- Skill Level: Moderate
- Cost: Inexpensive
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Can be made ahead of time.
Pasta al Uovo
Here is a basic all-purpose pasta dough that I use for fettuccine, lasagne, and ravioli. The dough can be assembled by hand, in a food processor, or in a heavy-duty mixer, and it can be rolled out on a board with a rolling pin or in a pasta rolling machine. If you have never made pasta before, read the recipe through before beginning. The most important thing is to get the balance of flour and eggs right so that the dough is neither sticky nor dry. Because the freshness and size of the eggs and the type and humidity level of the flour vary slightly, it is not possible to give exact proportions.
To Make Fresh Spinach Pasta:
Pasta made with fresh spinach has not only a bright green color but also a good flavor. To make fresh spinach pasta, use 3 cups flour, 3 large eggs, and 1 pound of fresh spinach, cooked, squeezed dry, and very finely chopped (about ¾ cup cooked spinach). Combine the ingredients as for Fresh Egg Pasta belowt. Makes about 1¼ pounds of pasta.
Preparing the Dough by Hand:
1. Pour the flour into a mound on a countertop or large pasta board. A rough surface such as wood or plastic is better than a smooth one such as marble or granite. With a fork, make a wide hole in the center of the mound. Pour the eggs and olive oil into the hole and begin stirring with one hand, gradually incorporating some of the flour from the inside of the hole. Use your other hand to support the wall of flour surrounding the eggs, so they don’t spill out.
2. When the dough forms a ball and becomes too firm to stir, in about 1 minute, sweep the remaining flour to one side. Lightly flour your hands and begin kneading. Push the dough away with the heels of your hands and pull it back toward you with your fingertips. Turn the dough as you are doing this for even kneading. Continue kneading, gradually incorporating some of the remaining flour until the ball becomes somewhat smooth, feels moist, and is only slightly sticky, about 3 minutes. Add only enough flour to create a firm ball of dough, or it may become too dry.
3. Put the dough aside for a moment and cover it with an inverted bowl. Wash and dry your hands to remove hardened scraps of dough. Scrape the kneading surface clean with a plastic or metal dough scraper or spatula to remove any hardened pieces of dough and excess flour that might later cause lumps. Throw out the scraps.
4. Lightly dust your hands with flour. Resume kneading the dough until it is smooth and elastic, moist yet not sticky, about 8 to 10 minutes. Add more flour if necessary. There should be no streaks of flour on the dough, and the color should be evenly yellow. The more the dough is kneaded, the lighter and more resilient the pasta will be, so do not skimp on kneading. Work quickly so that the dough does not dry out.
Making the Dough with a Food Processor or Heavy-Duty Mixer:
1. Pour the eggs and olive oil into a food processor fitted with the steel blade, or into the bowl of a heavy-duty electric mixer fitted with the flat beater. With the machine running, begin adding the flour a tablespoon at a time. Mix until the dough forms a ball and cleans the inside of the bowl, about 1 minute. Pinch the dough. It should feel moist but not sticky and should be fairly smooth. If not, add more flour as needed.
2. Place the dough on a lightly floured surface and knead it for 1 minute, adding more flour if necessary, until it is firm, smooth without streaks of flour, and moist but not sticky.
Spinach Pasta: Pasta made with fresh spinach has not only a bright green color but also a good flavor. To make fresh spinach pasta, use 3 cups flour, 3 large eggs, and 1 pound of fresh spinach, cooked, squeezed dry, and very finely chopped (about ¾ cup cooked spinach). Combine the ingredients as for Fresh Egg Pasta at left. Makes about 1¼ pounds of pasta.
Letting the Dough Rest:
Whether you have made it by hand or machine, cover the dough with an inverted bowl and let it rest for 30 minutes or up to 2 hours at room temperature.
Rolling Out the Dough By Hand:
1. Lightly dust a countertop or large board with flour. Be sure that the surface is perfectly flat and not warped.
2. Cut the dough into 2 pieces. It may feel moister after it rests because the eggs have absorbed the flour. While you work with one piece, keep the remainder covered. With your hands, shape one piece of dough into a disk. Choose a wooden rolling pin at least 24 inches long and 1½ to 2 inches wide and dust it lightly with flour. Place the pin in the center and push it away from you toward the edge of the dough. Rotate the dough a quarter turn, center the pin on it and push it toward the edge once more. Repeat, rotating the dough and rolling it out from the center, keeping the shape round and the thickness even, until the dough reaches the desired thinness. Flip the dough over from time to time to be sure it is not sticking. If necessary, dust lightly with flour.
3. Work quickly so that the dough does not dry out. If it should tear, pinch it together or patch it with a small piece of dough from the edge. The dough is ready when it is very thin and you can easily see your hand through it when it is held up to the light. Roll out the remaining dough in the same way. Be sure to make all of the dough pieces of equal thickness. Turn the pieces often so that they do not stick. If the dough will be used to make stuffed pasta such as ravioli, it should be kept covered so that it remains pliable. Use it as soon as possible.
