Fresh egg pasta dough
I have included instructions for mixing the dough in the food processor and for mixing it by hand. I almost always use the food processor, which makes quick work of the task. But I feel it is also worth knowing how to mix pasta dough by hand. For one thing, nothing chases away fear in the kitchen like rolling up your sleeves and getting your hands dirty. For another, making pasta is a tactile experience. The more you touch and handle the dough, the more familiar you will become with the proper consistency how firm and how smooth it should be. For the food processor method, always start with the smaller amount of flour listed in the recipe. If the dough is too sticky you can always work in more flour as you knead. For the hand method, use the larger amount of flour and mound it onto your work surface, but only work in as much as you need to achieve the proper consistency.
Portions: Makes about 1 lb-455 g
- To 2 1/4 cups/255 to 285 g 00 flour or unbleached all purpose/plain flour
- Tbsp semolina flour, plus more for dusting the work surface and the dough
- 1/2 tsp fine sea salt
- Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
- 3 extra large eggs
- 1 to 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- To mix the dough in the food processor
Put 2 cups/255 g “00” flour, the 1 tbsp semolina flour, salt, and nutmeg into the work bowl and pulse briefly to combine. Break the eggs into the work bowl and drizzle in 1 tbsp of the olive oil. Process the mixture until it forms crumbs that look like small curds. Pinch together a bit of the mixture and roll it around. It should form a soft ball. If the mixture seems dry, drizzle in the remaining 1 tbsp oil and pulse briefly. If it seems too wet and sticky, add additional flour, 1 tbsp at a time, and pulse briefly. Turn the mixture out onto a clean work surface sprinkled lightly with semolina flour and press it together with your hands to form a rough ball. Knead the dough: Using the palm of your hand, push the dough gently but firmly away from you, and then fold it over toward you. Rotate the dough a quarter turn, and repeat the pushing and folding motion. Continue kneading for several minutes until the dough is smooth and silky. Form it into a ball and wrap it tightly in plastic wrap/cling film. Let the dough rest at room temperature for 30 minutes before stretching it.
- To mix the dough by hand
Combine 2¼ cups/285 g “00” flour, the 1 tbsp semolina flour, salt, and nutmeg on a clean work surface and pile into a mound. Make a well in the center of the mound, and break the eggs into it. Drizzle 1 tbsp of the olive oil into the well. With a fork, break the egg yolks and whisk together the eggs and oil. Using the fork, gradually draw the flour from the inside wall of the well into the egg mixture until it has a batterlike consistency. Work carefully so that you don’t break the wall of flour, causing the egg mixture to run out and things to get messy. (If this happens, don’t panic; just use your palms to scoop up the egg mixture and work it back into the flour.) Now, use your hands to draw the remaining wall of flour over the thickened egg mixture and begin to mix it and knead it. Using the palm of your hand, push the dough gently but firmly away from you, and then fold it over toward you. Rotate the dough a quarter turn, and repeat the pushing and folding motion. Use a dough scraper to dislodge any bits stuck to the work surface. The dough will begin as a shaggy mass but will eventually turn smooth as you knead it over several minutes. You may not use all of the flour on the work surface. When the dough is smooth and silky, form it into a ball and wrap it tightly in plastic wrap/cling film. Let it rest at room temperature for 30 minutes before stretching it.
- Stretching the dough
Set up your pasta machine with the rollers on the widest setting. Scatter a little semolina flour on the work surface around the machine and have more on hand for sprinkling on the dough. Cut the dough into four equal pieces, and rewrap three pieces. Knead the remaining piece briefly on the work surface. Then, using a rolling pin or patting it with the heel of your hand, form the dough into an oval 3 to 4 in/7.5 to 10 cm long and about 3 in/7.5 cm wide. Feed the dough through the rollers of the pasta machine, and then lay the strip on the work surface. Fold the dough into thirds, like folding a business letter, sprinkle with a little semolina, and pass it through the rollers again. Repeat the folding and rolling process a few more times, until the strip of dough is smooth. Move the roller setting to the next narrower notch and feed the strip of dough through the setting twice, sprinkling it with a little semolina each time to keep it from sticking and then moving the notch to the next setting. Continue to pass the dough through the rollers twice on each setting, until you have stretched it to the appropriate thickness. This will depend on which cut you are making, so be sure to read carefully the individual recipes and instructions for cutting the various shapes. Most recipes, including those for ravioli and lasagne, call for stretching the dough very thin about 1/16 in/2 mm thick though some cuts require a thicker sheet. On my machine, passing the dough through the second-narrowest roller setting produces a very thin pasta sheet, so I usually don’t stretch past that setting. Once you have stretched your piece of dough (it will be a fairly long ribbon, depending on how thin you have stretched it), lay it out on a semolina-dusted surface and cover it lightly with plastic wrap/cling film while you stretch the remaining three pieces.
