When I first started cooking, I was astounded that pasta could be made from scratch. My spaghetti always came from long rectangular boxes. Funny shapes like farfalle, I thought, must have always been the product of some elaborate machinery housed in the giant pasta factory in the sky. Ravioli came in sealed plastic containers, packaged and sold like supermarket action figures.
Outside of Italy, we think more of the sauce than the pasta.
Woe be to those who subscibe to a such misguided philosophy, for fresh pasta is a treat almost as fun to create as it is delicious. The ingredients are divinely simple, the process less time-consuming than a trip to the market and far more therapeutic.
Above is pictured the mise en place for making pasta dough. Yes, it’s composed of things you’d probably find bumping around your fridge and pantry on any given afternoon.
1 3/4 cup of flour
6 egg yolks
1 whole egg
1 1/2 tsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon milk
First, mound the flour atop a cutting board, counter or clean surface of your choosing and create a well in its center. Think more crater than volcano. The well should be a rather wide one with walls measuring about one inch in height.
Next, mix together the remaining ingredients and pour them gently into the middle of the well. If the mixture of eggs, milk and olive oil breaches the walls of your well, spilling off of the counter and covering your floor with sticky yellow goo, your walls are either to thin or your well to small. Clean up, have a glass of wine and try again.
Next comes the fun part: the stir. With your fingers or the tines of a fork, stir the egg mixture about your flour well in a circular motion, which will slowly eroding the wall of your flour crater and incorporate it into the egg mixture. Use a pastry scraper to periodically push the flour toward the eggs. It will thicken from liquid to a sticky paste incapable of running over countertops. The hard part’s over.
Keep incorporating flour into the dough by sprinkling it over the prematurely formed mass and cutting it into the dough while occasionally scraping down your countertop, to which small particles of flour and egg will have now adhered. If allowed to mingle with your pasta dough, the little flakes of dried flour will make it lumpy.
Once combined, your pasta dough will form a yellow lump scraggly and soft to the touch.
Clean your work surface and sprinkle with a fresh layer of flour. Knead the dough for about ten minutes or until elastic and smooth. Should you have created something resembling that pictured below, rejoice and prepare to impress friends and strangers with the remarkable demonstration of culinary prowess that is your homemade pasta.
Once finished, the pasta dough can be rolled by machine or hand and cut into flat noodles like linguine and fettuccine; fashioned into ravioli; and extruded into shapes like spaghetti and fusilli among a plethora of other applications.