Little old pasta makers
My aunts typically made pasta right on the table. They would throw a mountain of flour in the center of the table and make a depression. Within the depression, they placed the eggs and began to mix. Really, making fresh pasta is that simple. I will give you the general recipe and some variations. This recipe is good for all kinds of pasta including spaghetti, lasagna, fettuccine, linguine, ravioli, etc. (you will need certain attachments to the pasta maker to cut the pasta to the type you want – like linguine). You can throw almost anything into pasta like garlic, spinach, sun dried tomatoes, etc. But let’s make the simple pasta first and then you can branch out.
- 2 cups flour (I recommend 00 flour if you can find it. It makes a huge difference in taste.)
- 3 to 4 large eggs (may need to add flour depending on the size of the eggs.
- ½ teaspoon salt (optional)
- 10 oz spinach (optional depending on whether you want spinach noodles or not)
You really need to invest in a pasta maker. It allows you to thin the pasta to specific thicknesses. But my family always used rolling pins to make their pasta in the old Italian ways. I have experimented with the rolling pin, and honestly, you just don’t get the uniform thickness you do with the pasta maker (except for the way Aunt Alice made her pasta – she could get uniform thickness no matter what, but she had 30 years of experience). Since I last wrote this article, I have purchased an KitchenAid with the pasta maker attachments. I could not be happier with it. It sure beats cranking pasta the way I show here. I try to get most of my pasta to a thickness with setting 5 in case you own one.
If you are using the spinach (I don’t recommend this for your first time), wash and cook the spinach in a pan with a small amount of olive oil. It will wilt quite quickly and should be removed from the heat as soon as it does.
Spinach before cooking
Spinach after cooking
Make sure the spinach has drained well (squeeze a bit if necessary). If you do not remove the water, you will need to add more flour during the forming of the dough. Chop the spinach finely.
Combined the chopped spinach with the flour, eggs and salt in a bowl and use your hands to knead (just mix). Keep adding flour if it is sticky. Set aside for about 30 minutes once you have formed a dough ball.
Mixing the dough
Using the pasta maker
The key to the pasta maker (in addition to patience) is getting the dough to the point of being soft and not sticky. This may require sprinkling flour on the dough several times. Run the dough through the pasta maker and add flour if it is sticky. Keep doing this until it stops being sticky. It can be frustrating at first (take a look at the picture below).
Keep running it through the pasta maker until the dough is not sticky and smooth. Don’t be afraid to add flour to get it to the point you want. Once you have dough that is not sticky, run it through the pasta maker on the widest separation of the wheels. Fold and run through again. You will probably need to do this about 5 to 7 times before the pasta becomes consolidated and smooth with no holes in it.
It is starting to get close to smooth here.
Keep on rolling
You are almost there. You need to start making the space between the wheels smaller and than roll the dough through. Do not fold anymore at this point. Each time you run the dough through, make the space smaller. You should go down to where you are on the setting with two settings left to go. Of course this varies between pasta makers, but most pasta will require a medium thinness (don’t take it all the way to ultra thin unless you require really thin pasta).
And you get good with practice
Close up of pasta
You have two options at this point. You can let the dough sit out over night so it becomes hard (make sure it dries on a lightly floured surface). It allows you to store the pasta for later use. (I like fresh pasta so I rarely do this. I have found that you can keep dough in your refrigerator for up to 30 days. I will double the recipe and then put one dough ball in the refrigerator until I am ready to make more noodles. If you are making a noodle like spaghetti that needs to be cut by the pasta maker, you need to let it harden some. I will be writing an article on making these types of noodles later.) Or you can cook the pasta immediately and eat it. Nothing like fresh cooked pasta. Just boil a few quarts of water with salt and a dash of olive oil (use the oil if you are cooking fresh pasta to keep the pasta from sticking) and throw the pasta in for about 6 minutes. If you allow it to dry and harden you may need to cook longer depending on whether you like it al dente or not.
Jack Botticelli – You can read more Italian recipes here