Home-made pasta

When I was bought my beloved pasta machine Jamie Oliver had just published ‘The Return of the Naked Chef’ which had a whole section on making your own pasta. Keen to learn the art, I bought a copy of his book and was horrified to find that his ‘blinding pasta recipe’ used 4 whole eggs and no less than 8 egg yolks to serve just 4 people. Did the man not realise the price of eggs and how much the recipe would cost his readers to make? Undeterred, I managed to find this more economical recipe in an old Marks and Spencer’s Italian Cookery book published in 1979. It works just fine for me and I have been using it happily for 13 years.

The great thing about home-made pasta is that although it takes a little time to make it takes hardly any time at all to cook – just 1-2 minutes. It may seem like a lot of faffing about, and I’m sure pasta machines often appear on those lists of useless kitchen gadgets, but it’s so rewarding to make your own pasta from scratch and it really is delicious.

This recipe does require a pasta machine to roll out (you probably could do it with a rolling pin but that sounds like really hard work to me). I have an Imperia Pasta Maker with a spaghetti attachment which my sister bought me from Italy (but you can buy them here from John Lewis). It’s very well made and still going strong after lots of use.

Basic pasta recipe

Serves 4

  • 350g flour*
  • 3 eggs
  • A good pinch of salt
  • A dessert spoon of olive oil

*Until very recently I always just used plain flour (the original recipe doesn’t specify) and I was always happy with the results. Recently though I have been splashing out and buying ‘00’ flour as McDougalls now do this for a reasonable price. I think there is a small difference in that the pasta holds its shape better when boiled.

Put all of the above ingredients in a bowl and mix together with your hands until it comes together in a ball.

Lightly flour your work surface and knead the dough for a few minutes until smooth. Kneading pasta dough is much harder work than kneading bread dough. I think most recipes advise kneading for longer than I manage, usually about 3 minutes. Wrap the dough in cling film and leave to rest in the fridge for at least half an hour.

The dough.

The dough.

Now for the fun bit. Clamp your pasta machine to your work surface and set the machine to its thickest setting. Divide your dough into four and working with one ball at a time (keeping the others covered with the cling film so they don’t dry out) start by flattening the ball a little with your hands and then running through the machine. If the dough starts to crack a little (this often happens to me as I don’t knead for long enough) don’t worry, just fold the piece in two and run through the machine again until it softens up a bit, you may need to do this several times. Once smooth keep rolling the piece through the machine changing for thinner and thinner settings until you have the thickness you need for the type of pasta you want to make (see below for advice on this). It helps to dust the sheet lightly with flour each time you roll it through.

Rolling out using child labour.

Rolling out using child labour.

Flouring the pasta sheets.

Flouring the pasta sheets.

I use a clothes drying rack to hold the sheets while I repeat the process with the other three balls.

When I first got my pasta machine I can remember finding the rolling out rather tricky, it felt like I needed a third hand. But it didn’t take long to get the hang of it. My children absolutely love helping to roll out the pasta however it does take three times as long and a fair few arguments about whose turn it is to turn the handle.

Hanging out to dry.

Hanging out to dry.

Edgar with pasta

And again, 2 and a half years later.

Lasagne sheets
Use the thinnest thickness setting when rolling out. You will need to cut and trim the sheets to fit your oven dish. I usually do this once the pasta is cooked as the sheets expand slightly.

Tagliatele – hand cut
For hand cut tagliatele I use the thinnest thickness setting when rolling out with the machine. I then lay the sheets on a floured bread board and cut into strips with a knife about an inch thick but you don’t need to be exact. This gives a rustic feel but it does take a while.

Tagliatele – machine cut
This is quicker than the above method, again use the thinnest thickness setting. Then flour the pasta sheets before passing through the thicker side of the machine’s cutter which makes strips 1/2 cm thick.

Noodles
For noodles I use the second to last thickness setting when rolling out and then cut with the thinner side of the machine’s cutter.

Once the pasta is cut into the desired shape simply cook in a large pan of boiling water for 1-2 minutes or until cooked. If the pasta has been left to dry out for a while on the rack then it may need longer.

Cooked pasta.

Cooked pasta.

A good tip if you want to precook your pasta for use later is to immerse it in a bowl of iced water immediately after boiling and draining. This is great for fried noddle dishes where the noodles are best added cold. Once completely cool you can also then drain the noodles and toss in a little oil. They will then keep in the fridge for a few days or until you are ready to use.

Accompaniments to home-made pasta

For me the perfect sauce to accompany home-made pasta is a good pesto. See my post ‘Things in jars – pickling and pesto’ for a couple of recipes.

Other good uses are Pad Thai (noodles) and a meaty Ragu (tagliatele). Recipes for these will appear on this blog soon.

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