Here’s a skill any truly serious aficionado of Mediterranean food must master to claim the title ‘Master’: Making Fresh Pasta! While the end result is, to some, almost magical, good, handmade fresh pasta is really easy and quick to make and can be used in a whole galaxy of great comfort food recipes!
All it takes to make great Fresh Pasta is some good quality finely-ground Flour, an egg and a little elbow grease.
One could amend that to include a little finely-ground Semolina and a kitchen scale, because the traditional recipe does call for a certain weight of flour per egg to achieve the ideal moisture level and texture.
For each serving (and these are generous servings!) use 125 g of flour and one egg. Mrs. Indovina, who,lived across the street from us when I was just a little kid, used to make it the ages-old way, making a well in the centre of a pile of Flour on a big wooden cutting board, cracking the eggs into the well and massaging them into the flour with her fingertips until all the egg was absorbed and all the flour was moistened. Then, she kneaded the fresh Pasta mass for a few minutes to help develop the gluten in the flour. That’s what gives good Pasta its trademark elasticity. And that, in turn,allows the Pasta to be rolled and shaped at will.
If you make Fresh pasta often, you’ll appreciate having a pasta machine to roll out the basic flat sheets to the right thickness for various applications and the cutter attachment to slice it into nice, neat even Spaghetti or Fettuccine noodles.
You’ll only become adept at making Fresh Pasta by making it over and over again, determining just how much flour is deal to produce Pasta to your taste, and how long it needs to be kneaded and how long it needs to rest, tightly wrapped on the board for the gluten to develop perfectly.
When the Pasta is kneaded sufficiently, form it into a ball and wrap tightly in plastic wrap. Let the wrapped ball sit on the bench or counter for twenty minutes before rolling.
If you don’t have a Pasta rolling machine, just use your rolling pin with lots of loose flour on the bench and roll until the Pasta is the thickness you want it. If you’re making regular Spaghetti or Noodles, go for 1/16 in. / 1.5 mm. If you are making something like ravioli. in which you’ll be folding the pasta over onto itself, go for 1/32 in. / 1 mm; so you can just start to read a newspaper through it! To cut thin noodles, scatter lots of flour on the pasta sheet you’ve rolled out and roll it loosely. Then cut across the roll as thick or as thin as you wish – From linguini to Tagliatelle.
When your Pasta is in its final form. Dredge in Flour or Semolina so it won’t stick together before you drop it in the pot to cook. If you like it just al dente, give it about six minutes. For softer noodles, try eight to ten minutes. The thickness and density of your Pasta along with other factors will influence how long it takes to cook it to your taste. Experiment!
This is something the kids can get involved in. But use a deep bowl that’s over-sized for the job to keep the dry flour contained and avoid spillage!
Try making your own pasta! You’ll be glad you did!
~ Maggie J.