- To cut noodles by hand and by machine
I always have plenty of semolina flour on hand when I cut noodles. Once they are cut, I sprinkle them with the flour, or sometimes I even toss them in a little mound of the flour to keep them from sticking to one another. This makes it easier to arrange the noodles in small bundles, or “nests,” after which they can either rest until it is time to cook them or be stored in the freezer. You can cut noodles by hand or by machine. The cutting attachment for my machine has two cutting blades, one that cuts wide noodles (fettuccine) and one that cuts narrow noodles (tonnarelli or maccheroni alla chitarra). Once the noodles have been cut, gently gather them in one hand and sprinkle them with semolina. Wrap them loosely around your hand to form a “nest,” and place the nest on a semolina-dusted tablecloth or rimmed baking sheet/tray. To create other widths or shapes, I cut the pasta sheets by hand, using a sharp chef’s knife. To cut noodles by hand, sprinkle a generous amount of semolina over the stretched sheet of pasta. Beginning at one end, loosely roll up the sheet, jelly-/ Swiss-roll style. Using a sharp chef’s or similar knife, cut the rolled-up sheet crosswise into the desired width. You can discard the uneven end pieces, if you like, but I usually just toss them in with the rest of the noodles. With your fingertips and using a very light touch, gently fluff up the rolled-up noodles to unravel them. Arrange the noodles in small bundles or nests on a semolina dusted tablecloth or rimmed baking sheet/tray. (When I fluff the noodles, they are often too tangled to form easily into nests).
- To cut tagliatelle by hand
Stretch the dough to about 1/16 in/2 mm thick or slightly thicker, roll up jelly-/Swiss-roll style, and cut crosswise into ribbons about 3/8 in/1 cm wide. Unravel the noodles and arrange in bundles or nests on a
semolina-dusted cloth or baking sheet/tray.
- To cut tagliolini by hand
Stretch the dough to about 1/16 in/2 mm thick or slightly thicker, roll up jelly-/Swiss-roll style, and cut crosswise into ribbons about 1/8 in/3 mm wide. Unravel the noodles and arrange in bundles or nests on a semolina-dusted cloth or baking sheet/tray.
- To cut maltagliati by hand
Stretch the dough to the second narrowest setting, running it through the setting just once. The sheet should be slightly thicker than it would be for fettuccine. Using a fluted pastry cutter, cut each sheet crosswise into strips 2 in/5 cm wide, then cut each strip into uneven rectangles measuring about 1 by 2 in/2.5 by 5 cm. These are your maltagliati. You don’t want them to all look alike, but they should all be about the same size so they cook in the same amount of time. Transfer the maltagliati to a semolina dusted cloth or baking sheet/tray.
- To cut ‘trnselle by hand
Stretch the dough to about 1/16 in/2 mm thick or slightly thicker. Using a fluted pastry cutter, cut each sheet crosswise on a sharp diagonal into ribbons 5 to 6 in/12 to 15 cm long and ¾ to 1 in/2 to 2.5 cm wide. Each piece does not have to be exactly like the next. In fact, Laura del Principe, the chef who showed me this cut, makes sure hers are uneven, so that customers will know the pasta is homemade and cut by hand. Sprinkle the ’trnselle with semolina and transfer them to a semolina-dusted cloth or baking sheet/tray.
- To cut pappardelle by hand
Stretch the dough to about 1/16 in/2 mm thick or slightly thicker. Using a sharp chef’s or similar knife, cut each sheet in half crosswise, so your strips will be 14 to 15 in/35.5 to 38 cm long. Using a fluted pastry cutter, cut each sheet lengthwise into ribbons ½ to 5/8 in/12 mm to 1.5cm wide. Gently wind the ribbons around your hand into nests and transfer to a semolina dusted cloth or baking sheet/tray.
- To cut lasagne by hand:
Stretch the dough as thin as you comfortably can, no thicker than 1/16 in/2 mm. If you lift a sheet with your hand, you should be able to see the shadow of your hand through it. Because lasagne noodles are layered, they need to be very thin. Using a sharp chef’s or similar knife, cut each sheet into rectangles about 4 by 5 in/10 by 12 cm.
- To cut fettuccine by hand
Stretch the dough to about 1/16 in/2 mm thick or slightly thicker, roll up jelly/Swiss-roll style, and cut crosswise into ribbons ¼ in/6 mm wide. Unravel the noodles and arrange in bundles or nests on a semolina dusted cloth or baking sheet/tray.
- To cut fettuccine by machine
Stretch the pasta sheets to the second narrowest or third-narrowest setting (#6 and #5 on my machine, respectively), or
about 1/16 in/2 mm thick or slightly thicker, and run them through the setting
twice. Then use the wide cutters to cut the sheets into fettuccine.
