Monday, April 13, 2009

Homemade Pasta

I dusted off the manual Atlas pasta machine this weekend and made sure everything still works (just like new!). Dinner plan was simple, bake some French bread, make fresh fettuccine pasta tossed with some Bolognese sauce. The only thing left was to decide which pasta dough recipe to use.

After looking through some cookbooks and searching online for some recipes, I settled on a very simple egg and flour recipe. One author in an Italian cookbook suggested not using Semolina (Durum) flour since it has a tendency to be gritty. She found that home cooks have better success with unbleached all purpose flour. Her description of gritty was exactly the experience I had with Semolina flour so I decided to follow her advice.

I followed the 1 cup of flour to 1 egg formula but also decided to add a pinch of salt to each cup of flour. Some recipes called for salt, some didn't. I chose to add salt because I felt without it, the pasta might not be as tasteful. I think salting the water would add flavor when cooking but I wasn't sure how much since fresh pasta only takes about 2 1/2 minutes to cook. The following recipe will yield about 1 pound of fresh pasta and feeds 3-4 people. I also used my standing mixer to do the initial mixing and finished with hand kneading.


2 cups unbleached all purpose flour plus extra for dusting
2 pinches of salt
2 large eggs


In a electric mixer fitted with the paddle, combine flour and salt. I used the paddle since it mixes ingredients better than the dough hook and I was going to knead by hand. Add the eggs and mix until all the flour is combined. You may need to scrape down the sides to get all the flour incorporated.

If you don't have a mixer, you can do everything by hand. Mix the flour and salt together and form a mound on a flat work surface. Make a well in the center. Add eggs into the well and lightly beat with a fork. You can use your hands too, if you prefer. Gradually beat in flour from the inside wall of the well in a circular motion. Try to keep the sides of the well intact with your other hand as you're beating. Continue until all the flour is incorporated and you can form a ball.

Flour the work surface and begin kneading the dough. There are several good videos on YouTube that shows how to mix and knead the dough. Knead the dough until it is elastic and smooth, about 8-10 minutes. Dust the work surface and/or dough with flour during kneading to prevent sticking; a bench scraper is useful to scrape sticky dough off the work surface. You can also get a plastic bench scraper for about $1, and they work great too. The end product should not stick to your hands.

Cover the dough with a cotton kitchen towel and let rest for at least 30 minutes. You can also wrap the dough in plastic wrap but you might want to brush the surface with a very light coating of olive oil to prevent sticking.

Cut the ball of dough into thirds, cover the pieces you are not using to prevent drying. Dust the work surface with flour. Press a piece of dough into a rectangle and sprinkle both sides with flour. On the widest setting (#1 on my Atlas), roll the dough through the pasta machine. Fold it over on itself into thirds (like a business letter), dust the sides and roll through the pasta machine. Repeat 2-3 more times. The surface of the dough should be smooth.

Reduce the roller width by 1 setting and roll the pasta through through 2-3 times on each setting. Continue reducing the rollers width until the desired thickness is reached (#5 on my machine for fettuccine). Dust the sheet of pasta as needed to prevent sticking to the rollers.

Once the desired thickness is reached, roll the sheet of pasta through the pasta cutter. The pasta can also be cut by hand: dust the top of the sheet with flour; starting on a shorter side, roll the pasta sheet like a jelly roll; using a sharp serrated knife, cut into the desired width. For fettuccine, cut about 1/4", wider for parpadelle (5/8" to 1").

Separate the cut pasta and dust lightly with flour to prevent sticking. You can dust with cornmeal. The cornmeal will separate from the pasta when cooked and won't affect the end result, but you'll have cornmeal floating in your pasta water. I prefer to dust with flour.

Lay out the pasta on a cotton towel to dry a bit or hang from a pasta drying rack. Finish remaining pieces of dough. An interesting trick I read on a food forum for a make-shift drying rack is to cover a broom stick with plastic wrap and then laid out on the back of 2 chairs. Then hang the cut pasta on the broom stick.

You can also freeze extra pasta. If you are going to freeze, make sure the pasta is completely dry (will take several hours) before storing in freezer bags. You can make small birds nest (like the picture below) and let them dry that way. When ready to cook, you can put the frozen pasta directly into boiling water (no need to defrost) and will take about 3-4 minutes to cook.

The results: I really enjoyed the fresh pasta, it had a very nice tooth and I thought the thickness was just right. It was perfect with the bolognese sauce. Got thumbs up from the Mister and one of the Eating Machines. I think this pasta dough will work nicely with ravioli (next on the list).

On a side note, I got a little crazy with bread making that day. I made 2 batches of French bread baguettes, 1 sourdough, 1 regular. Guess I was making up for time lost for those 2 weeks I was sick (hehe). Most of the loaves found loving homes to go to since there's no way we could have eaten through all of these.

Hope y'all had a wonderful weekend. Have a great week. Now go and eat well.


Ingrid said...

Uh - Oh, yet another recipe that I need to add to my 'Barefoot Plumies' must make list!

This looks delish!

Barefoot Plumies said...

Thanks Ingrid! It was pretty easy to make with the help of a pasta machine and it's so good! I might try tomato or spinach pasta next.