To learn Samin's recipe and technique for basic handmade pasta, click here.
Whenever I prepare to teach one of my Home Ec cooking classes on a new subject, I do the kind of research only obsessive-compulsive cooks like me would bother with. I scan my bookshelves for every single cookbook that might have anything to say about said topic and start reading. I Google maniacally. Sometimes, I email food historians and scientists in the middle of the night just to get a better picture of where and how everything begins.
My favorite bit of research is to figure out the exact point in the history of humankind where the origins of each recipe lie. (Oh, were you wondering if I'm a total geek? Let me answer that for you: yes!). When I was preparing to teach a pasta-making workshop recently, I was delighted to learn that humans have been making pasta since Neolithic times. That's basically when we figured out that wheat is edible once the chaff is removed. First, we mushed it up with water and cooked a sort of gruel out of it. Then the gruel became a denser paste that we turned into dumplings and boiled in water. Eventually, the neo-folks started to smash the dumplings into flat cakes, and one day, someone cut the cakes into strips and viola, pasta was born. Amazing, right?
Maybe you're not quite foaming at the mouth with excitement as I was, but for me, it actually was amazing to learn this, because it factually supported the beliefs at the philosophical root of my cooking classes. I believe that as a teacher, my work is not to show people how to do things they have never done or been able to master, but rather to water seeds of knowledge about how to nourish themselves that were planted by their parents, grandparents, or even great-grandparents and never tended to. I'd always known that no matter what race or ethnicity, no matter where we grow up or how, we all have the innate knowledge of how to perform these beautiful, simple kitchen tasks, such as turning flour and eggs into pasta or butchering a chicken, but now I could prove it. My theory was no longer a theory, but indisputable facts complete with footnotes.