A Recipe That May Help
Or Not, Depending On Whether You Can Get Flour
Here are the things I know if you are reading this: 1) You have a device capable of accessing the internet. 2) You are a human of discerning taste. The latter makes me think you will appreciate a recipe that involves some work, as long as the work pays off at the end.
Earlier this week, after what seems like months in lockdown, I realized that it has been months since we’ve been in lockdown. I also realized that I have not made fresh pasta in a long time. It’s one of those things I used to do around once a month and given the time I have on my hands at the moment I thought I’d give it a shot. For a while flour was hard to find, but I’ve managed to get my hands on it lately and I hope that’s the case for you, too.
My practice was to use around 3 eggs to 2 cups of flour, with a little salt. It generally worked out well, but I have come around to the idea that it is better to use more yolks than whole eggs. I’ve read a good bit on the subject and my understanding is that the yolks add more protein than liquid, as well as more fat.
I recommend that if you want to make pasta you invest in a pasta rolling machine. If you go to your shopping website of choice, and type “pasta rolling machine” into the search window, you will be amazed by the selection. The one I’ve used for 15 years or so is made by a company called Imperia, and it costs around $50. You can do without it but rolling pasta dough out to a uniform thickness is a skill that takes time to master.
The recipe I’ve settled on is heavy on eggs and more specifically, egg yolks. It produces a very rich, very toothsome noodle. I also use all-purpose flour, because that’s what I’ve always done. Without further ado:
- 2 and ¼ cups all-purpose flour
- 2 whole eggs
- 4 egg yolks
- Pinch of salt
Combine the eggs and yolks. Dump 2 cups of flour onto a clean surface and make a “well” in the middle big enough that you can dump the eggs into it. Save the rest of the flour for dusting, later.
Combine the eggs and yolks in a bowl and mix with the salt. Dump that into the middle of the flour and using a fork start incorporating. Save the egg whites for a soufflé. When you feel comfortable doing so, get rid of the fork and use your hands. Keep mixing until you have a pretty stiff, rough-textured dough that holds together.
Once you have a ball of dough, start kneading. You can do this in your mixer with the dough hook attached, but I sort of like the process of doing it by hand. You pull the dough towards you and then push down on it with the heel of your hand; spin it a ¼ turn and do it again. It’s work but when you’re done and you have a beautifully pliable ball of dough in your hand it will seem worth it unless you screw it up down the line.
Wrap the ball of dough in plastic and let it rest at room temperature for at least 30 minutes. This is a good time to start a large-ish pot of water to boil, adding enough salt that you can taste it if you dip a spoon in.
I’m going to assume if you have a pasta roller that you know how to use it. If you do not have such a device, you’re going to have to break out a rolling pin and I do not envy you the task. It’s how I did it for years until I got the machine I have (made by a company called Imperia), so you can do it, and I suspect that someone really skilled could produce pasta more sublime than I can with my tool.
Regardless, after the dough has rested, cut it into quarters and working with one at a time (while you keep the others in the plastic wrap) roll it out to the thickness you desire. You’ll need to dust with flour periodically and, depending on how thinly you roll it and the amount of workspace you have, you may want to cut the dough in half so you can get everything to your target thickness.
Once you have it where you want it, you can cut noodles the width you’d like. Dust the cut noodles with a little flour and keep them covered until you’re ready to cook. Depending on how thick you made them, they should be ready in between 90 seconds and a couple of minutes once they hit the boiling water.
Fresh pasta takes well to lighter sauces in my view but I am an apostate where pasta shapes/sauces are concerned. Whatever sauce you make, and whatever else you do with fresh pasta or dried: FINISH THE PASTA IN THE SAUCE. This is not a joke and if this is the first time you’ve heard that advice you’re welcome.
If you are interested in recipes, feel free to leave a comment or shoot me an email letting me know what else you might want to read about. I was thinking about writing something on fermentation – sauerkraut and pickles generally – or perhaps a reprise on using a whole chicken?
I miss writing about restaurants.