Making Fresh Pasta
– 1 cup unbleached all purpose flour or 1 1/4 cup whole wheat flour
– 2 large eggs + 1 egg yolk (if dough is too dry)
(What to do with those left over egg whites? Use them for Flourless Chocolate Italian Cookies.)
Dump flour onto a wood board and make a large well in the center of the flour. Crack two eggs into the center and stir with a fork.
As you are gently beating the eggs, use the fork to gradually scoop the flour into the center from the inner part of the well. As you continue to incorporate the flour, the dough will get thicker and thicker. Once you have mixed in most of the flour and there is no danger of the egg running over the wood board, use your bench cutter to scoop up all the flour into one pile.
Now it is time to get your hands into the process. Gather up the dough in your hands and begin to knead to a uniform consistency. Using the palm of your hand, knead and fold the dough for about 5 minutes. Sprinkle with flour if the dough gets sticky. If the dough is too dry, add one egg yolk. After kneading for 5 minutes, it should be a soft, elastic dough. Using a sharp knife, cut dough into 4 equal pieces. It is easier to roll in smaller pieces, unless you are super experienced and can roll the whole sheet at once!
If you want to roll the dough by hand, watch this video:
Drying the pasta
Once you have rolled out the dough, you can hang the pasta sheets on a pasta drying rack, but I like to hang them over the back of my kitchen chairs just like my Italian relatives used to do. Be sure to put a towel or cloth over the back of the chair first. Dry for 30 minutes flipping to the other side halfway through. If your house is warm, the drying time might vary. You want to be able to roll up the sheets without them cracking. Note that the whole wheat pasta will take a bit longer to dry.
Cutting the pasta
Lay one of the pasta strips on a floured board. Roll the pasta sheet like you are rolling up a newspaper. Using a sharp knife, cut into 1/2 inch strips. Unroll and fluff the strips, sprinkling with flour as you go to keep the pieces from sticking. (Watch the second part of the video below for a visual of this step.)
Use right away or refrigerate in plastic wrap. Remember that when you cook fresh pasta, it gets bigger and thicker, so the 1/2 inch strips will grow to 3/4 – 1 inch after cooking. For Fettuccine, cut fresh pasta into 1/4 inch strips.
The Rolling Pin
The rolling pin you see in the video is not your grandmother’s rolling pin. In Italian it is a mattarello and is perfectly suited for rolling pasta dough into large sheets. The dimensions are 32 ” in length by 1 1/2 inches in diameter and is made of hard wood. You can purchase one online or you can to what I did… go to a lumberyard and have them cut a dowel to these specifications. It works beautifully and is much less expensive.
If you are using a Pasta Machine, here are the steps:
Once you knead the dough, form dough into a ball, cover with plastic wrap and set aside for at least 30 minutes. (You can refrigerate it and use the next day, but let it reach room temperature before using.)
Rolling the dough on your pasta machine (an amazing invention!)
Unwrap dough and cut into four equal pieces. Keep the parts of the dough you are not using in the plastic wrap to keep them from drying out.
Flatten out the dough slightly to begin feeding the dough through the pasta machine. Follow the directions for your pasta machine, and keep rolling the dough through the pasta machine until it is on the thinnest setting (1/16 inch). It should be thin enough that you can see through to the wood board underneath. Repeat for the rest of the dough.
The art of making pasta is not rocket science, but it does take a great deal of practice. Be easy on yourself. I had to make every mistake in the book, but I am beginning to feel more confident with the process. Hang in there, keep practicing. It is so worth it!!