It’s hard to believe I was in Italy just a few weeks ago; it seems so long ago now. I’ve allowed myself to be swept up into the busyness of day-to-day life, and Italy feels further and further away. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I don’t like my life, to the contrary I like it very much, but I wasn’t quite ready to let go of Italy. Old world lightly mixed with new; hot sunny days with warm evenings; a pace of living that felt so natural.
But at least I can try to duplicate the food. I mentioned in an earlier post that I ate pasta nearly every single day I was there, sometimes for lunch AND dinner. The pasta had that soft, silky texture with a little chewiness that assures you it was made from scratch, probably pushed around a wooden board earlier that day.
So, with Italy on the brain, I’ve been making my own pasta this week and thought I’d share my basic recipe and technique with you, along with photographs. The recipe is one we used when I was in school, but I’ve also included a slightly altered recipe for making pasta at higher altitudes. Tomorrow I’ll post a pasta dish of cheese filled ravioli with pears and balsamic syrup that was on the menu one night at our hotel in the Cinque Terre area of Liguria. It was such a surprising combination with the pasta, but one that totally worked.
Step-by-Step Homemade Pasta
Base Recipe for Making Pasta
- 2 cups flour (9 ounces)
- 3 large eggs
- 1 teaspoon olive oil
- generous pinch of salt
If I’m making pasta in Tahoe at 6500 feet above sea level, I make a few adjustments for the dryness:
- 2 cups flour (9 ounces)
- 3 extra large eggs
- 2 teaspoons olive oil
- generous pinch of salt
Making Fresh Pasta
- Heap the flour on your workspace, and form a large shallow well.
- Crack the eggs inside the well, and add the oil and salt.
- With a small fork, start to mix up the eggs, being careful to draw in as little flour as possible.
- Once it’s mixed up pretty well, start adding flour from around the inside of the well, still using the fork.
- Once it’s starting to become something you can handle with your hands, fold more flour in to get the consistency you want using your hands.
- As you begin to knead the dough, it will initially be pretty shaggy and feel dry. Keep kneading it.
- Knead until smooth, about 15 minutes or less. This photo is about half-way there.
- Look how smooth! Cover with a bowl or plastic for 30 minutes to an hour to give the dough a little rest.
- Separate the dough into three sections for easy working with the pasta machine. Wrap two of the sections in plastic, and move the third section to your workspace. Flatten it out by hand, and fold like a business letter. (I should note here, that if you elect to make your pasta later, you can refrigerate the dough overnight. I allow the dough to warm up on the counter for 15 minutes before beginning the process of putting it through the rollers.)
- Flatten the edge you’ll feed through the pasta machine first. Start the pasta roller at the lowest numbered setting. For some this is number 1, for some it’s 0. I use a pasta roller that sticks into my Kitchen Aide mixer. But whether you’re using something similar to mine, or using a hand cranked model, all of these pasta machine directions apply.
- Feed the pasta dough through the rollers. This photo is after the first time through.
- Fold the pasta dough like a business letter again, but in the opposite direction than it was folded the first time. This is in attempt to build structure in the dough. Flatten one edge again and feed it back through the pasta machine at the lowest numbered setting.
- Repeat the previous step until the dough begins to feel silky. This can take 10 – 12 passes at the same setting.
- Once you’ve achieved the silk stage, fold the dough in half lengthwise, and feed it through the machine for the last time at the lowest setting.
- Now you’re ready to change your setting to the next highest number. For me that was #2. You now need only to pass the pasta through each setting once, while ensuring that the pasta is floured well enough so that it won’t stick or hang up on the rollers. When I’m making fettuccini or lasagna, I stop at setting #5; for spaghetti and ravioli, I stop at #6.
- If you’re making lasagna, you’re ready for it to be dried. If you’re making fettuccini or spaghetti, change the pasta machine attachment from the roller to a slicer, and feed the pasta sheet through it. Now it’s ready to be dried. Pasta sheets and noodles can be dried over the back of a chair, or on a drying rack. I tend to dry mine for about 30 minutes, cut it into the length I want, and lay them as you see in the top photo with just a little flour. Very thin spaghetti can be left on the counter in a baking sheet, lightly tossed with all-purpose or semolina flour. Once it’s completely dry, it can be stored in your cabinet for a couple of months. After drying overnight, it can also be frozen.
- If I’m making ravioli, I use a ravioli mold that came with a small rolling pin I picked up at Sur La Table. Lay a strip of the dough over a ravioli mold, fill it with your filling, lay another pasta strip on top, and roll the small rolling pin over it. I start in the middle and roll out in one direction from that point; then starting again in the middle, I roll it in the other direction. Remove the sides that have now been trimmed off, and pull up each raviolo using a knife in one corner to get it started. They come out of the mold very easily.
- Let dry on a parchment paper lined baking sheet.
Tips for Cooking Pasta
- 2 ounces uncooked is a typical serving, although 4 ounces is a standard in many areas of Italy.
- Use a large pot.
- Put quite a bit of salt into the water you’ll use to boil the pasta since you’re salting for a lot of pasta.
- Get rid of any excess flour before boiling. One way to do this is to place it in a colander and spray some water over it.
- Cook fresh pasta only 3 – 4 minutes, depending on the thickness. Use a fork to swirl it around a bit, to make sure it doesn’t stick to each other or the side / bottom of the pot.
- For fresh ravioli, cook it for 4 – 4 ½ minutes in barely simmering water. I bring it to a boil first, than then reduce the heat to maintain a very gentle simmer. You don’t want to rip the little guys open.
- Always save some pasta water in case you need it to thin the sauce.