Fresh Pasta Two Ways

by Ben Miller

One type of fresh pasta

One type of fresh pasta

One of my holiday gifts this year was a pasta maker. I used it once to help make lasagna noodles, but with a free Saturday I decided to be ambitious and make fresh pasta two ways: basic, which is just flour and eggs, and spinach (the cookbook I was working from told me other options have no gastronomic value, and that squid ink pasta “is deplorable” so I kept it simple).

I was incredibly pleased with how these turned out. The pasta tasted great and had a wonderful texture. We served it with a very basic tomato-butter sauce that Ezra made. Of course there are multiple ratios of eggs to flour and amount of time resting, so feel free to share your own pasta recipes in the comments. (I’m also going to try and make either ravioli or tortellini in a few weeks so share thoughts on those as well.)

I do have to warn you though, the whole process takes several hours from start to finish.

Spinach pasta drying

Spinach pasta drying

Fresh Spinach Pasta

From the Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking by Marcella Hazan

(I doubled the recipe but as long as you keep track of the ratios you should be ok with whatever amount you use. Past is a lot of work so why not make more?)

The spinach and basic pasta are the same in terms of preparation for the dough. There is a difference in the amount of flour to eggs you use, so I will provide the basic pasta ratio at the bottom, but use the same preparation directions for both.

Ingredients (produces about 1 pound of pasta):

  • 1 pound fresh spinach
  • 1.5 cups unbleached flour (I used all purpose, though I just bought some of the tipo “00” which I hope to use next time)
  • 2 large eggs

Prepare the spinach:

  1. Wash the spinach in several batches of cold water.
  2. Shake off the excess water and then place the spinach in a pan. Add 1 tablespoon salt, cover the pan and turn the heat to medium. Cook the spinach until it is tender, about 5 minutes or so (could be less).
  3. Drain the spinach and let it cool until you can handle it. Squeeze out the excess water than chop it very finely

Prepare the Dough

You’re going to need a fairly large work surface here. I cleaned off my kitchen table, cleaned it and then used that area.

  1. Place the flour in a pile on your work surface. Shape it into a large mound and then make a well in the middle. You’re better off making it wider rather than tall so that it can hold the eggs without spilling over.
  2. Crack the eggs one at a time into the well. After each egg goes in, take a fork and then whisk it for about a minute. You can work in a little bit of the flour from the edge here to get it to stay together better. (At this stage you can work in the spinach if you are using it).
  3. Once you’ve done that with all the eggs, start using your hands to combine the flour and eggs. This may take a little while to get it to all incorporate, but don’t worry it will.
  4. Once it starts becoming a bit more of a coherent dough you want to start kneading it. This is one of the most crucial steps. Proper kneading gives your dough the stretchiness that you will need later on for it to be effective. The best way to knead is to use the bottom of your palm outstretched and push it forward against the dough. The picture below shows it, though I apologize that it’s a bit blurry
  5. After you push forward on the dough, fold it in half and rotate it 90 degrees. Keep doing that same process for almost 10 minutes until the dough becomes very smooth. Err on the side of too much kneading. You really want it broken down and as smooth as possible.
  6. Once the dough is ready, wrap it in plastic and let it sit for 30 minutes. (There are multiple schools of thought here, Hazan doesn’t call for any resting, some call for 2 hours. I picked a middle ground.)
Kneading the dough

Kneading the dough

Rolling out the pasta

  1. Attach your pasta maker to the table. You’re going to need a lot of space. Take your dough out of the plastic and divide it into a number of pieces that is three times the number of eggs you used (i.e. 6 for this recipe). The number of pieces actually doesn’t matter, just use your judgment and remember the dough is going to get very long.
  2. Take one of the pieces you are using and then cover the rest in a clean dish towel. Set the pasta maker on its widest setting. Flatten the dough as much as you can with your palm and feed it through the machine a few times. (Hazan recommends feeding it through, folding it in thirds and feeding it through again 3 times.)
  3. After it has gone through the thickest setting a few times, set the machine one setting thinner and then feed it through twice. Keep doing this until you reach the thinnest setting of the machine. (If you want you can just put each piece of dough through on the same setting then making it narrower and going again. Just make sure you keep everything covered.)
  4. Once you’ve thinned out all of your pieces of pasta, you want to give them about 10 minutes or so to dry. If you’ve been thinning all the pieces at once, you likely won’t have to wait that long.
Drying pasta strips

Drying pasta strips

Cutting the pasta

After all the work rolling it out, I decided to cut the pasta the easy way by using the attachment on machine. Feed the strips through one at a time to get pasta that is uniformly cut. Once you’re done, place on the backs of chairs covered with paper towels to dry a little longer.

Drying the cut pasta

Drying the cut pasta

Cooking the pasta

There are two important things to remember when preparing the pasta: use lots of water and salt it heavily. This really imparts additional flavor to the pasta.

  1. Fill a large stockpot most of the way up with water and add lots of salt. Stir the water a bit so that it mixes in. Turn the heat on high and get the pasta up so that it is very rapidly boiling. This is important so that when you add the pasta it will return to a boil quickly.
  2. Once the water is boiling add the pasta and cook uncovered for about 2 minutes. Taste the pasta to make sure it is ready.
  3. Drain immediately and serve.

