We started making pasta at home a few years ago. We’ve become very comfortable with the process and have had some great results making whole grain pasta, gnocchi,mushroom noodles, egg noodles and other treats.
Every once in a while, I crave a better version of the pasta I grew up with. The white-flour carb-loaded starch that isn’t the dream health food but it delightful to eat. We’ve had varying results trying to make ‘authentic’ pasta like our Italian friends make by hand – until now. I did some more research, including picking an Italian Chef’s brain (our friend Massimo Bruno) and am finally thrilled with the results:
Before we share the recipe, here’s a few tips on what we’ve learned:
- A pasta machine is a great help. Although it’s possible to roll and cut pasta by hand, this can easy take the task from an hour or two of active work to about 20 minutes.
- A good pasta machine is better than a mediocre one. I’ll review ours soon; we’ve just replaced a $30-$40 generic cutter with a $65 “high-end” pasta cutter. Each time we make fresh pasta we will save $5-6 a meal based on the cost of fresh pasta. At once-per-month, this unit will pay for itself and last many years longer.
- Semolina flour. I had never used it and, because of that, I was teasingly sworn at in Italian. It’s not the healthy choice of a whole grain but it’s the choice of many Italian pasta makers around the world. Lifting the bag showed me why – it felt soft and fluffy, even when constrained by the packaging.
- Use your hands. A food processor will do the job (and some argue it will yield better results) but it’s really far easier to knead with your hands than cleaning the machine after.
- Dont’ cut your dough until the end. This was a major lesson – I used to cut it into small balls that were easier to handle. Get used to handling a long strand of dough and you’ll end up with equal-lengths of pasta (the balls produce oval sheets which produce pasta of different lengths).
- Roll the pasta on the widest setting, toss a small bit of flour on it, fold it in half and roll it again. Repeat 5-7 times and you’ll have a better texture and sheets that are the full-width of the pasta machine.
- When I fold the pasta in half, I fold the ends into the middle. This helps keep the ends square and resolves the oval issue.
- Roll as much as you can into a giant pasta rectangle and cut at the end – it will be easier to cut identical sheets in this way.
- Let the dough rest a lot. It should rest for 30 minutes after your initial kneading and at least 10 minutes between rolling out and cutting into noodles.
The entire process is about 15-20 minutes of active work and takes place over about an hour. The results are phenomenal!
Ingredients (yields enough for two very-full plates or 4 healthy side dishes)
- 1.5 cups semolina flour (available at Italian grocers)
- 0.25-0.5 cups warm water
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- Salt (a healthy pinch)
- Scatter flour on a large, secure cutting board (or directly on counter).
- Add salt, scatter to spread on surface.
- Make a ‘hole’ in the middle of the flour (like you’d do with mashed potatoes as you prepared them for a ‘gravy lake.’)
- Add the olive oil and 0.25 cups water water into the middle of the flour. Be careful to ensure it all fits (spread the flour further if needed).
- Begin to incorporate the flour by swirling it around the edges where the water meets the flour. A loose dough will form. You will likely need to add the rest of the water to make it come together (it should be the texture of play dough).
- Knead the dough until it is consistent and smooth when stretched.
- Cover with a damp cloth, allow the dough to rest for 30 minutes.
- Roll and cut the dough per the instructions above.
Cook in boiling salted water until al dente (this generally only takes a few minutes).
What tips would you add to this list?