- To cut tonnarelli by machine
Stretch the pasta sheets to the third thick est setting on your pasta machine (#3 on my machine), or closer to 1/8 in/3 mm thick than 1/16 in/2 mm thick. Then use the narrow cutters to cut the sheets into tonnarelli. The noodles will be long and “square” in cross section.
- To cut maccheroni alla chitarra by machine
Stretch the pasta sheets to the fourth-narrowest setting on your pasta machine (#4 on my machine), slightly thinner than for tonnarelli, but not as thin as for fettuccine. Then use the narrow cutters to cut the sheets into maccheroni alla chitarra. The noodles will be long and “square” in cross section, but they will be thinner than tonnarelli.
- To shape pasta and stuff pasta by hand
Some recipes in this book call for pinching off pieces of dough and shaping the pieces by hand, rather than stretching and cutting. Follow the directions inindividual recipes for these special hand shaped pastas. For filling and shaping
ravioli and other stuffed pasta, follow the directions in individual recipes.
Storing homemade pasta
I wouldn’t be able to cook fresh pasta as often as I do if I couldn’t make it in advance and store it. Although I can now make and cut 1 lb/455 g of egg noodles in under an hour (it’s easier than you might think), I usually reserve making homemade pasta for the weekend. I often make an extra batch or two while I have my equipment out and my counters dusted with semolina, and save them for when I’m entertaining or for when I’m craving a bowl of homemade noodles.
When I first started making my own pasta years ago, I would leave it out to dry. This proved to be unreliable, not to mention frustrating. Sometimes my noodles would dry beautifully and I could store them in airtight containers for any
length of time. But at other times the noodles would crack, splinter, and break apart. Home-drying pasta is a tricky business loaded with variables: the temperature of the room, the amount of moisture in the air; the air circulation itself; and how moist your pasta dough is. I found my solution in the freezer. Although a ball of pasta dough does not freeze well and must be stretched and cut soon after it has rested, once you have cut your fettuccine or lasagne, they will freeze beautifully. Uncooked ravioli also freeze well. To freeze pasta that has been cut and shaped, arrange it on semolina dusted rimmed baking sheets/trays. For long noodles, arrange them in nests or bundles and place the nests next to one another. If you are freezing ravioli, place them, not touching, in rows on the baking sheets/trays. If you are freezing flat
shapes, such as lasagne or maltagliati, arrange them in a single layer on the baking sheet/tray, cover the pasta with a sheet of waxed/greaseproof paper, arrange a second layer on the paper, top with a second sheet of paper, and so on. Place the tray in the freezer and freeze the pasta for about 1 hour, or until firm. Transfer the frozen pasta to one or more tightly lidded containers or zipper lock freezer bags and return it to the freezer. The pasta can be frozen for up to 1 month. (I never have any that hangs around longer than that.) When you want to cook frozen pasta no matter the
shape just transfer it straight from the freezer to the pot of boiling water. Freezing works so well that even if I plan to cook homemade pasta the same day that I make it, I store it in the freezer until cooking time, unless I am cooking it within an hour or two.
Cooking homemade pasta
With the exception of some thick hand shaped pastas, homemade pasta cooks quickly, usually in less than 5 minutes and sometimes in less than 1 minute. The best way to determine whether your pasta is cooked is to taste a little of it. It
should be al dente: tender yet pleasantly chewy, and not at all mushy. To cook homemade pasta, use a pot that is large enough to contain all of the noodles without crowding them. I use a 5-qt/4.7-L pot to cook 1 lb/455g of noodles, and a 12-qt/11-L stockpot to cook larger batches. Fill the pot about three fourths full with water and bring to a rolling boil over high heat. Salt the water generously. I use 1 to 2 tbsp kosher salt for every 4 qt/3.8 L water. Carefully drop the noodles into the water and use a large wooden or metal serving fork or a pasta fork to stir and separate them. For most pasta cuts, you should immediately cover the pot until the water returns to a boil and then uncover. Start checking for done-
ness right away for thinner cuts. Some very thin cuts may even be done before the water returns to a boil, so you need to monitor them closely. Follow the directions in each recipe for draining or removing the pasta from the water. Most homemade noodles can be poured into a colander set in the sink, but some, such as lasagne and ravioli, are too delicate to be dumped into a colander. Instead, they must be lifted out with a wire skimmer. Always save at least 1 cup/240 ml of the starchy cooking water. It is often needed to loosen the sauce as you dress the noodles, and can mean the difference between a silky sauce and a gloppy one. Finally, do not douse homemade noodles with sauce. Egg noodles, in particular, are delicate and should be dressed lightly, with just enough sauce to coat them evenly and then a little more spooned on top, often scooped from the bottom of the vessel in which the pasta was dressed.