Jonathan Vrban earned his doctorate in nursing practice in 2008 from the Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals and has spent nearly 30 years in the field, in clinical and academic settings. Outside the professional environment, Jonathan Vrban is a passionate cook and enjoys making his own pasta.
Some home cooks prefer making their pasta themselves for a variety of reasons. It gives the diet-conscious the opportunity to assume complete control over their ingredients. For others, it’s the opportunity to experiment with different consistencies and flavors.
Pasta is made by combining flour and liquid to form a dough that can be rolled fairly thin — about 1/8 of an inch. Once rolled out, the pasta is cut into strips or other shapes by hand, shaped cutters, or machine and hung out to dry, after which it can be cooked.
The fun in pasta-making comes from experimenting with the ingredients – most pastas have egg as part of the liquid, and some have additional yolks. Pasta made for vegan diets cannot use eggs, and so those recipes substitute water. Tomato paste can be mixed with the liquid to give the pasta a reddish tint; a small amount of pureed spinach will make green pasta. Both coloring approaches will also impact the pasta’s texture and flavor.
The liquid isn’t the only part of pasta that’s open to experimentation. While western cultures often make pasta with wheat flour, other cultures use all manner of grains and legumes as the flour used for making pasta. Cellophane pasta is made with mung bean flour, and rice flour, sometimes mixed with tapioca or corn starch, is popular in Asia for making noodles. Japanese soba noodles are made with buckwheat flour, while udon — thick, chewy, and soft — and the thin ramen noodles so popular in the U.S. are both made with wheat flour.