There isn’t really much out there that beats fresh pasta- in my opinion. Anything that does surpass the awesomeness of fresh pasta, can usually be added to it to double the fun…. Not many restaurants, or home cooks for that matter, venture into pasta-making territory- it takes time and it’s not as easy opening a box. But- it’s not hard.
I used to work for an Italian chef, a very demanding one, and things had to be right- if they weren’t, you were doing it until you did it right. Although this led to the frustration of sometimes having liters of brunoise vegetables going into the stock pot, I learned a tremendous amount from him- including our topic today: fresh pasta. Pasta is something that you could spend a lifetime on, and still not know everything- think about it, almost every culture has some version of pasta.
Chef was very much a hands-on kind of guy, using machines for bread or pasta only in the summer when we were wayyyy to busy to handmix. In the winter, it was elbow grease. There were 2 machines that pasta was allowed to touch- the pasta roller (this was to roll sheets of pasta, and to cut fettucine, linguine) and the extruder (for fusilli, macaroni, radiatori, etc)- never a mixer. A mixer doesn’t have a feel for when the pasta is done- your hands do. I have never really gotten out of this habit, and I actually find it quite theraputic.
When making pasta, there are a lot of options- water, egg, bread flour, semolina, every other type of flour available, olive oil, salt, vegetable puree…. I have never been to Italy, so I will not start preaching what is authentic and what isn’t- I know what I was taught and what I like. Eggs and a 50/50 mix of semolina and bread flour. The eggs add a little richness, the bread flour adds elasticity and the semolia adds that denser, firmer feel- texture. I have done versions of the same recipe using the ingredients listed above and they all turned out and tasted fine, I just prefer the original.
I have never been a fan of dumping the flour on my workbench, making a well for the liquid and all that it entails- its messy, if the well busts open- it’s freaking messy, I can’t move it quickly if I need to… In a bowl, the mess is contained, and I can rotate the bowl for kneading….. Much more better.
After getting all of the hard work out of the way, adding to your pasta is pretty much open season. Last night I added leftover BBQ sausage, fiddleheads, asparagus, basil/ roast garlic pizza sauce and goat cheese to some fresh fettucine. Super yum.
(this makes a fair bit: half the recipe, freeze the dough or freeze formed pasta that has been blanched)
9 egg yolks
3 whole eggs
250 g bread flour
250 g semolina
Mix the flours in a bowl until uniform, make a well in the center and add the eggs. Use your fingers like a whisk until the dough is thick and pastey- start kneading as if your were kneading bread dough. The dough should be stiff and hard to knead, add more flour if needed. Knead approximately 5-7 minutes, or until it passes the touch test- if you press the dough with a finger, the depression springs up immediately. Wrap in saran and let sit for at least 1/2 an hour.
Now, the hard part. Rolling. If you have a pasta roller attachment, use it, if not- grab your rolling pin and one of those whey protein power shakes, you’re going to “knead” it. It’s up to you how thick you want to roll it- I think it it depends on what you are making: fettucine about as thick as flannel, tortellini as thin as possible. After you are finished rolling it, I hang mine to dry for a little while- this prevents pasta turning into a lump of dough again. Keep feeling the dough- you’ll feel it stiffen slightly. At this point, cut it- if you are manually doing everything, cutting the dough into strips is totally fine.
Cook immediately in heavily salted water or put into an airtight, dry container and use within 3-4 days.
*6 whole eggs may be substituted for yolks & eggs.