Growing up, my Italian Aunt Nancy (who was actually my father’s aunt) used to make fresh pasta every time my family came over. She had what I like to call a pasta factory in the basement of her Chicago bungalow. Flour everywhere, old school equipment for handmade pasta, I’m sure she spent hours upon hours downstairs making batches of pasta for the various friends and family that would come by for dinner. Every time we went over, she served the same thing: homemade pasta, homemade sauce and homemade meatballs. Does it get any better than this? I think not!
Pasta is actually very easy. It just takes time and patience (and a little skill with the pasta roller).
The ingredients you will need are the following:
2 cups white flour
½ cup semolina flour
4 eggs, beaten
Freshly cracked pepper (mixed)
While you can certainly use a mixer or food processor to make your dough, the traditional method is to make it on the counter in a well. Basically, this involves making a pile of flour on the counter, and then a space in the middle of the mound for the eggs (much like you would do for gravy on mashed potatoes). Slowly incorporate the flour into the eggs by stirring the eggs with a fork until you have a very wet dough. Slowly incorporate the rest of the flour to make a smooth dough.
Be very careful to not go to quickly with mixing the flour with the eggs. The faster you go, the more you have to knead and the gluten will activate. Before you know it, you will have a brick in your hands that can only go in the garbage. I know from experience. The pasta we ate tonight was actually my second attempt at a dough, after I botched the first one beyond repair!
Once your dough is formed, cover in plastic wrap (I like to brush a small amount of olive oil on the dough before covering) and put in the fridge for at least 30 minutes. This resting period will allow the gluten to relax, and you will be ready to roll out your dough.
If you have a hand cranked pasta roller (like me) roll out the dough until the desired thinness, then use the cutter attachment to score and cut the sheets into noodles. If you have an electronic roller or mixer attachment, more power to you. I’ve never used these, so I am a little unclear how they work, but I’m sure they will produce noodles that are just fine.
One note about the recipe, I added pepper for flavor to go with the dish. Traditional pasta has no pepper in it, but if you start making your own pasta, feel free to experiment with other flavors, like peppers, spices, herbs, etc. It adds a nice subtlety to any dish.
So, once your noodles are rolled and cut, let them dry for several hours. We just left ours out on paper towels on the counter, but there are drying racks available from the kitchen supply store. Be careful when you are handling the pasta, it is much more delicate than store bought (especially if you rolled it out very thinly).
Here is the dried, cut pasta right before it went into the water:
To cook throw in boiling water for 3-4 minutes. Fresh pasta, even dried, cooks up very quickly and you do not want to over cook. Once the pasta is drained, serve immediately.