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Over Memorial Day weekend, I had the opportunity to cook with some of my favorite kitchen bitches—my sister Paige and my friends Emily and Lauren. With so many sous chefs, I knew I could make a really stellar meal for all the family and friends joining us for the holiday. In my head, there was only thing we could make that would celebrate both the warm weather and the joy of being with family: homemade pasta.
Why in the world would you make pasta when you can buy a box for 99 cents? Because it’s a fun and tasty way to spend a Sunday afternoon with your friends, and because you can’t help but feel like you’re in Italy when you’re munching on soft, supple noodles lovingly coated in a light cheesy sauce and dimpled with crisp green vegetables. Can you taste the difference between the fresh and dried? Absolutely. There’s an egg-y goodness to fresh pasta that no dried pasta, no matter how expensive, could ever match. Also, there’s just something extremely satisfying about kneading the dough, rolling it out, and watching it transform from flour and eggs to beautiful golden noodles.
While you can make your pasta dough in a stand mixer, I prefer to do mine by hand, directly on the countertop. After you’ve made the dough, you’ll have to let it rest before rolling it out. There are pasta rollers attachments available for stand mixers, or you can purchase a pasta roller that attaches to your counter. Of course, you can roll and cut the pasta by hand (especially raviolis), but it takes a seasoned hand.
Below is the basic recipe and methodology for making pasta by hand. This recipe calls for semolina flour, a durum wheat flour that helps to make the dough more pliable. However, you can use all-purpose flour instead; the dough just won’t be as stretchy. Once you’ve made the dough, your options with it are limitless. There are hundreds of different sizes and shapes of pasta, so let your imagination run wild. For Memorial Day weekend, I made Fettucine with Peas, Asparagus and Pancetta.
Fresh Semolina Pasta
You can find semolina at many major supermarkets and at specialty stores. One batch of this dough serves 6-8. Click here for a print copy of this recipe.
2 c. semolina flour
2 c. all-purpose flour
1 large pinch of salt
2-3 Tbs. olive oil
Make a well. Mix the flours and salt together well on a clean counter, forming into a mound. Make a well or indent in the middle of the flour mound, making sure the flour is pretty much even around the outer ring. In the mound, crack the eggs and pour in about 2 tablespoons of oil.
Form the dough. Using a fork, slowly beat the eggs and the oil. Then gradually mix the egg mixture in with the circle of flour. A very soft dough should begin to form. When you can no longer mix with the fork, flour your hands and start to knead the dough into a ball, mixing in the excess flour as needed and flouring the counter to prevent the dough from sticking. If the dough is too dry, mix in a little more oil as needed. Knead the dough until its soft, supple and smooth, about 10-15 minutes. When the dough’s ready, form it into a ball, tucking excess under the bottom. Wrap in plastic wrap and let rest for 30 minutes before rolling out.
Rolling out the dough. Cut the dough ball into quarters and then into eighths. Begin with your pasta maker on its lowest and widest setting, usually 1 or 0. Run the dough through the machine, catching it when it comes through on the other side. As you move up settings on your pasta maker, it’s best to have several pairs of hands helping out.
After you’ve rolled the dough through, move the pasta maker up to its next lowest setting and roll it through again. Continue increasing the setting and rolling the dough through until you reach your desired thickness. I usually roll my dough through on settings 1, 2, 3, 5 and then finally 7 to get a slightly thicker noodle. Most pasta makers go up to 9 or 10 for a very thin sheet.
Once you achieved your desired thickness, it’s time to roll the pasta sheet through the cutter portion of your pasta machine. Most pasta machines come with two pasta thicknesses—one thick like fettucine and a little thinner cutter setting for spaghetti. You can also purchase additional attachments for your pasta maker like you would a stand mixer so you can cut your pasta into all different shapes and sizes. After you run the pasta sheet through the pasta cutter, take the freshly cut pasta and hang it on either a pasta drying rack or a sturdy coat hanger. Look below for an example. The pasta can be used right away or dried for a few hours before cooking.
Homemade pasta takes very little time to cook. Bring at least a gallon of water to a boil, add a hearty pinch of salt, and cook the pasta for 2-4 minutes depending on the pasta’s thickness. If you need to cook multiple batches, remove the noodles after the first batch, let the water come back to a boil, and then add the next round of noodles. Sauce as desired and serve immediately. Buon appetito!