It’s getting cold, isn’t it? The weather is meant to be great tomorrow, but we’re not holding our breath. More like we’re seeing our breath (okay- we’ll stop making dad jokes and/or talking about the weather). As we see the chilly evenings creeping in, we thought we’d give you a recipe to both keep you busy of an evening, and make you all warm and full of delicious dinner.
‘All over the world, there are different grades of flour, but most Italians use 00 (doppio zero) for fresh pasta, because it has small, fine particles that will give you a smooth dough. The flour may be made from durum wheat or a combination of various strains of wheat; it varies according to manufacturers, and every house in Italy will buy the flour they swear is the only one to use, just as they believe completely in a particular brand of dried pasta.
You can either make egg pasta in the traditional fashion, by hand – which is the best and most enjoyable way – or use a food processor that has a dough hook. If you are finding it hard work to bring the dough together in the kneading, which can happen sometimes if the kitchen is too hot, don’t just take a jug of water and start adding it, instead wet your hands a little and keep working the dough until you begin to get some humidity into it, and then it will come together.
When you make egg pasta, much of the ‘bite’ comes from the protein in the eggs, which also contain lecithin. This is a natural emulsifier that gives a malleability and elasticity to the pasta, allowing you to twist it and bend it. Also, as you knead the dough, you help to stretch the gluten in the flour, strengthening and making it more elastic. However, if you keep on kneading and kneading, and really overdo it, you can break the strands, which is why it is better to stop kneading the moment the dough comes together, then let the dough relax for an hour.
We use Italian eggs, which have very rich orange, almost red, yolks, because the hens each grass and vegetation in spring and summer, and corn in the winter. So, when pasta is made, it is a lovely golden colour. If you are able to buy fresh eggs, preferably organic, from a farm where the hens can wander round freely and eat vegetation, rather than being penned into battery cages on a diet of formulated feed, you will find the yolks have a similar rich colour and their flavour and quality will be much higher.’
Ingredients | Makes about 600g
500g 00 (doppio zero) flour
3 large eggs, plus 2 extra (large) egg yolks (all at room temperature)
Pinch of salt
‘Preferably make the pasta by hand – especially if you are making a relatively small quantity like this, which will be difficult for a food processor to mix well. Sieve the flour into a clean bowl, then turn it out into a mound on a clean surface and make a well in the middle (in Italy we call this the Fontana di farina, ‘ fountain of flour). Sprinkle the salt into the well and then crack in the eggs.
Have a bowl of water on one side, so you can wet your hands, to help bring the dough together if it is being stubborn towards the end of kneading. To begin, break the yolks with the fingertips of one hand, and then begin to move your fingers in a circular motion, gradually incorporating the flour, until you have worked in enough to start bringing it all together in a ball. Then you can start to work the ball of dough by pushing it with the heel of your hand, then folding the top back on itself, turning it a little clockwise, and repeating, again and again, for about 10 minutes, wetting your hands if it helps, until the dough is springy but still feels quite firm and difficult to work. (If you are using a food processor, sieve the flour into the bowl, add the salt, then start the machine, and slowly add the egg yolks, followed by the whole eggs. Keep the motor running slowly, or it will heat up the pasta too much, and also ‘beat’ rather than mix. Once the dough has come together, take it out and put it on a clean work surface.)
Don’t worry that the dough feels hard; after it has relaxed for a while it will be perfect. Divide the dough into 2 balls, wrap each in a damp cloth and allow to rest for about 1 hour before use.’
Rolling the Pasta
Roll the first ball of dough with a rolling pin (keep the other covered by the damp cloth) until it is about 1cm think and will go through the pasta machine comfortably (if it is too thick, the pasta machine will have to use so much force to make it go through that it will damage the machine and squeeze out too much moisture in the process so the pasta will be dry). There isn’t an exact number of times you will need to feed the pasta through the machine – each time you make it, it will be slightly different (and not every pasta machine has the same number of settings), but use the next few steps as a guide and, after a while, you will get the hang of rolling the pasta and feel your own way.
Put the machine on the first (thickest) setting to start with, then feed the piece of pasta through the machine, turning the handle with one hand and supporting the dough as it comes through with the other. Then changed to the second setting, and put it through again. Repeat another 2-3 times, taking the setting down one step each time. Don’t worry if the pasta appears slightly streaky, this should disappear as you carry on rolling it.
Next, fold the strip of pasta back on itself, put the machine back on the first setting and put the pasta through. Repeat 3-4 more times, again taking the setting down one each time, and you will see that the pasta begins to take on a sheen. As it begins to get longer, you will find that you have to pull it very gently, so that it doesn’t begin to concertina. You shouldn’t need to dust it with flour, unless you feel it is too soft and likely to stick and stretch too much.
Now you need to cut your strip in half. Put one half under cover of the damp cloth, then fold the length of the other strip into three, bringing one end in and the other over the top of that, so that the pasta is the same width as the machine. Roll it with the rolling pin, so it is no more than 5mm thick, then put the machine back on the first setting and feed the pasta through – this time widthways not lengthways. The idea of changing direction is to put equal elasticity and strength throughout the pasta. Keep feeding it through this way, taking it down two or three settings as you go.
Finally, fold the pasta back on itself, then put the machine back on the first setting, and take it down again through the settings until it is about 1.5mm thick. By now, the pasta should be nice and shiny, with no lines in it, and you are ready to cut it into strips (either by hand, or using a cutter attachment on your machine), or use it to make filled pasta. It is best to use each sheet as soon as it is ready, before starting to roll the rest of your dough.
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