Basic Pasta

For the basic pasta, follow the same directions (don’t add the spinach obviously) but use the following ratio of flour and eggs to get about 3/4 of a pound of pasta.

  • 1 cup unbleached flour
  • 2 large eggs

Enjoy!

UPDATE: I should have mentioned that Ezra helped knead together the spinach pasta before getting absorbed by a movie on tv (he also did make the sauce for it, which I mentioned). To make up for it, here’s a contemplative action for those of you who need a quick Klein fix:

Ezra kneads

Ezra kneads

13 responses to “Fresh Pasta Two Ways

  1. Making pasta by hand does take an outrageous amount of time, but is well worth the effort. My pasta maker is in a cupboard somewhere….I’ll have to pull it out. I used to make ravioli stuffed with pumpkin with a little nutmeg that was divine with a fresh tomato garlic sauce.

  2. @cdmclean That sounds fantastic. If you have a recipe I’d gladly try to make it and feature it here, with attribution of course.

  3. I have been written out of this experience entirely!

  4. I don’t find the time necessary to make fresh pasta outrageous. If you are comparing it to boiling fresh pasta, then I guess it is. But there is no comparing the quality.

    Adding the egg whites changes the pasta a lot. You will rarely find it in Italian cooking.

    My recipe is:

    1.25c all purpose flour (or tipo 00 if you have)
    2 egg yolks
    .25c water
    1 tsp salt
    1 tsp EVOO

    Another tip – roll the pasta to the 2nd thinnest setting and use the noddles in an Asian stir fry.

  5. I’m surprised to hear you say that about the egg whites, JRub. I took a pastamaking class with Roberto Donna, a cook trained in Italy and proponent of traditional Italian methods, and I’m pretty sure I remember him cracking the eggs directly into the well of flour. I’ll have to go consult the recipe handout, if I can find it.

  6. @ezraklein

    Apologies. I’ve updated the post to give our readers more Klein-tastic content.

  7. Hasn’t anyone heard of food processors? Great way to make the pasta dough.

  8. Mario Batali’s fresh pasta recipes also call for whole eggs, not just whites.

    I’ve had mixed luck making fresh pasta. Whole egg and AP flour dough has worked well for me, as has dough with a bit of tomato paste. But I’ve also tried a semolina dough and a water dough based dough that both turned out too tough, ended up drying out too quickly, and crumbled by the time I got to the 4th thinnest setting.

    Anyone got any tips?

  9. @jarizona I looked at about five or six different cookbooks before settling with the recipe I used. Only one (“How to Cook Everything” I believe) even suggested using the food processor. They just don’t break down the gluten in the way you need them to based upon what I’ve read.

  10. If you have a stand mixer, the dough hook can be a lifesaver, especially with semolina which takes lots of work to get going.

    Josh, I never worried too much about adding a little extra water if the dough is crumbly. It is easy enough to dust a little flour on the rolled sheets or let them dry a little longer if your dough ends up a little too moist, but crumbly dough is impossible to work with.

  11. Ben – your pasta looks great. I had an Italian grandma that made the best fresh raviolis I have ever had in my life. They are legend in my family. Anyway, all Italian grandmas that I know made their pasta and then lay it on sheet on the dining room table( or bed) for the drying period. There was a bedsheet just for this purpose. And always use whole eggs!

  12. We got our first pasta machine at Christmas and have had success using the Batali dough recipe. After having made pasta a number of times, including ravioli and tortellini, my sense is that you get an idea after a while of what the consistency is supposed to be, and if you need to add an egg or water, you can without any problems. We had a dinner party recently with homemade pasta and two types of pesto (turnip greens with walnuts and roasted red pepper with pinenuts) and found that doubling Batalis recipe made life a bit difficult because the dough becomes unwieldy. Otherwise, we love the texture and flavor and the process is even kind of fun!
    P.S. After watching my eggs leak out of the ‘well’ in the flour more than once, I now do that step in a bowl. It works just fine and is a lot less messy!

  13. I make my own pasta all the time. My pasta recipe calls for many egg yolks and only one whole egg. However, I vary that up depending on how rich I want my dough. Also, the recipe calls for one Tablespoon of both milk and olive oil. This has always yielded an incredibly smooth, easy-to-work-with dough. Other tips: the key is to make sure you don’t add too much flour, making a dry dough (once again, play it by ear), and then knead the dough FOREVER. And by forever, I mean at least 10 minutes, but you cannot over-knead this dough. Then let it rest for 30 minutes – I find that it really makes a huge difference, and the dough is more manageable.

    I also love to make agnolotti and regular raviolis. I use a small, round cookie cutter to “mark” where I will place my filling on the raviolis, and then brush the dough with egg to ensure that the raviolis sticks together well. For both the agnolotti and the raviolis, I use a pasta cutter by hand (so much fun!) but really you can use anything.

    Love hearing about everyone’s experiences!

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