HANDMADE PASTA: HOW-TO + RECIPE
If pizza is my ultimate comfort food, pasta is a very close second. I actually haven’t made pasta from scratch for a really long time and, lately, with the weather getting cooler and the fact that I'm going to serve it at my pop-up in a few weeks, I’ve been wanting to break out my pasta roller and get started. I bought a couple cookbooks for inspiration to get me started. The dough recipe is actually super simple, and I find myself wondering why I don’t make pasta from scratch more often at home instead of buying it at the store. Oh right, time! That little thing that tends to escape all of us...But if you are planning on having a dinner party, nothing is more impressive than serving a plate of homemade tagliolini! And it's something you can make in advance and cook quickly while your guests are enjoying a drink (or two...).
MAKING THE DOUGH
There are two types of dough when making pasta; one for the different shapes of noodles (spaghetti, tagliatelle, fettuccini etc…) and one for filled pastas (ravioli, tortellini, agnolotti etc…). The only differences between these two is that the filled pasta dough just adds a little bit more liquid to make the dough more pliable for making shapes and is a bit thinner since you are often double layering it.
My go-to recipe is pretty simple:
2 cups 00 or all purpose flour
2 eggs + 3 yolks
1 1/2 tablespoons water
1/2 teaspoon salt
Mixing is very simple. Just create a mound with the flour ( “00” is the most commonly used in Italy, but all purpose works just as well) pour all the liquid (whole eggs, yolks, water) in the center and slowly, with a fork, combine everything until the dough starts to come together and is not sticky. Now comes the hard part: kneading! You want to knead the dough for at least 10-15 minutes, doesn’t sound like a huge task but it is essential to create a smooth pasta dough. You will see as you knead the dough the roughness when the dough first comes together starts to disappear the more you work the dough. Once the dough is nice and smooth, form in to a ball and cover with plastic wrap and let it rest. If you're rolling it right away, you can allow rest it for 30 minutes at room temperature. If you're rolling it later, keep it in the fridge and allow the dough to come back up to room temperature just before. Because of the eggs in the dough, you want to use this within 24hrs to ensure freshness or freeze it for later use.
HAND ROLL OR MACHINE?
Having a pasta machine is essential to rolling out the dough. You can, of course, do it with a rolling pin, but it will take a lot more time and effort, not to mention a lot of upper body and arm strength! The process of kneading alone makes my arms and hands ache, but the result is just too delicious to give up on. There's also just something soothing about the process of rolling out the dough with a machine, going through every size on the rollers and then creating your pasta shape. The key is to start the pasta dough on the largest setting of the machine and work down from there, cutting the dough and doing it in batches.
Start by cutting the dough into quarters. Flatten the quarter piece a bit and put the dough through the largest setting, once through. Fold the dough on itself (take both ends fold over and meet in the middle) rotate 90 degrees and put through the machine on the same setting again - you basically just want to get a rectangular shape to start. Raise or lower the setting (depending on the machine) and run through again. You want to get thinner and thinner, running the dough once at each incremental setting. If it gets too long, cut it in half and roll each piece separately. After the dough has made its way through, I usually end on the second to last setting for stuffed pastas or the third to last for thick noodles.
SAUCES AND FILLINGS
And now for the good stuff: the filling and the sauces! First, though, a note on cooking. In boiling, heavily salted water, fresh pasta only takes 1 to 2 minutes to cook, so if you spend the time up front, know that, at the very least, you are saving on cook time!
For my pop-up, I'm doing a roasted maitake mushroom pasta with pickled chilies, garlic and some Egyptian Dukkah. I know - major and not so traditional. BUT I love a good simple tomato sauce with noodles, and this recipe is such a great go to. There are so many others to choose from; Bolognese, avocado-basil pesto, and classic brown butter and sage. The possibilities are endless - it really just depends what mood you are in! Same with choosing the filling for stuffed pastas, you can go the traditional route and do a ricotta filled ravioli or go with the season and do a pumpkin ravioli for fall, a pea ravioli for spring etc…
The important part is to make sure you have all the essential tools to create and roll out the perfect dough - the rest you can just make up as you go along! That is the fun part after all..