Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Win a date with me

So here is the long anticipate essay I had to do for my boss.

I am not sure how well written it is but it is rather funny I think.

Though my boss thinks I need a date......

The Pama Roma: A Love Story

12 months ago, if you told me that I would be hugging a cold , strong, silent object every time I walked past it, I would think you were talking about an old boyfriend. But it still remains the strong, silent type and I do love it: My Pama Roma Pasta machine.

Up until then I had never heard of Pama Roma or knew machines like mine existed for the less industrial ventures like restaurants or even dining halls. I have grown up, both personally and professionally, in kitchens where you either made pasta by hand or used the hamster wheel crank of a pasta machine. Both are labor intensive and honestly, I got tired after 30 minutes.

The Pama Parsi Macchine or Pasta Station is in a nut shell, heaven in a 4 foot workstation. This amazing machine can make 20 lbs. of fresh pasta in less than 30 minutes from start to finish. This includes drying time in the racks below the station. The machine comes directly from Italy all nice and pretty in a giant crate. I have to say, that actually got me really excited when I saw it on my dock.

Once open though, the real fun begins. Though most of the instructions are in Italian, I was able to find a few manuals from the Pama Roma company themselves. Now, this is a side note…whoever got the pleasure of reading my emails, in probably bad Italian, BLESS them. They answered all my questions within hour’s sometimes even minutes of me sending the emails. The manuals were pretty basic, though, and only took a few reads and remembering the metric system, before I understood what I was actually dealing with.

This machine is easier than raising a teenage boy. In its basics, the tumbler mixes the semolina flour, eggs and other liquid. By other liquid I mostly mean water. But this is where fun part of the machine comes into play. The majority of the manuals do not give instruction on different flavors and proportions. I was basically told by my lovely Pama Roma friend to “play” with it. And that is just what we did and are continuingly doing.

We have experimented with flavors as basic as lemon pepper then moved on to wasabi (we do a pasta stir fry with our spiral pasta) and even tried orange pasta just to see if dessert pasta dish could be something that was feasible (it is with a mascarpone cream. It was sort of like sweet Alfredo texture. We are looking to expand the dessert pasta by experimenting with cocoa powders, coffee powders and things like that. Flavors that were hits included spinach, tomato, basil and stout which we used with a beef stroganoff and it was delicious!

The work station comes with the basic pasta shapes: tagliolini, tagliatelle, fettuccine and pappardelle along with a basic spiral that can be made into long thin spiral or short tight ones depending on the speed of your cutting blade. The flat pasta can be made into any thickness. The Sheeter-Cutter with stainless steel roller rough will allow you, through a simple leaflet, to refine the sheet width. 200 mm to the desired thickness and to prepare tagliolini, tagliatelle, fettuccine and pappardelle in widths: 2-4-6-12 mm. This can also be used to make lasagna sheets. We have experimented with making a type of layered pasta by thinning out sheets of two pastas (Tomato and Spinach) then sticking them together and sending them through the sheeter. It worked, we think. The pasta looked like a Crayola factory exploded on the pasta. But was pretty to look at and rather tasty.

The other aspect of pasta making with the Pasta Station is the ability to use different flours such as whole wheat, buckwheat, and semolina and rice flour. Each flour requires special attention as they each mix differently, have different stages of gluten binding and kneading. But with a lot of experimenting, we were able to make whole wheat, regular semolina and buckwheat. We played a little with the rice but never got the final product to our liking. This is important for us to find non-wheat gluten “friendly” pasta. Like many college and universities, we have Celiac and wheat sensitive students that grow in numbers every year. We value their health and feel it is important that have as much of the same food their friends are eating rather than be singled out as they have had to be because of their dietary needs.

One the last pasta making components is the ravioli maker. This part of the machine, I am very fond of. We have a lot of high end events that require us to make vegan dishes. I like vegan pasta dishes because we can replace any egg products with soy, egg replacements or other types of binders that adhere to vegan lifestyle. But the cool thing is the fillings. We can do any type of fillings. We have done a taco, pumpkin, smoked salmon and herbed cream cheese, sweet potato, four cheese, bbq smoked pork just to name a few. We have also experimented with dessert ravioli adding chocolate ganache in the middle or pieces of cake. The ganache worked the best, I have to say.

The pasta station comes with a few other bells and whistles: a cooling rack (7), four drawer storage unit and flour bin. All of them fit right under the work station and the machine is very easy to take care of and maintain. One has to be careful with the parts and hand washe everything. The dies themselves are made of soft brass and can be easily damaged as we found out this spring (luckily not to badly and we were able to fix it with a bit of buffing and “please don’t be broken, please don’t be broken’s”)

Oh, the dies are another really cool part of this machine. At only $250 a piece, you could procure a small collection that could meet all your pasta making needs. There are so many choices including assorted shell sizes for basic pasta to stuffed shells, all the favorite shapes like bowtie, rotini and radiator pasta.

What I really , really like about this machine and why I hug my machine(a lot) is that I get to give my students and the staff of the university a beautiful, fresh , made in house product that they can actually see us make every day. We have given students and staff samples of the pasta as it is made right off the machine. The delight and surprise on their faces is worth it all. Majority of people that walk in to the dining hall have never had fresh pasta, let alone in a “cafeteria”. Our students acknowledge they really appreciate and enjoy the fresh pasta versus the dry type. They feel it adds a value to their meal plan especially to the parent who sees that we are serving fresh pasta every day. T We learned, from trial and error that the pasta lasts longer than expected in its dry state, when properly stored. We are able to cook the pasta off just like restaurants do, giving the client the best possible and freshest meal. And just like our gelato machine, we ask for flavor suggestions from our students. We have had some interesting ideas like roasted corn, grape juice and vodka; though I think I just might have to do the PB and J ravioli just because I can. We are hoping to in the future to package the pasta for take home use. We have been experimenting with this in the way of making “cup of soup”mixs and selling them in one of our retails. It is basically cooked diced chicken, vegetables, house made bouillon and blanched noodles. All the customer has to do is add hot water and let stand for 5 minutes. The response has been better than expected and we hope to expand it in the future.

I love my Pasta Station. I am protective and guard it like it is my child. Only one other person really knows how to use it and I would like to keep it that way. I didn’t even let my regional chef get much time on it because I want to keep it all to myself. But once everyone tasted the pasta we were making, I knew my machine would be a popular guy.

But no matter what, I am going to keep hugging my machine.

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