"Out of Line: A Life Playing with Fire"
- 2 cups flour, more as needed
- 1 teaspoon salt, more for pasta water
- 2 whole eggs
- 4 egg yolks
Combine the flour and the salt on a clean work surface. If it’s not already in a small mound, gather it into one. Use your fist and a circular motion to transform the mound into a wide well. Crack the whole eggs into the center of the well and add the yolks. Beat the eggs with a fork just as you would to make scrambled eggs. Very gradually, incorporate some of the flour into the eggs by bringing in a little at a time from the perimeter of the well. Be careful not to break through the wall of the well or the egg will race out all over the counter, a total bummer. When the dough becomes too stiff to mix with a fork, use your fingers to work the eggs and flour together, only adding enough of the flour to make a cohesive ball of dough. You may not need to use all of the flour, and the actual amount you use will vary every time you make fresh pasta depending on your eggs, flour, and even the weather. To see if you have added enough flour, press a clean, dry finger deep into the dough. If nothing sticks to your finger, your dough is in good shape. If not, work in a little more flour now or, if it feels close, as you knead the dough.
Move the dough over to one side and scrape your work area clean of any excess flour, especially any hardened bits, and then clean your hands as well. Lightly re-flour the surface and knead the dough by pushing it away from you with the heel of your hand, folding it over, giving it a quarter turn, and pushing it away again. Continue kneading, adding a sprinkling of flour if the dough feels sticky, until it feels as soft and supple as your ear lobe; this can take 5 to 8 minutes. Sprinkle the dough with a little flour, wrap it in plastic or a cloth, and let it rest for a half hour before rolling it.
To thin the dough, set your pasta machine to its widest setting. Cut the dough in half and keep the rest wrapped while you work (some of the recipes calling for fresh pasta only need a half batch of dough). Roll the dough lightly in flour and then flatten it into a rectangle that is roughly the width of your pasta machine. Run the dough through the machine at this setting twice to give the dough a final kneading.
Set the machine to its next thinnest setting and run the dough through. Continue running the dough through the machine’s settings so that the dough gets progressively thinner each time; you don’t have to hit every setting on the dial as is so often insisted, but do thin the dough gradually. If you run the dough through the machine and it shreds or tears or is too thin, simply fold it over and run it through a wider setting to smooth it out. If your dough sticks, you can flour it well without worry; the dough will not incorporate too much flour at this point.
As the length of the dough increases, you may find it a little unwieldy. With an electric (as opposed to hand cranked) pasta machine, you can stand pretty far away and gather the dough as it comes out of the machine, gently folding it over onto itself, so it looks like ribbon candy. Or you can cut long shorter lengths with a sharp knife and run each piece through the setting. Whatever works best for you.
For most pastas, you want to roll the dough until it’s very thin like a silk scarf; if you hold it up to the light you can see your hand through it. On some pasta machines this will mean the thinnest setting; on others it may be the second thinnest. At this point, you can use the sheets as directed for the various fresh pasta recipes that follow.
Or cut the pasta sheets into fettuccine, tagliatelle, or similar shapes. Start by cutting the sheets into rectangles roughly a foot long, trimming the ends neatly. Attach a pasta cutter to your pasta machine and run the pasta through. Or cut the pasta by hand with a sharp knife or ravioli cutter. Let the pasta sheets air dry for an hour or so before cutting into shapes. You can then stack the sheets to make cutting more efficient.
Here’s how I cut the following:
Fettucine: Most pasta rollers come with an attachment for cutting this pasta.
Papardelle: make a wide noodle by cutting the pasta sheet every 1-inch with a fluted ravioli cutter to make rippled edges on both sides
Tagliatelle: make a thin noodle by cutting the pasta sheets every 1/4-inch with a sharp chef’s knife
Trenette: make a slightly thicker noodle by not taking the pasta to the thinnest setting and cut the noodle about 1/3-inch thick, one side with a knife, the other side with a ravioli cutter to make it rippled
- I prefer to just keep moving when I am making fresh pasta, but if you get interrupted, you can refrigerate the pasta dough for a couple hours before rolling it. Too long before drying, cooking, or freezing, and it will discolor.
- Cut pasta, such as fettuccine, may be neatly frozen by wrapping strands around your hand to create nests. Put the nests on floured baking sheet, freeze them until rock solid, and transfer to an airtight container or freezer bag. Cook them straight out of the freezer.
- We almost never dry pasta because we make and use it with such regularity and find that freezing works best for us. If you want to dry your pasta, you can do it the traditional way by hanging it over a dowel and letting it air-dry or by laying it out on a baking sheet in a single, uncrowded layer with an extra sprinkling of flour.
Recipe adapted from Stir: Mixing it up in the Italian Tradition by Barbara Lynch, Barbara Lynch Gruppo