Finally, I’m back to this part of the web after being away for a month or so. I was away for a couple of weeks on vacation, but most of my being away I blame on sheer laziness. So since this is a break from laziness, I thought I should make something that requires some effort.
Having had a long love affair with all things related to pasta, I thought that it would only be natural to learn to make fresh pasta. Yes, you read correctly, fresh pasta. From scratch. I first encountered the method for making Fresh Egg Pasta from one of Jamie Oliver’s books. I should warn you at this point that this takes some practice and time. So do set aside half a day to try this one out. You can always get dried instant pasta from the grocer’s, but I assure you, there is nothing to regret from learning to make fresh pasta. It’s one of those tricks up my sleeves that I pull out if I want to make something extra special. 🙂
Before proceeding, I’ll discuss the tools needed for working with the fresh pasta. Pasta is basically just dough that is worked, rolled out really thin, and cut into the shapes required. If you have the basic baking tools set, then a rolling pin should be available in your arsenal. It will take care of getting the pasta dough to your desired thickness, although getting the right thickness consistently can be tricky. For people who make fresh pasta often enough, a pasta machine is indispensable in the kitchen. It’s technically just a double roller which is commonly hand-cranked. The best thing about it is that pasta thicknesses are much easier to control. I recently bought myself the Jamie Oliver pasta machine from Debenhams, but you don’t have to get that one if you are thinking of getting a pasta machine. There are other brands you can look at, but do read reviews online. So far my JOPM has been working fine and I like it.
- 250 grams of Tipo 00 flour
- 2 large eggs
- 1/4 tsp salt
And that is the shortest list of ingredients I’ve ever come across. I specified Tipo 00 flour specifically because it is really fine and is specified in many recipes for fresh pasta. But if it is difficult to find this type of flour, some cooks recommend various alternatives: a combination of bread flour and all-purpose flour, or cake flour, or all-purpose flour with durum flour. Personally, I have never tried it with other types of flour because I am lucky enough to find the Tipo 00 flour at my favorite grocers, but feel free to try them out for varying textures and flavors.
On a clean surface, create a mound with the flour. Create a well in the center of the flour and break in the eggs into the well, adding the salt as well. Lightly beat the eggs. Mix a bit of the flour into the eggs by bringing in some of the flour around the well. Work the eggs and flour with a fork. Bring in the rest of the flour until the mixture becomes a rough dough.
Flour the work surface and start kneading the dough with the palms of your hand. If it is too wet, add a bit more flour. Knead for 10 minutes until the dough is elastic and smooth. If the dough becomes too dry, add water by teaspoonfuls. Scrape off the dough from the surface and wrap in plastic wrap. Allow the dough to rest for at least 30 minutes in the fridge. The resting step allows the gluten formed from kneading to relax, making it easier to work with the dough.
Split the dough into two, working with one half at a time. Keep the other half in plastic wrap to prevent drying.
Using a rolling pin: Flatten the dough slightly and flour both sides. Flour the work surface and roll out the dough with a rolling pin. Fold the dough into thirds and roll out again. Repeat this until the dough is very smooth and elastic. Roll out to the desired thickness. A good rule of thumb is to roll the dough to a thickness when you can see your hand slightly behind the sheet of pasta. Don’t forget to flour both sides of the dough to prevent sticking to the work surface. Cut the pasta into the desired shapes using a pizza cutter/scissors/cookie cutters.
Using a pasta machine: Flatten the dough slightly and flour both sides. Set the pasta machine to its highest (widest) setting. Roll the dough through the machine. Fold into half and roll through once again. Do this a few more times until the dough becomes smooth. Don’t forget to flour both sides of the dough to prevent it sticking onto the rollers.
Set the pasta machine one width down and roll the dough through. Flour both sides of the dough. Repeat this process, setting the machine width one step down every time until the pasta is at the desired thickness. Cut the pasta to the desired shape/size. If the machine comes with a spaghetti cutter, that can be used, but allow the pasta to dry slightly to make clean cuts. Be careful as rolled pasta dries really quickly when left exposed to air. Toss the cut pasta in flour to prevent them from sticking to one another.
The egg pasta can be used directly for your pasta recipes, cooked in salted, briskly boiling water. Note though that the cooking time should be shorter for fresh pasta than you’re used to with dry, store-bought pasta. The pasta freezes well–at least a week in the freezer. Drying the pasta is also a good idea, but you may want to substitute the eggs with some other liquid. Adding purees and herbs to the dough will also give the pasta another dimension.