I reached a very important cooking milestone this weekend. I learned to make my very own fresh pasta!
I see you snickering. Big deal, you might say, and now I would tend to agree. I was just so intimidated by the process. I purchased my pasta-making equipment over three years ago and have just mustered the courage to take it all out of the box. Until this weekend I found every reason not to try fresh pasta at home (store-bought “fresh” pasta is not the same). What is the correct egg-to-flour ratio? What kind of flour to use, all purpose or 00? Food processor or by hand? In the end I realized that I was over-thinking the whole thing. I found a Youtube video of Giuliano Hazan explaining the way he learned to make egg pasta from his family (from Emilia-Romagna) and I knew I found the right teacher.
Mr. Hazan’s 8-minute video took me through the most intimidating part of pasta-making, the kneading. He also answered my question about the number of eggs to use. In his family, 1 egg per 3/4 cup flour is the rule and well, if it works for a Hazan then it’s more than good enough for me (I’m sure there are other egg/flour ratios that work just as well but I liked the results from this formula). He walked me through mixing the egg and flour with a fork until it was time to use my hands. He gave clear direction about how to knead the dough, how to get a feel for when the dough has been kneaded enough. When I was learning to make bread I came across this comment a lot: You’ll know when you’re done kneading. For a newbie, that sounded so vague but with a few loaves under my belt, I now understand what that means and it was the same for the pasta dough.
Mixing and kneading the dough turned out not to be the scary exercise that I imagined but I was also concerned about the rolling part. How many times do I pass the dough through? Again, Mr. Hazan, in a follow-up video, showed me the proper way to roll out the dough. He used a manual roller while I used my Kitchenaid pasta-maker attachment but it worked out great. Overall, I felt like I had a one-on-one lesson with these videos. If you are even just a little nervous about making your own fresh pasta, I highly recommend Mr. Hazan’s videos.
I prepared one of my go-to pasta dishes using shallots, rosemary, sage, anchovies and lemons. You can sub capers, olives or sun-dried tomatoes for the anchovies–either way, the pasta’s freshness coupled with its toothsome bite will shine in this simple recipe.
I’ll list the best pointers I picked up from Mr. Hazan along with some observations I made that should make the next time an even better experience:
- Use room temperature eggs.
- 1 egg per 3/4 cup flour is a good ratio to start with but don’t incorporate all the flour into the eggs right away. The size of your eggs will determine the final amount of flour used (the video illustrates this well)
- Mr. Hazan prefers to work the dough on a wood surface to keep the dough from getting cold. I used my granite counter and it worked just fine. I’ll try working on my wood counter next time.
- Use a rolling motion when kneading the dough (again, the video illustrates this well)
- Never keep the dough exposed to air for too long so it doesn’t dry out.
- You can leave the kneaded dough to rest from 30 minutes to 2 1/2 hours on the counter before you roll it out. Just make sure it’s wrapped in plastic wrap.
- When dividing the dough, Mr. Hazan’s rule is to divide it according to the number of eggs used. We used 3 eggs here so we divided the dough in three pieces before rolling.
- After passing the dough through the roller, make sure the pasta sheets don’t overlap or touch each other to prevent sticking. Lay them on kitchen towels to prevent sticking on the counter.
- When passing my sheets through the spaghetti cutter I noticed that my sheets weren’t passing through smoothly. At this stage it would have been better to allow the sheets to dry a little before proceeding. Allowing them to dry for 10-15 minutes (total for both sides) might prevent the slight sticking issue I had.
- You can either hang the cut spaghetti to dry or toss them in flour on a baking tray until you use them. I used the latter method but wasn’t generous enough with the flour in the beginning so I had some sticking issues. I lost a couple of ounces of pasta from this but the rest of the batch was fine.
Update 10/30/2012: I made 2 batches of fresh pasta over the weekend for lasagne and I’m adding these notes for future reference.
- All-purpose flour vs 00 flour – I think I prefer the 00.
- Pass the dough through the widest setting (#1) three times. Once, as is. Second, after you fold the dough in thirds, overlapping the folds. Third, fold in half.
- Pass once for the other settings. For lasagne sheets, I like a thinner pasta so I roll up to #5. After rolling to #4, cut the pasta sheets in half so the length is more manageable as it passes through the #5 setting.
- ***For about 1 pound of Fresh Pasta***
- 3 eggs
- 2¼ cups flour (I used 00 flour but Mr. Hazan recommended all-purpose)
- ***For the Pasta Sauce***
- 1-2 shallots, chopped
- 5-7 anchovies in oil plus 1-2 tablespoons of the oil they came in (or capers, olives or sun-dried tomatoes)
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- zest and juice of half lemon
- 3-4 sprigs fresh rosemary
- 6-8 fresh sage leaves
- chili flakes, to taste
- olive oil, a few tablespoons
- parmigiano reggiano
- To prepare the pasta, pour the flour on a clean work surface, create a well in the middle and add the eggs. Start whisking the eggs with a fork, dragging a little flour a little at a time. Continue to do this until you’ve incorporated enough flour into the eggs so the mixture isn’t runny anymore. Before incorporating the rest of the flour, set a bit aside, maybe a few tablespoons to ¼ cup. Mix the rest of the flour (minus what you just set aside) into the egg mixture using your hands. If the dough seems too wet, add the rest of the flour you set aside. Form the dough into a ball and knead by pulling one end of the dough toward you then with the heel of your hand, push it away. Perform this motion twice then rotate the dough 45° and repeat. Keep doing this until the dough is smooth, about 3-5 minutes is good. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and let it rest for about 30 minutes before rolling and cutting. To roll and cut, follow the instructions on your pasta machine.
- To prepare the dish, bring a pot of water to a boil. Add the pasta once it’s boiling and remember that fresh pasta only takes about 3-4 minutes to cook. While the pasta cooks, heat a few tablespoons of olive oil in a pan over medium heat. Add the anchovies, chili flakes, shallots and rosemary. The anchovies will dissolve; cook until the shallots are start to color then add the garlic and sage and continue to cook until the shallots are caramelized. This will take a total of 5-6 minutes. Add the lemon juice and lemon zest. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Add the cooked pasta. If the sauce looks too dry for you and/or you want a bolder flavor, pour in a tablespoon or two of the anchovy oil. Plate and garnish with Parmigiano-Reggiano.