Fresh pasta is quick and easy to make. It requires little planning and can be served with what you may already have in your fridge or pantry, as a side or a main dish. There are a few tricks to serving soft, tender noodles made from scratch. Saucy is going to share them with you today.
First, your ingredients:
2 cups white (all purpose) flour
2 eggs, room temperature
2 tablespoons olive oil (plus more for cooking)
3-5 tablespoons water
salt for cooking
Turn your flour onto your work surface... make a well in the centre. In a small bowl, lightly beat together the eggs, the olive oil and about three tablespoons of the water to start. Pour the egg mixture into the well and start to gather everything together with a fork. Right there on the counter. When it starts to form a ball of dough, toss the fork aside and get your hands in there, kneading the flour into the dough as best you can. If you need to add more of the water, now is the time - but no more than five tablespoons, total.
Otherwise, flour + water = glue. Glue is not pasta.
When the dough is gathered together nicely, knead it on that surface, without adding much flour, until it is smooth and elastic. It won't really want to stick to the counter, anyway. If it does, you may have glue, not pasta dough on your hands.
Next trick: cover the ball of dough with a clean tea towel and leave it for about 20 minutes sitting there on a lightly floured area of your counter. This allows glutens to form, which is just a fancy way of saying the dough will get nice and elastic so you can work with it and it won't fall apart. Pasta doesn't fall apart... it's stretchy, right?
The next part of the event is where the elbow grease comes in. Turn the dough onto your now-lightly-floured counter and start rolling it into the biggest, thinnest rectangle you can manage. It will be tricky at first, because it's a little like elastic at this point and although it wants to stretch when rolled it kind of wants to shrink back. But keep working it. Eventually it will bend to your will and stretch the surface of your work space. Try to roll it as thin as you possibly can.
Next, roll that entire sheet up, jelly-roll style. Use a sharp knife and slice it up. You don't need a pasta machine or a fancy attachment for your stand mixer... we're doing this old-school. Just a rolling pin and a knife, those are the only tools you need to make pasta.
As soon as you've sliced up the dough, start unrolling it. You don't have to work super quickly, but if you have an extra set of hands to help, it's better. Kids really get into this part. Lay the noodles across the counter or a tea towel. You're going to cook them right away.
If you aren't planning on cooking them now, you can dry them by hanging them over clean tea towels on a laundry rack in a nice dry area of your house... but there are eggs in there so you need to use them pronto. You should really avoid letting them get stuck together because the cut edges will get sticky and they'll act like magnets for each other- next thing you know, you've got a ball of noodles and that's no fun.
To cook the noodles, bring a large stock pot of water to a rolling boil. Here's another tip: it should be heavily salted and you should drizzle olive oil into the water before adding the noodles. The oil will prevent the noodles from sticking together and also inhibit the pot boiling over.
Oh, and another thing: don't just throw the noodles in, all at once, like that. Take your time and drop them in carefully, stirring the pot after each handful or so. Otherwise... you guessed it... a ball of noodles. And don't, no matter what, hold the noodles in your hands over the steaming pot while you're getting ready to add them to the water. The steam rises... and the noodles will turn to ribbons of glue in your hands.
After all of the noodles are added to the water, cook them 4-6 minutes, until tender but firm.
It's all about the handling of this stuff. Work quickly, work smart and work dry, and you won't have a problem.
To serve: drain through a colander thoroughly. Toss with real butter, fresh garlic, heavy cream and a few handfuls of your favourite shredded Italian cheese. Fresh ground pepper and salt to taste... it's easy. You'll never order fettuccine Alfredo in a restaurant again.
Makes one pound, serves four.