If you’re anything like me, your youth involved eating pasta that started its life packaged in a box, living on a grocery store shelf until it was purchased by your family. My mom created wonderful things out of that dry pasta, like her Tuna Frittata or famous spaghetti and meat balls. I get a warm cozy feeling when imagining a pantry lined with boxes and boxes of pasta-based meal potential.
You are also like me if you tried fresh pasta for the first time in your twenties. My post-college years became a time for food exploration when I lived in Chicago. I gladly handed over roughly half my monthly earnings to the many restaurants that city has to offer. Chicago is a young foodie’s dream come true with all the diversity of flavors represented in such a tiny place. It would have been a crime to live there and not explore. Seems like it was only a matter of time before my wandering pallet experienced a bowl of freshly made pasta.
I recall eating it for the first time and thinking the texture was a lot like German spaetzle, yet it was much thinner and had a subtly different mouth feel thanks to the tomato sauce. It was delicate and chewy at the same time. It was different, and I was in love.
Despite this intense attraction, until recently fresh pasta has been something which only shows up in my home via the chilled plastic packages sold in grocery stores. The texture of that stuff is different than the fresh pasta from a restaurant. Less chewy. Yet making it from scratch seemed like a process which took too long. Was my desire for that unique texture enough reason to pass up the convenience of opening a box and having a meal in ten minutes?
Yes and no. Making fresh pasta takes time, but if you can find some joy in each step of the process it seems less like work and more like a project. Projects that end with a bowl of deliciousness are what I call fun.
I do not own a pasta rolling machine, so the steps listed below use only the bare essentials of what you need.
Begin by scrubbing down your counter top until it’s nice and clean. Dry thoroughly.
Using your hands, create a mound using two cups of unbleached all-purpose flour. Poke down the center to form a well for the eggs. Add a half teaspoon of salt.
Crack three eggs into the center of the well.
Using a fork, gently scramble the eggs. Begin incorporating flour from the sides of the well, making sure not to allow the eggs to escape through any cracks in the wall.
Continue moving the eggs around with the fork and incorporating flour until it starts looking dry. Scoop more flour into the eggs with your fingers. You should be able to start moving the dough around with your hands.
It should look something like this.
Form into a ball and scrape down the counter to get rid of excess flour and dough crumbs. Knead the dough for about five minutes, adding flour as needed to keep it from sticking.
I like to put all the scrapings into a colander which I can shake over the dough to add flour.
Wrap the ball in plastic wrap and refrigerate for thirty minutes.
Remove the dough from the fridge and let rest for ten minutes.
Flour your counter top and begin rolling out the dough. It helps to start from the center and roll towards the edges. Be generous with the flour as you go to prevent the dough from sticking. Aim to roll out the dough to a sixteenth of an inch in thickness.
It should probably be even bigger than my example, since my batch ended up a bit thick.
Visually divide your dough in half, then roll up each side of the dough towards the center line.
It should look something like this.
Cut the dough using a long sharp chef’s knife, applying just enough pressure to go through without scratching your counter top. Make your cuts as wide as you like. I aimed for the width of pappardelle noodles.
Insert your knife under the cut pasta and lift up…
VOILA! The pasta un-rolls itself.
Dust with additional flour to prevent sticking. You can use the pasta right away, cooking it in plenty of salted boiling water for five minutes, or it can be frozen for up to three months. The noodles are best used immediately, but can be stored in your fridge for a few days before the texture starts to degrade.
Fresh pasta works best with sauces of light to medium body, so I thought to pair it with some of the simply magical butter and onion pasta sauce I’ve cooked in the past. The rich chewy egg based pasta combined with the buttery tomato sauce creates something truly wonderful.
When did you first try fresh pasta? Do you have fresh pasta making success stories? I’d love to hear some.