Fresh pasta – give it a go

Freshly cut into tagliatelle

Homemade fresh pasta. Deeply satisfying, genuinely better than dried / store bought and worth a bit of effort. Yet somehow along with souffles and pastry many have a deep-rooted fear of attempting them, as if the kitchen might spontaneously implode when you add a bit too much egg to your mix.

Well, brush aside any fears, [wo]man up and get your pasta machine out. You may need to attempt this a few times to get the right feel for the dough and how it behaves, but once you do you’ll be extremely pleased with the reward for a small amount of perserverance. Firstly, the ingredients list, if you can call it that. 00 flour, a very fine soft flour, get the best you can. And eggs, as fresh as you can get. That’s it. I use 1 medium egg for each 100g of flour, allow 100-150g per person depending on how hungry you are. Pile the flour onto a large clean work surface, crack the eggs into a well, break up the eggs with a fork and then mix together by hand into a dough. You want something that sticks together enough into a clump but isn’t wet or sticky. Adjust the flour / egg as necessary.

Now is the important bit, kneading. You’re aiming to introduce elasticity into the pasta by developing the gluten strands, that’s pretty important given you want to stretch your mix into a long thin sheet later. It helps to have a radio on, then you can keep kneading for at least 2 songs, possibly 3 depending on how many times a week you visit the gym. Knead and stretch the dough until it is elastic and shiny. Wrap in clingfilm and let it rest in the fridge for an hour.

An hour later, lightly dust your surface with some flour and clamp your pasta machine to the worktop. Cut the dough into rough portion sizes (i.e. the number of people you’re trying to feed) and cover each with clingflim. Take your first ball, flatten it slightly and lightly dust with flour. Starting with the widest setting on your machine, roll it through 2-3 times trying to get a nice even rectangle the width of the machine. Lightly dust with flour if it sticks (and bear in mind for next time you might need less egg). Now, slowly notch by notch take the pasta machine down to thinner levels, each time putting the pasta through 1-2 times depending on how it is feeling and stretching.

Depending on what you’re doing with the pasta you can decide how thin to take it. Generally I’ll go down to the second or third thinnest level, for ravioli you probably want the thinnest though. By the end you should have a long, thin rectangular sheet. Dust with flour, shake off the excess and place in a dish covered with a damp tea towel to keep fresh.

What you do from here is up to you. Most machines come with cutters for linguini and fettuccine. Or you can rough cut some shapes of your own? Ravioli is a great option too, simply cut the sheets lengthways in 2 (depending on what size ravioli you want), dot filling at equal intervals, brush with water around the edges and top with another sheet. Then press firmly removing the air around the filling and cut as desired.

Served with pumpkin, pancetta, broad beans, sage and chilli.

As you can see, I cut mine into tagliatelle. Cooking is simple, get a large pan of salted water on a proper rolling boil, drop in and cook for 2-4 minutes depending on the thickness. Make sure you keep testing the pasta to your desired level of al-dente, you don’t want to overcook it. And be careful with more delicate ravioli, less of a boil and palce them carefully in the water. Serve with a simple sauce to emphasise the deliciousness of the pasta, in this case I mixed some roast pumpkin with fried pancetta, sage and broad beans for a fresh light taste.

 

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