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How To… Make Fresh Pasta!!

July 7, 2012

Last year, my sister and I went to Germany to spend some time with our other sister and her family. She has lived there for 15 years and it’s the first time I’ve managed the trip. In the past I’ve been too busy being a student and being poor and stuff. As it is, I’m still paying them back for my ticket…

Anyway, while we were there, we frequented the local bakery and tried local stuff at the beergarden and enjoyed my sister and her husband’s brand of cooking, tho they both have the metabolisms of hummingbirds so we learned to plate up our own portions, otherwise we would have had to buy an extra seat for the trip home!

Bavarian breakfast of white sausage, sweet mustard, pretzel and some kind of beer. Yeah I don’t make a very good German, btw…

My sister asked if there was anything we’d particularly like to make while we were there and I went: Ooh, Fresh Pasta! I’m not sure why, but I knew that she knew how to make it. I’ve read recipes, but I’m a visual creature, and I wanted to see how it was done.

Having looked on the interwebs about this, I know there are many ways to make pasta. There are different egg-to-flour ratios, some people add olive oil and some don’t, some use tipo 00 flour and some don’t. Most people use a pasta machine for the rolling, but I’ve heard of draping the dough over the edge of the bench and holding it in place with your stomach while you roll the other half (sounds like too much hard work. Pasta dough is very springy). So what follows is my version, which is pretty much the same as what my sister showed me.

The basic rule is this: 100g of tipo 00 flour and a large egg per serve. I recommend sourcing the right flour for this– you can find it in bulk bin stores. You can use 110g per egg and add some oilve oil, if you like. Most of the recipes that I’ve read expect us to weigh our flour and then dump it on the bench, make a well in the centre for the eggs and then get cracking. MESS!! CLEAN-UP!! AARGH!! I never do that. I use a large bowl, like a sensible person:

I used two eggs and a pinch of salt and some olive oil with 220g of tipo 00 flour here. Then you take a fork and whisk the eggs together in their little well in the flour. When the eggs are whisked up, start gradually whisking in the flour from around the edges of the well until you have gathered it all in. Obviously you won’t be using the fork towards the end. If the flour really won’t go in (smallish eggs or whatever), add a few drops of water. When it’s all together, it will look something like this:

See? Mess Contained and Eliminated

Then you knead the dough on a lightly floured surface (bench or board) for ages and ages (said my mutant wrists) until the dough is really springy, and when you pinch it, the marks quickly fade:

Then you wrap it up in cling-film and leave it alone for half an hour.

Once the dough is rested, it’s time to roll it out. I always do this bit with my rolling-pin, because I’m good at breaking pasta machines and I like the one I have at the moment. I do the rolling like this: Roll the dough out on a lightly floured surface until it is about 1cm thick. Then fold it in thirds (so three layers are stacked) and then roll it out again. Repeat this for a total of three times.

For this two-person batch, cut the rolled-out dough into quarters and flatten a little more with the rolling-pin. Impatiently trying to make too much dough go through the machine at once will break it (cue innocent whistling…) so a conservative approach is best.

Pasta machines have a dial that lets you set the distance between the rollers. Choose the widest setting (usually 7) and run each quarter through the machine, keeping the dough pieces lightly dusted with flour to stop them getting stuck in the machine, and ensuring you have enough space to lay or drape the sheets on clean, dry surfaces. Next, adjust the dial to the next setting and run each sheet through again. Repeat until you get to the desired thickness which, on my pasta machine, is 3 on the dial. Before I run the pasta through the second to last setting (4 on my machine), I cut each sheet in half to make them easier to handle.

Fresh pasta sheets are quite versatile. I’ve used them in lasagne, drastically reducing the baking time. You can use then for cannelloni. You can make those little parcel thingies with stuff inside. Usually, we can’t be bothered with the fiddly parcels, so we just make fettuccine, which are flat noodles. Spaghetti noodles come out well, too. Here’s my pasta machine with the fettuccine and spaghetti attachment on it and a little pile of fettuccine (obscured) in the background. I always deputise my sister as handle-turner at this point, as I need at least three hands or it doesn’t go well. That could be just me, though…

Some people say it’s best to let the sheets dry out a bit before this step. We tried that and it didn’t go well for us. We find straight away is best. We toss the fettuccine in plenty of flour after they go through the machine to stop them sticking together.

The timing for fresh pasta meals is different from when you use dried pasta. All you need is a large and deep pot of boiling, salted water (Nigella says ‘as salty as the mediterranean’ but whatever to that. To taste, as always) Pasta is cooked when it floats to the top. It only takes a few minutes. You should taste test, just to be sure.

To arrest the cooking, take the pan off the heat and some cold water– but if you’re organised and can plate it up straight away, that is better. Always reserve a couple of ladles of the cooking water to help things move and mix and whatnot– dry cooked pasta is not nice stuff. Follow your favourite recipe and enjoy!

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