I once thought making fresh pasta was what a short, pleasingly-plump Mama Rosa did in the mountains of rural Italy.
I recently learned that isn’t true. It’s a simple, fun process. And DELICIOUS! Oh, my word, the difference in taste is amazing. Fresh pasta is delicate and rich, far removed from its dry cousin in a box.
My sister-in-law, June Willis, (more ‘sister’ than ‘in-law’) came to New Orleans this week with her friend, Tiya House. I told her I planned on making fresh pasta, and she wanted to learn how to do it.
So, we had a little lesson when they arrived.
The ingredients are deceptively simple (and inexpensive).
For one batch, which serves 6-8, ,I use 3 to 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour,
4 large eggs at room temp and 1 teaspoon kosher salt.
Mix the flour and salt on a hard surface. I use
my counter top.
Make a well in the middle with your fingers.
Pour the eggs (room-temp) into the center of the flour.
Using a fork, whip the eggs and begin to incorporate
the flour from the inside of the well working out.
This beautiful lady is Tiya House. She and her husband are
missionaries to her native country, Malawi, South Africa.
She is stirring the eggs into the flour.
Once the mixture gets thick, set aside the fork and
go in with your hands.You’ll want to form the dough into a ball
incorporating the extra flour. If it feels too dry, add one or two teaspoons
of flour. When it’s just right, it will feel like a shaggy mess. 🙂
Tiya’s helping me again. Start to knead the ball. You know it’s
right when it doesn’t stick to the hard surface. If it’s too wet and
sticks, add a bit more flour. Knead for about 8-9 minutes to
develop the gluten, using the palms of your hands as above.
You will feel the ball becoming silky and smooth.
Cut the dough into two pieces and wrap in plastic
wrap. Let it rest for twenty minutes or so.
Once it has rested, press the dough flat with your hands.
You can roll it out with a rolling pin to the desired thickness,
or you can use a pasta roller (which is much easier and quicker.)
I bought my first one on Amazon for less than $20 to see if I liked the process.
I indeed loved it and upgraded to this one for about $60. It’s an Atlas, from
Italy. It has the flat roller, plus a fettuccine and angel hair cutter.
Back to the pasta. Insert the flattened dough into the
widest setting of the pasta roller, #0.
Fold the flattened dough into thirds and run it back
through the roller three times. This, again, is to
develop the gluten.
Move the dial to #1 and roll the dough through the pasta roller.
Continue to increase the increments on the roller and run the
pasta through until you get it to the desired thickness. It will
become thinner and longer with each dial upward.
Once you have it the desired thickness, you can use
knife and cut it into lasagna noodles, or run it through the other side
of the cutter for angel hair or fettuccine. Above is the latter.
For the most delicate pastas, like angel hair,you will want to make it quite thin.
For lasagna, I stop at #6 on my pasta roller, or about 1/16th” thick if you’re rolling by hand.
An interesting thing about authentic, Italian pasta is that it is much thinner than the dried pasta we find at the grocery store. They would never dream of using those fat slabs of pasta. The typical American lasagna has three layers of pasta. The Italian version may very well have 6-8 very thin layers.
Making fresh pasta puts you in supreme control, not to mention, it costs pennies on the dollar of the purchased version. Literally.
The first time I made fresh pasta, Mical was watching his beloved Texas Rangers. He gasped after he sat down to eat, and I thought either they had made a great play or flubbed it. The he said, “That’s delicious.”
Made my night.
Have you tried making fresh pasta? I’d love to hear your story. Were you as surprised as I was at how quick and delicious it was?