Welcome to the next post in my tutorial series: making fresh pasta.
If you can boil water, then you can make fresh pasta. If you have a few essential tools—a food processor and a hand-crank or electric pasta machine—then it's super-duper easy. Those tools are helpful but aren't necessary. I've made pasta by rolling out the dough and cutting it with a knife. It never comes out as thin as when I make it with my pasta machine, but that's okay. It's still yummy.
The first thing you need to do when making fresh pasta is to make the dough. You can use AP flour or semolina, but I like to use this stuff:
It's called "00" (double zero) flour and is sold in well-stocked Italian markets, gourmet shops, or online. I think it makes the pasta especially silky and light, but regular flour works fine, too. Once you have your flour of choice, get ready to make the dough. You'll need:
- 4 cups of "00" or unbleached AP flour (whatever you prefer)
- 6 eggs (+ up to 2 egg yolks if you want a richer, eggier pasta)
- a pinch or two of sea salt
- about a 1/2 tsp of olive oil
- room temp water (just in case you need it)
This recipe serves 6 hungry eaters, but make it all anyway, you can freeze the pasta once it's cut.
If you don't have a food processor (instructions below), follow these instructions to mix the dough by hand, which is how I learned to do it from my mom (p.s. kids LOVE doing this):
- Pile the flour into the middle of your work surface making a big mountain.
- With your finger tips, make a crater in the middle of the mountain (so you are now making a volcano) and expand the side of the "volcano" so the bottom of the crater is the bottom on the work surface. Now you have a "bowl." Make sure your flour sides are strong.
- Crack eggs into the "bowl" (into the middle of the flour crater), add salt, and olive oil and immediately start whipping with a fork, gradually incorporating the flour. Be careful not to break through the sides of the crater or egg will run all over your work surface. Continue beating and incorporating until the dough becomes stiff and sticky and it becomes harder and harder to incorporate the flour with just your fork. Now you are ready to use your hands.
- Work the remaining dough with your hands (adding water if needed) until the dough sticks together. Shape into a rough ball and put that aside.
- Clean your work surface: make sure that any traces of stick dough are removed and that your work surface is clean and dry. Now you are ready to knead.
If you have a food processor, you don't get the thrill of making a volcano, but it's a lot faster and easier:
- Fit the processor with the metal dough blade. Dump flour into bowl. In another bowl, beat the eggs, salt, and oil together then with the motor running, pour into food processor through the feed tube.
- Mix and or pulse until the dough sticks together. Add water if needed.
- Remove dough, form into rough ball, and set it aside. Prepare your work surface. Now you are ready to knead. This must be done by hand.
this is what the dough should look like when it's ready to be removed from the food processor.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured board.
Begin kneading using the heels of your hands and knuckles alternately. It's just like you are kneading bread dough, except that I don't usually use my knuckles when kneading bread dough. I learned this technique from Lidia Bastianich. She says it makes her pasta silkier and I agree.
Sprinkle with flour as needed, but try not to use too much. There will be a point when the dough doesn't stick anymore and you find you aren't adding flour. When you reach that point, about 8-10 minutes into the kneading process, you are half way there.
When the dough isn't sticking anymore, use your knuckles only for the remaining 5-10 minutes of kneading. You'll want to stretch the dough, knuckle it, fold it over, knuckle it, and repeat. The dough will start to feel soft as smooth—kind of like a baby's bum!
After about 20 minutes of kneading, when your dough is nice and silky, roll it into a ball, cover it with plastic wrap and let it rest for 1 hour before rolling and shaping. You can also refrigerate it at this point and keep it in the fridge for a day.
While the dough is resting, clean up and get ready to rock and roll. If you have a pasta machine (mine is an Atlas Marcato), get that out and remove the pasta cutter thingy. Set the rollers on the widest setting. You will also need:
- more flour
- some clean hangers (or the backs of chairs)
- and Ideally, someone to help "catch" the dough
If you are going to be rolling out your pasta by hand, you will want to have a rolling pin and a sharp knife at the ready. The technique is to break off hunks of dough, roll them out thinly (flouring pin as needed) then cut into pappardelle or malfatti or even little square handkerchief shapes.
To roll the pasta with a machine, begin by dividing the dough into 6 or 8 equal pieces and patting them flat. Lightly flour them and cover them with plastic wrap or a tea towel.
Pass the first piece of dough through the widest setting a couple of times:
Don't tug, just let it come out.
Fold 1/3 over...
Fold the other third over to make a sort of envelope...
Rotate the envelop 90 deg. and pass it through the wide setting again. Now you are ready to continue rolling the dough, setting the machine one step smaller with every pass until you are on the thinnest setting. PS This machine was my moms and is at least 40 years old, but they haven't really changed much.
Rollin', rollin', rollin'...
Though the streams are swollen'...
Keep them doggies rollin'...
Rawhide! I mean, PASTA! (I think I was channeling Ree there for a second.) Okay, you know it's thin enough when you can kinda see your hand through the pasta. That's ChefSis helping me out. And yes, this pasta sheet started life as a ball of dough the size of a golf ball.
Now. What to do with all of these pasta sheets? Remember those hangers and chairs? You do this:
Continue the process until all the dough is rolled out. At this point you are ready to make your fettuccine or tagliatelle, but I recommend setting some pasta sheets aside to make lasagne. Simply cut them up flour them, let them dry for a few minutes, then wrap and freeze.
Today we are making fettuccine, and we have a special helper, a little girl named Bunny.
Come to mamma!
First batch. Lovely, just lovely.
Lightly (very very lightly) flour the pasta and set it on wax paper as you continue rolling it out. It needs to rest and dry up a bit anyway so don't worry about it. It will be fine.
Now you've done it! You've made pasta! That wasn't too bad, was it?