta recipes. They all used a 3:1 mixture of garbanzo bean and brown rice flour (although one reversed the ratio). I mostly played with the amount of oil, salt, xanthum gum, and potato starch in the recipe. Because I was using gluten free flours, I had to add the xanthum gum and potato starch to make it stick together.

My favorite dough was #1, but that quickly changed...

All of them were a pain to roll out, especially #5 which had mostly brown rice flour. From the moment I started rolling them, I knew that none of these would be a winner... :(

I thought that #1 would be awesome when it came to cutting into spaghetti shaped pasta, but it became pasta bits. Not what I wanted at all.

Then came the tasting. I simply tossed them in some butter, parmesan, and salt and pepper to let the noodles really shine. Unfortunately, they were just a pale glimmer.

I roped my husband into the taste testing, and we agreed on most of the ratings. The worst pasta was #1; it fell apart, wasn't chewy, and tasted gritty. Its overall rating (1 being eww! 5 being lick your plate delicious) was a 2.

Second worst was #5. It had a horrible flavor and texture. Its overall rating was 2.25.

Third worst was #2. It had the same flavor as #1, but it wasn't as dry and was chewier. Its overall rating was 3.

Recipes #3 and #4 tied with an overall rating of 3.25 (still barely edible). The texture was better for both of these recipes, but it still fell apart and was gritty.

The verdict?
More testing is definitely needed. My next round of testing will use a combination of semolina and garbanzo bean flours. 

But, don't worry. Amid all this testing, I did discover a recipe worthy of sharing with you: Tempeh Nicoise (Nees-swa) Salad.

I put off making this because it required time to marinate the tempeh. I shouldn't have. This was much easier to put together than I had anticipated. Plus, it blew me away with its deliciousness. Don't wait like I did - go out and try this! Now, before the snow comes and locks us in our homes again!

Tempeh Nicoise Salad
4 servings, 60-90 minutes (mostly inactive)

3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon finely chopped yellow onion
1/2 teaspoon prepared mustard
1/4 teaspoon dried sage
1/2 teaspoon sugar
3 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
1 8oz package tempeh, cut into 1 inch cubes
2 cups frozen green/yellow beans, thawed
1/2 pint cherry tomatoes, quartered
1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
Mixed greens
  1. Mix together the vinegar, onion, mustard, sage, and sugar in a wide-bottomed bowl (good for marinating). Slowly whisk in the olive oil. Add the tempeh and stir gently so it is well covered. Let sit for 30-60 minutes.
  2. Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a baking pan with tin foil. Scoop the tempeh out of the marinate and onto the baking pan (reserve the dressing for later). Bake for about 20 minutes or until lightly browned. Be sure to stir after about 5 minutes to ensure the tempeh doesn't stick to the tin foil. 
  3. Meanwhile, add the green beans, tomatoes, and cilantro to the bowl with the remaining dressing. When the tempeh is done, toss that into the bowl. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  4. To serve, place a bed of mixed greens onto a plate and top with the tempeh salad. Yum!

Print this recipe. Adapted from Tempeh Nicoise Salad by Whole Foods.