Every ambitious home cook should make fresh pasta at least once. Of course, we understand the convenience of boxed pasta, and to be sure, there are some companies out there making superb, high quality dried and fresh pastas. But the hands-on process of combining eggs and flour to create a smooth, golden round of dough is a worthy one. Not only does it produce an inexpensive and wholesome result (now that it’s mid-January, you’re back on carbs, right?), making fresh pasta teaches some elemental, and important, kitchen lessons.
First, it’s a reminder that even simplest recipes can take practice, time, and patience to perfect. Fresh pasta exists in that pantheon of basic-but-complex culinary foundations, including bread, omelettes, roasted chicken, pizza, tomato sauce and stir fries, that require attention to detail, curiositym and confidence to truly get right. Second, it reminds us that fancy gadgets are often unnecessary if you’re willing to do some hard work. Electric or hand-cranked pasta machines are helpful for rolling the dough to the desired thinness, but a rolling pin and some elbow grease can accomplish this, too (unless, we’ll admit, you’re making a type of pasta that needs to be paper thin). And third, making fresh pasta teaches patience. In the kitchen, delicious things spun like magic from practically nothing take time, and what you get at the end of the process is worth the wait.
Two key steps to achieve perfectly light fresh pasta:
- Kneading: No matter how much you are tempted, do not skip or skimp on the kneading part of the recipe. Set a timer to make sure you’ve gone for the full three minute sets, as this will develop the gluten that makes pasta so satisfyingly toothsome. Put on some high energy tunes and think of it as a bonus arm workout.
- Resting: This recipe calls for the pasta dough to rest for a 20-30 minutes. Again, no cheating on the time! The rest time allows to gluten you’ve just worked up during the kneading time to relax a bit. This way, you can roll out the dough without it immediately springing back, which is a frustration worth avoiding.
Yields approximately 1 pound of pasta or 3-4 servings
Recipe by Ted Torres
Total Cooking Time: 1 hour (includes time for resting)
Active Cooking Time: 30 minutes
3 ½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour or 1 ¾ cup all-purpose flour and 1 ¾ cup semolina flour, mixed
4 extra-large eggs
Mound the flour in the center of a large wooden cutting board. Make a well in the flour for the eggs. Add eggs to well.
Using a fork, beat together the eggs and begin to incorporate the flour starting with the inner rim of the well. As you incorporate the eggs, keep pushing the flour up to retain the well shape (do not worry if it looks messy). The dough will come together in a shaggy mass when about half of the flour is incorporated.
Start kneading the dough with both hands, primarily using the palms of your hands. Add more flour, in ½ cup increments, if the dough is too sticky. Once the dough is a cohesive mass, remove dough from the board and scrape up any leftover dry bits.
Lightly flour the board and continue kneading for 3 more minutes. The dough should be elastic and a little sticky. Continue to knead for another 3 minutes, remembering to dust the board with flour when necessary. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and set aside for 20–30 minutes at room temperature.
Unwrap dough and using a rolling pin, roll to desired thickness. Dough can be divided into equal balls for easier rolling, or rolled into one large sheet. For linguine, roll out into a thin, flat sheet, then roll into a spiral, like cinnamon rolls. Starting at one end, cut pasta to the desired width. Separate newly formed noodles carefully with hands. Dust with semolina flour to prevent sticking.
Photos by Cathie Berrey-Green