Chilly Saturdays are good days to settle in and do the longer cooking projects you can’t do on a weeknight. Today, I took some salmon out of the freezer, and got inspired to make my own pasta rather than go out and buy a box of tagliatelle like I usually do.
Making pasta is not at all difficult, especially if you have a basic pasta machine to help you along, it’s just time consuming. Allow at least two hours if you’re going to make a batch.
1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 cup semolina flour
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon salt
(if necessary) water
More authentic Italian cooks will use the ‘well’ method to start their pasta – the put their flour out on a flat wooden surface, make a hole in the top of the flour, crack the eggs into the hole, and then use a fork to start bringing the dough together. I’m not quite that authentic, so I put all the ingredients into a big metal bowl and used a wooden spoon to start the dough. You could even use a food processor if you wanted to, although it’s not really necessary. Whichever method you use, the dough will come together within a minute or two of mixing. Then, dump the dough out onto a large, flat surface (I use our wooden dining room table), dust with flour, and start kneading.
One thing about pasta dough is that it’s not a perfect science. The humidity in the air and the size of the eggs you use may mean that one day your dough will be a little wet and other days a little dry. If it’s dry, add water a tablespoon at a time until it’s damp enough to work. If it’s too wet, you can work extra flour in as you knead. You’ll have to judge it by feel.
You’ll need to knead the dough for about 15 minutes, generally, but again, the look and feel of the dough is a better guide than exact time. You want the dough to be smooth and a little shiny, not too sticky, and stretchy but not rubbery. (The photo above was taken fairly early in the kneading process.)
Once the dough is kneaded, divide it into smaller pieces to make it easier to work with. I rolled the dough into a cylinder and then cut in into 6 pieces. If you have a pasta making machine, here’s when you start to use it. You don’t absolutely need one, but it does make things a lot easier.
Assuming you do have a pasta machine, start feeding it through at the widest setting and slowly work your way down to the next-to-thinnest setting. I aim to get each sheet of dough roughly 18″ long (the length from the tips of my fingers to my elbow), but this is not an exact science. Once you’ve gotten the sheet of pasta dough to about the right size and thickness, dust it with a bit more flour, loosely roll it, then slice the dough into 1/3″ noodles. It’s OK to cut them thinner or wider if you prefer. Place the batch on a baking sheet or other convenient flat storage area and start rolling the next sheet.
Rolling the pasta is by far the longest part of making pasta. Don’t rush it — try to find the Zen of the process. The result will be worth it.
This batch went into a fantastic lemon cream sauce with asparagus — I would post the recipe, but it’s from the excellent “Cucina Viansa” cookbook, and I don’t want to get into copyright trouble. Oh, and the salmon? Pan-seared and topped with a dash of vinaigrette. No, I didn’t get a photo, sorry. I was too busy chowing down on my fantastic tagilatelle.
- If you do not have a pasta machine, you can use a rolling pin and elbow grease instead. There’s nothing magical about a pasta machine, it just does the same job a little more evenly and precisely.