Two years ago, my husband and I decided that we would give homemade pasta as a Christmas gift. I had learned how to make pasta a couple of months earlier and was excited to put my new skills to work. We planned to make the pasta, let it dry, and then pack it in bags to give to our friends and family. We thought it was a fabulous gift idea.
And it was. Except for the fact that we were planning on giving homemade pasta to about 15 different people which equals an awful lot of homemade pasta. We had planned to tackle the pasta making on a single Saturday. It took two Saturdays and a Sunday. I had thought the pasta would dry prettily in the kitchen. It did dry in the kitchen, and the guest bedroom, and on the living room shelves, and anywhere else that we could drape a towel and lay it out to dry.
Needless to say, we did not make pasta for Christmas this year and I’ve since stuck to making smaller batches. If you’ve never made pasta before, now is the time. A pasta maker does come in handy, but you can roll the pasta dough out by hand if you are so inclined.
Pasta is made with eggs, flour, and a little salt. The trick to good pasta is making a dough that is not too wet and not too dry. As you’ll notice from the images above, you start by dumping the flour and salt on a countertop and creating a large well. Crack the eggs into the well and use a fork to bring everything together. When the fork no longer seems to work, then it is time to use your hands. Form a ball with the dough and then knead that dough for a good 8 to 10 minutes or until the dough is smooth and elastic. Really feel the dough with your hands. If it is too sticky, add a little more flour. Too dry? Then add a bit of water.
Once you have kneaded your dough to the proper consistency, then wrap it up tightly in plastic wrap and let it sit in the refrigerator for at least 10 minutes and up to one day. And then it’s the fun part. Haul out the pasta machine or your best rolling-pin and get to work.
In the recipe below, you’ll find instructions for Tagliatelle pasta which is an egg pasta similar to fettuccine, but a little wider at 1/4-inch in width. However, the pasta dough can be used to make other types of pasta so get creative! Tagliatelle pasta is traditionally served with a Bolognese ragu, a hearty meat sauce typically made with ground beef and sometimes pork. I’ll riff on the traditional sauce with a post on lamb ragu later this week. In the meantime, get your pasta made!
Makes about 1 lb of fresh pasta
The pasta dough can be used to make pastas other than tagliatelle. Be creative!
1 3/4 cups all purpose flour, plus 1/4 cup more if needed
1/8 tsp salt
3 large eggs
Water, if needed
To make the pasta, combine the flour and salt on a clean countertop. Create a large well in the center of the flour and add the eggs into the well. Using a fork, incorporate the eggs into the flour until a lumpy dough forms. Using your hands, knead the dough, adding flour or water if needed, until the dough is smooth and elastic. This will take about 8 to 10 minutes.
Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and let it rest in the refrigerator for at least 10 minutes and up to one day. Once the dough has rested, cut the dough into about 8 smaller pieces and then flatten them with your palm. Set up a pasta machine and, starting with the largest setting on the dial, roll each piece of dough through the machine, dusting the pieces with flour as needed. Continue rolling the pieces of dough through the pasta maker using a smaller setting on the dial each time. Once you’ve rolled the dough to a proper thickness (about #2 or #3 on most pasta machine dials) lay the pieces out to dry slightly before the next step.
When ready to make the tagliatelle, take one long piece of pasta dough and fold it over itself repeatedly along its length until it is in the shape of a deck of cards. Using a sharp knife, cut the folded dough gently with a knife into 1/4-inch slices. Unroll each slice. If drying the pasta, hang each noodle on a coat hanger to dry. If using the pasta immediately, toss the noodle in flour and place it in a bowl with the other noodles until ready to cook.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta to the pot and cook for about 3 minutes or until al dente. Drain the pasta and toss with the desired sauce. Serve immediately.