The Basics of Fresh Pasta
It’s likely that noodles were first cooked in China, Italy, or both; at the end of the day it doesn’t matter much. A paste (English for “pasta”) made of flour and liquid— whether water, oil, eggs, or a combination—was a simple enough step in the development of cuisine, and cutting the paste into strands . . . well, we all know how much fun making clay ropes is. It’s a bit of work—at least the first time you do it—but you will be stunned at what a lovely thing you’ve produced. Making pasta elicits a sense of accomplishment, as if you’ve created something ter- rific. And you have.
Basic Pasta-Making Techniques
You can make fresh pasta by kneading it to a firm, smooth dough, but it’s far easier to start the dough in a food processor, then finish it with a pasta-rolling machine.
For literally handmade pasta, pile your flour on a smooth, clean work surface (for Fresh Egg Pasta) or in a large bowl (for Eggless Pasta) and create a hollow in the
To make the pasta by hand, first make a well in the mound of flour and break the eggs into it.
To knead the dough, use the heel of your hand to push into the middle of the dough, fold the dough over, rotate it 90 degrees, and push into it again.
Put your eggs or liquids into this well, then use a fork or wooden spoon to incorporate the flour. Once a dough begins to form, use your hands to fully incorporate the remaining flour. It’ll be messy at first but should start to come together within a couple of minutes. It’s at this point, when the dough is still shaggy, that you want to add more liquid (water or olive oil) or flour in small amounts. You’ll know which to add by the look and feel of the dough; if it’s mushy and sticking to your hands, you need more flour; if it’s not coming together and separated into dried-out-looking pieces, you need more liquid.
From this point it’s a matter of kneading, and although it takes some energy, it’s much faster and easier than kneading bread dough. Form the dough into a ball,then sprinkle it and your work surface with flour. Use the heel of your hand to push into the middle of the dough, fold the dough over, rotate it 90 degrees, and push into it again. Continue kneading until the dough is completely smooth, somewhat skinlike, with some elasticity (if you pull off a piece, it should stretch a bit before breaking; if it breaks off immediately, keep kneading). If the dough is sticking to your hands or the work surface, sprinkle it with flour; it doesn’t need to be drowning in flour—just enough to keep it from sticking.
The food processor is not for purists, but I like it, and the end result is the same—or nearly the same—as hand- made. Put the flour and salt in the processor’s container and pulse it a couple times; add the egg and a bit of the liquid you’re using and turn the machine on. Gradually add the rest of the liquid(s) until the dough forms a ball.
With either method, you must let the dough rest for at least 30 minutes before rolling it out. Then knead the dough by hand (see above) or sprinkle it with a good amount of flour and use the pasta-rolling machine to knead it. To knead using a pasta roller, set the rollers at the thickest setting and work the dough through several times, folding it over after each roll. Slowly work your way down to about the middle roller setting and then let the dough rest.