Rule number one of making whole wheat pasta, or any pasta dough for that matter: Don't fear the dough. Chef Jonah Rhodehamel from Oliveto in Oakland, California, tells us that good pasta dough should feel elastic, not dry or crumbly. So don't be afraid to add more water if it is too dry and refusing to hold together. On the flip side, if the dough happens to be too wet, just add a touch more whole wheat flour.
Rhodehamel also suggests letting the dough rest for at least one hour, but no more than five, or it will begin to oxidize. We use a traditional chitarra frame to cut out the pasta, but a chitarra attachment for your stand mixer will also work well.
Once boiled, gently toss the pasta noodles in a sauté pan with cold butter, lemon juice, freshly ground black pepper and flake salt. Then toss in the sausage and clams. This pasta is so good, however, that you could forgo everything and eat it as is. For serving, we love this family style. Just beware of elbows, because everyone's going to want to get in there.
To learn more, read “The Grain Attraction.”
Saffron ChitarraRecipe adapted from chef Jonah Rhodehamel, Oliveto, Oakland, CA
Yield: 4 to 6 servings
Prep Time: 40 minutes, plus cooling and resting time
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour and 10 minutes, plus cooling and resting time
For the Pasta Dough:
2 tablespoons hot water
1 pinch saffron, ground fine in a mortar and pestle
1¼ cups whole-grain durum wheat flour
½ cup semolina flour
For the Whole Wheat Pasta Dish:
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
½ cup plain bread crumbs
Kosher salt, to taste
½ pound sweet Italian sausage, casing removed
½ pound (6 leaves) Tuscan kale, stems removed and leaves coarsely chopped
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1½ pounds Manila clams, rinsed
¼ cup white wine
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold and cubed
1 pound fresh whole wheat pasta
3 tablespoons lemon juice
¼ cup parsley, roughly chopped
1. Make the pasta dough: In a small bowl, combine the water and saffron, and let steep as it cools slightly, 2 to 3 minutes.
2. In a large bowl, whisk together the whole-grain and semolina flours. Push the flour mixture along the sides of the bowl and form a well for the eggs. Add the eggs and saffron water, and, using your fingertips, gradually push the flour into the eggs and water until it just starts to form a dough. When it's nearly combined, transfer the mixture to a lightly floured surface. Knead the dough using the heel of your hand, rotating and repeating, 10 minutes. Cover the dough with plastic wrap and rest for 1 hour in the refrigerator.
3. While the dough rests, make the bread crumbs: In a small sauté pan, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. Add the bread crumbs and stir the mixture frequently until the bread crumbs are toasted and golden brown in color, 7 to 8 minutes. Season the bread crumbs with salt, turn off the heat and allow to cool to room temperature.
4. Roll out the pasta dough: Using a bench scraper, divide the dough in two. Keep half of the dough covered with a damp towel while rolling out the remaining half through a pasta machine to about ⅛ inch thick. Cut the rolled-out dough into sheets 7 inches wide and 14 inches long. Push the sheets through a traditional chitarra frame or a chitarra attachment. Repeat with the other portion.
5. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
6. In a large sauté pan, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the sausage and cook until it's browned, about 7 to 8 minutes. Add the kale and sauté until the greens are tender and slightly caramelized, 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium and add the garlic, red pepper flakes, clams and white wine. Cover the pan with a lid until the clams begin to open, 4 to 6 minutes.
7. Remove the lid, add the butter and let the liquid reduce until it coats the back of a spoon, 5 minutes. Meanwhile, cook the pasta until tender, 2 to 3 minutes. Strain the pasta and toss it in the sauté pan, along with the lemon juice. Transfer the pasta and clam mixture to a large serving platter, garnish with the prepared bread crumbs and parsley, then serve.
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