A little while back I claimed I could make fresh pasta, but since my recipe was no better or different than all the other recipes out there, I wasn’t going to share it with you.
I was lying. I couldn’t make fresh pasta.
I thought I could. I’d played around with pasta machines in the past. Yet the results, if not exactly disappointing, were no better or different than a bag of San Remo from the supermarket.
Things have changed. I have discovered 00 flour. And I have discovered the fun of making fresh pasta requires abandoning the pasta machine.
00 flour is Italian flour which has been ground as fine as possible – practically talcum powder fine. Now, there is debate as to the actual merits of using 00 or doppio zero flour. Some claim it is ideal for pasta making but useless for bread making. Others, notably Jeffrey Steingarten, have pointed out that it is the protein level that counts, and flours of many different protein levels can be ground doppio zero fine. The only real reason I started using 00 flour, if I am honest, is that my all-purpose flour pasta was kind of mediocre, and I found a food importer that sells doppio zero. Finding a rare ingredient readily available is almost always reason enough to buy it.
So, now that I have mastered handmade, fresh, 00 pasta, I feel I can freely share it with you as though there were not thousands of identical articles already scattered all over the internet. Behold my recipe!
3 organic eggs
2 cups 00 flour, or as needed
1/2 tsp salt
Since there are only three ingredients here, it’s important that they be of high quality. Here is where I actually insist on organic, free range eggs from a chicken called Colin who has lots of chicken friends to play with (Portlandia reference). It will make a difference. The flour should be imported Italian 00 flour. This recipe does work with all-purpose flour, but what’s the point? I mean really? You’ll almost certainly be better off buying dry pasta, unless you just really like to play with flour. Full disclosure: I am not certain I used exactly 2 cups of flour. I just made a mound big enough to contain three eggs. Try it – it works.
You will also need a large, clean work surface, and a decent rolling pin. You will need time. You will need to be in a meditative mood. This is a lot of fun to do, if you are not in any great rush.
Mix your flour and salt and mound up on your workspace. Note that you do not need to sift the flour. There would be no point. 00 flour is so fine it would pour through a sieve like water, anyway.
I used to mix up my pasta in a bowl, which I think was one of the reasons it was so bland. (It can take a long time for me to acknowledge that there might be a reason something is always done in a traditional fashion and resists simplification.) Pasta should be made on a work surface, not in a bowl. Mound up the flour, make a well in the centre, and crack in 3 eggs.
Using a fork, gently beat the eggs. Do not be in a rush to incorporate the flour or the mixture will become lumpy. As the flour is gradually absorbed, mound up the sides of the well with the palm of your hand to prevent a catastrophic dam break.
When the dough starts to become too thick to stir you can begin to knead it with flour-covered hands. At this point the work surface will start to collect hard sticky bits. Remove these periodically with a knife or a pastry scraper or your dough will accumulate chunks. Fold and flatten the pasta with your hand as you incorporate more flour.
The aim here is to attain dough that is soft and malleable but not sticky. Add flour gradually and continue to knead. When you judge you have a nice smooth dough which does not feel like poster putty, divide it into two balls and let it rest for 15 minutes under a clean dish towel.
Now for the fun part. Scrape clean the work surface, or move to a different work surface, and roll out one of the balls of dough. Sprinkle it with flour regularly to prevent it sticking, and flip it over often. It helps for the next step if the dough is in a nearly rectangular shape. Roll, roll, dust, dust, flip, flip. Here is where you get to show off your skills as a dough-roller: you want the end result as thin as humanly possible without being unmanageable. 1-2 mm is ideal.
Now for the other fun part, where you don’t need a pasta machine. Dust your dough one more time on both sides and loosely roll it up. Using your sharpest knife which you’ve just sharpened, slice the roll into strips as wide as you’d like your final pasta to be. Try and make spaghetti! It’s hard. Fettucine is much easier.
Nearly done! When you’ve sliced about half the roll, uncoil the cut strips and drape them over something (a coat hanger, a towel rack, a curtain rod, your partner’s outstretched arm) to dry. Proceed with the other half of the roll. Don’t leave it rolled up too long, or it will start to stick.
And that’s it, although don’t forget you have another ball to do. You can cook the pasta right away, or leave it for a few hours to dry, after which it will keep a week in a bag or airtight container. Remember that it only takes a few minutes to cook so keep testing it as it boils in order to attain perfect al dente-ish-ness.
Take a break. You sure earned it.