4. Cut the dough into the desired size and shape while it is still soft and pliable.
Rolling Out the Dough with a Pasta Machine
1. Following the manufacturer’s instructions, clamp the pasta machine to one end of a large countertop or sturdy table. Set the rollers at the widest opening and dust them lightly with flour.
2. Cut the dough into 4 to 6 pieces. It may feel moister after it rests because the eggs have absorbed the flour. While you work with one piece, keep the remainder covered. Flatten one piece of dough into an oval disk. Turn the handle of the pasta machine with one hand while the other guides the piece of dough through the rollers. If the dough sticks or tears, dust it lightly with flour.
3. Remove the dough from the machine and fold it lengthwise into thirds. Pass the dough through the machine again, flouring it if necessary.
4. Close the rollers slightly by moving the dial to the next notch. Pass the dough through the rollers. As the dough emerges, lift it straight out so that it stays flat without wrinkling. Do not fold it.
5. Continue to pass the dough through the machine, moving the dial up one notch each time until the desired thinness is reached. This will vary according to the machine, but I usually stop at the second-to-last setting for fettuccine and flat pasta and the last notch for stuffed pasta. The pasta should be thin enough that you can see your hand through it without tearing. Don’t be tempted to re-roll scraps of dough. Hardened edges can stick in the machine and tear the pasta.
6. Lay the strip of dough on a lightly floured kitchen towel. Roll out the remaining dough in the same way. Be sure to make all of the strips of equal thickness. Turn the pieces often so that they do not stick. If the dough will be used to make stuffed pasta such as ravioli, it should be kept covered so that it remains pliable. Use it as soon as possible.
7. Cut the dough into the desired size and shape while it is still soft and pliable.
Making Pasta Noodles:
Lasagne, papardelle, fettuccine, tagliatelle, and tagliarini are all flat ribbons of pasta. Their use depends on the type of sauce you are making and regional preferences. Generally, the lighter the sauce, the narrower the pasta.
1. Make the pasta as described above.
2. Let the dough dry until it is slightly leathery but still pliable, about 20 minutes.
3. If using your pasta machine’s cutting attachment, follow the manufacturer’s instructions. Turn the crank with one hand, passing the sheet of dough through the cutters. As the dough emerges, lift it straight out with your other hand so that the strands do not collect on the countertop and become wrinkled.
4. If working by hand, first cut the dough into 5-inch lengths for pappardelle and 10-inch lengths for the other pastas. Loosely roll up a strip of dough. With a large heavy chef’s knife, cut the rolled up pasta crosswise into strips 3 inches wide for lasagne, ¾ inches wide for papardelle, 1/3 inch wide for fettuccine, ¼ inch for tagliatelle, and 1/8 inch for tagliarini. Separate the strips and place them flat on a floured surface to dry about 1 hour at room temperature.
Tips for Making Fresh Pasta:
It takes practice to get the knack of making pasta, but once you have the feel for it, it is not difficult. Make pasta when you have plenty of time, and don’t be disappointed if the first batch doesn’t come out right.
1. If possible, make pasta on a dry day. However, avoid making fresh pasta near a hot stove or radiator or near a fan. The heat and breeze may dry the pasta out too quickly.
2. A pasta machine is very helpful if you enjoy making fresh pasta and want to do it frequently. The most familiar machine is hand-cranked. It kneads, stretches, and cuts pasta dough perfectly. Most machines come with a variety of cutting attachments, but all you need are a fettuccine and tagliarini cutter. Buy a wide machine that feels heavy for its size. Smaller machines are flimsy and hard to handle. If you have a heavy-duty mixer, you may be able to purchase a pasta attachment for the mixer. I have one for my heavy-duty Kitchen Aid mixer that works very well.
3. Avoid the type of pasta maker that combines all the ingredients and extrudes them through a die (metal cutting mold). It makes poor-quality pasta.
4. Flour quality varies according to the weather and how, where, and how long it has been stored. Be prepared to adjust the amount of flour needed.
5. Eggs vary in moisture content and lose moisture through their shells as they age. If they have been stored for a while, they may be slightly drier than fresh eggs. I have used large eggs for all of the recipes in this book. If you use another size egg for making pasta, you may need to adjust the amount of flour accordingly.
6. When saucing fresh pasta, use just enough sauce to coat the pasta without leaving a pool of sauce in the bottom of the bowl. I have given quantities with each recipe, but consider these suggestions. The amount really depends on the type of sauce, how thick it is, and other factors.
Storing Fresh Egg Pasta:
Fresh pasta may be used immediately, frozen, or allowed to dry completely. To freeze the pasta, place the strips on baking sheets lightly dusted with flour so that they do not touch. Place the baking sheets in the freezer. When the pasta is firm, gently gather it into a bundle and wrap it well in layers of plastic wrap or foil. Store in the freezer up to one month.
To dry, place the pasta strips, not touching, on baking sheets. Cover each sheet with lightweight cloth kitchen towels. Do not cover them with plasticor foil or they will turn moldy. Leave the strips at room temperature for several days until the pieces are completely dry and snap when broken. Store in plastic bags in the pantry until ready to use.
Nutritional information is based on 4 ounces of pasta per serving.