Friday, November 11, 2011

Homemade Pasta

Many people get intimidated by making fresh pasta because they feel like they need a bunch of fancy gadget's. This couldn't be farther from the truth. When I first learned to make pasta, I rolled it out by hand using a rolling pin and cut it into ribbons using a small knife. This past Christmas, my parents gave me a pasta maker, which is a time saver and helps to make the dough more consistent and perfectly even, which I love. But a pasta maker is by no means necessary to make great pasta. In fact, if it's your first attempt at making pasta dough, you might find it useful to roll it out by hand. This will give you a chance to really work with the dough and know when you've reached the right consistency. I feel like I learn faster when I get intimate with food, getting my hands dirty and using a little elbow grease!

Often times, I like to try different pasta recipes or play around with proportions whenever I make fresh pasta dough. I'll try 4 eggs instead of 3, add an extra egg yolk, add a little toasted wheat germ, play around with different flours etc. But my go-to recipe has always been from Joy of Cooking, and that's the one I've provided below. It's the first recipe I used when I started making pasta, and one that I find gives the most consistent results. Of course, anytime you make pasta, you'll be adding a little more flour or water, depending on the consistency of your dough. No batch of pasta is exactly alike.

Courtesy: Joy of Cooking, by Irma Rombauer, Marion Becker, and Ethan Becker

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour or Italian “tipo 00” flour (see notes)
3 large eggs
½ tsp. sea salt
1 tsp. olive oil

On a clean counter, use your flour to create a well. Add to the well the rest of the ingredients. Beat the eggs lightly with a fork, drawing in some flour as you go, until the eggs are mixed and slightly thickened. Using the fingertips of one hand, gradually incorporate the flour into the eggs and blend everything into a smooth, not too stiff dough. If the dough feels dry and crumbly, add a little water or milk just until the dough combines. If it's too sticky, add a bit more flour, a little at a time. Use a dough scraper to lift and turn the dough if it sticks. It should be firm but not sticky.

Knead the dough until satiny and very elastic, about 10 minutes (you can really work the dough here, so if you knead gently, it may take longer than 10 minutes). Divide the dough into 4 pieces, and wrap loosely in plastic wrap or cover with an inverted bowl. Let the dough rest at room temperature for 1 hour before rolling out.

Roll the dough out by hand, or use a pasta machine following the manufacturer's instructions. In either method, you want the dough to be about 1/8 inch thick or less. If you're rolling your dough out by hand, use a heavy rolling pin and apply even pressure. Work on one piece of dough at a time until you reach the desired thickness. It's important to remember that unlike other pastry dough’s that require a cool working environment, pasta dough will dry out or get stiff. So after you've rolled it out, dust it with a touch of flour, cover it with plastic wrap, and set aside. You want to keep it elastic and smooth. Cut it into the desired shape using a pasta maker or a small knife. 

  • In Italy, flour is categorized as 1, 0, or 00 and refers to how finely ground the flour is and how much bran and germ they contain. The percentages of gluten and protein also vary. This summer, I started using tipo 00 flour (which is the most finely ground) in place of all-purpose in my pasta, as per the suggestion of my friend Carolyn and other pasta recipes I've come across. I have to say, I like the texture the tipo 00 flour provides. The dough is extremely supple, soft, and smooth. However, it's certainly not necessary and I've been making pasta with unbleached all-purpose flour for years with wonderful results. Since tipo zero can be hard to find, I save it for special occasions. 

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