When I visited Italy a few years ago, pasta was high on my list of foods to go crazy about (i.e. stuff myself with). We arrived in the Tuscan Hills on a warm Spring day under achingly blue skies. By day, we cooked and kneaded and learnt about the beauty of creating pasta from scratch. By night we took the train into Florence and ate gelato – not because we needed it – but just because we could. Everything we made in that kitchen, we ate. We tasted a simple stock and watched as our usually impatient Italian tutor paused to smack his lips and tell us this was simply the best stock you’d ever taste. He walked around pinching our pasta dough to see if it was elastic enough and ready to rest. We stopped to watch him deftly fold cappelletti or gently push pasta through the ‘guitar machine’ to make spaghetti alla chitarra. We learnt that good pasta doesn’t have to take a long time but that Italians enjoy the time that it takes and perhaps we should too..
Allow me to show you how easy pasta is to make by hand. The word itself originates from ‘paste’, and that’s a little what it’s going to feel like to begin with until you’ve worked some attitude and stretchiness into creating a smooth dough. You’ll know when the dough is ready because it’ll be beautifully smooth, and when you pinch it, the dough should spring back a little like the when you push into the palm of your hand. Always let it rest – you’ve just brought two strangers together to create something entirely new – you need them to spend at least half an hour bonding in the fridge. When you bring it out, allow it to warm up a touch before you start working it through the machine, and even then make sure you start rolling with about a quarter of the dough you’ll make in this recipe.
Adventure pasta guide
Substitute one egg for 75g pickled or cooked beetroot. Blend the beetroot with the egg before following the recipe as above.
Substitute one egg for 75g cooked spinach or kale. Ensure you squeeze out as much of the liquid as possible before blending with the egg and then follow the method above.
To make herb pasta, once you have two sheets of rolled out pasta (to the penultimate width on your pasta machine) take one piece of pasta and lay the herbs out on it. Lay the other piece on top and gently roll your rolling pin over them to seal. Open up the pasta machine again and pass the pasta sheet through, gradually getting to narrower widths until the penultimate one… stop there. I recommend cutting it into thick pappardelle strips so that you can still enjoy the beauty of this pasta!
- 2 x fresh eggs – the best quality you can find
- 200g all-purpose flour– white is best for pasta
- Pour the flour onto a wooden surface and make a well in the middle. Crack the eggs (or egg mixture if doing beetroot or spinach) into the well. Using a fork, start gently whisking the eggs and slowly bringing the flour into the mixture. Don’t worry about how messy this is going to be – it’s part of the fun!
- Slowly work the flour into the eggs until you have most of it mixed in. When you think it’s not too dry, start using your best tools – your hands.
- Work the dough on this same surface to pick up all the flour. Knead continuously until you have a beautifully smooth dough that is elastic (i.e. bounces back when you pinch it). If you need to put some more flour in, do, but you don’t want it to be too tough either.
- Once this is complete wrap in a beeswax cloth or clingfilm and put in the fridge for 30 minutes to rest.
- After it’s rested, remove the pasta, cut into quarters and roll out one quarter with a rolling pin.
- You can then put it through the widest setting on your pasta machine twice then set the pasta machine to the next width (getting narrower). The pasta should pass through each setting twice, and in the end, you’ll have a lovely long piece of pasta.
- At this stage, you could attach the spaghetti function and made spaghetti or leave it in large pieces to make lasagne. Allow it to dry for about an hour and then cook.
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