Every year on my birthday, I treat myself to something fun. This year, I got myself a pasta maker, a hand cranked one and not the one that's a stand-mixer attachment. It's rather easy to use and all you need is a the outer edge of a table to attach the pasta maker. Some people like to roll out the dough by hand but the machine gives the dough a nice uniform thickness and makes it easier and I am not an expert at pasta making, so I'll happily accept help! Now, come to think of it, I might have got myself some kitchen appliance or camera related thing every birthday!
Making pasta is an art, it's also relaxing and fun. There are so many different types, flavors, shapes, sizes, colors etc., it's a palette with a unlimited variety of ideas to play with. But my experience in pasta making is limited so I decided to turn to the experts when it came to the dough and details of pasta. Over the next couple of weeks, I will share one recipe from one of my favorite local restaurants and what better way than to kick of this series than with homemade pasta. One of the best local pasta restaurants (and one of my top favorites) in San Francisco is Flour and Water, they have a gorgeous book of the same name where Chef Thomas McNaughton talks about his love for pasta along with an equally interesting and wonderful collection of recipes to cook.
Here are some of my tips that you might find useful when preparing this pasta at home,
- Though the book recommends using this dough for hand-cut noodles such as tagliatelle, farfalle, garganelli among others, I did use a little left over dough on the spaghetti blades of my machine to see how it would work. The taste and texture were great! Though for spaghetti you should use the semolina extrusion dough as the book recommends.I don't own an extruder so I didn't try this dough.
- The number of yolks might seem intimidating (use the leftover egg whites to make egg drop soups or omelettes or scrambled eggs or meringues or macaroons etc.) but it was worth it. You can try and halve the recipe (I didn't do that but I think it should work).
- Kneading the dough by hand for 15 minutes was probably the most tedious part but it was also exciting to watch the dough transition from dry to extremely soft and pliable.
- This is a fresh pasta dough. I left half of the unused dough wrapped in the refrigerator overnight. I noticed the exterior surface developed very tiny black dots which I suspect is due to some oxidation effects from the air with the natural sulphur present in egg yolks. Just before I worked with the dough, I warmed it to room temperature for 45 minutes and then kneaded it for 1 to 2 minutes. The black dots will be diluted out by the rest of the dough which is bright yellow and it will not be noticeable. The book does mention not storing this dough for more than 2 days due to the discoloration effect.
- Work fast with this dough because it dehydrates quickly as it is being worked on. It will become stiff quickly as it is rolled out as evaporation will increase as it gets thinner.
- I bought this pasta maker which is really easy to use and assemble. Just don't get it wet or wash it or it will rust (as per the manufacturer's instructions) just brush off the flour in the blades to clean.
- Follow your pasta machine's manufacturer's instructions for more specific notes on rolling out the past dough. I've shared a few tips from the book that I found helpful in the recipe at the end.
homemade egg pasta
from Flour and Water: Pasta Cookbook by Thomas McNaughton
yields: 22.7 ounces of dough
2 packed (12.7 ounces/360grams) cups of all-purpose flour
1 1/4 teaspoon kosher sea salt
18 (1 1/4 cups/ 10.6 ounces/300 grams) large egg yolks
1 1/2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
a spray bottle with clean tap water at room temperature
1. Place the flour in the shape of a mound on a clean and dry surface. Using your hand make a deep well in the center of the flour and sprinkle the salt in the well.
2. Carefully pour the egg yolks and olive oil into the well and then using a fork, gently mix the egg yolks by stirring and scraping from the bottom to the work surface as you proceed. Avoid touching the "walls" of the flour during this stage.
3. Once the yolks are mixed, start to slowly incorporate the walls of the flour, gradually working your way outwards and thereby incorporating more and more flour as you proceed. If the yolk mixture spills out of the walls, push them back in reform the "walls" using your hands.
4. Once the mixture starts to acquire a more solid texture, remove any material that is attached to the fork. Then using a bench scraper, release the wet dough that is attached to the work surface and using your hands start to bring the dough together to form a single mass. While working the dough, mist the dough liberally with water to moisten and bring the dough together. The dough will dry at first and as you spritz with water it will start to get wet and eventually all the flour will be incorporated into the ball of dough.
5. Knead the dry dough by hand for 10 to 15 minutes. It will transition into a smooth pliable and flexible dough with a bright shiny yellow texture. Wrap the dough in cling film and allow to rest for at least 30 minutes at room temperature before using. Do not store for more than 2 days as the yolks will oxidize with time (see notes above).
6. To roll out out the dough, unwrap the dough and divide it into 4 equal parts. You can use the manufacturer's instructions of your machine or form one part into a ball. Place it on a clean, very lightly floured surface and roll out the dough to a thickness that will just fit into the widest setting of your pasta machine. As the dough is dry there is no need to add any extra flour while rolling it into the machine. Start with the widest setting on the flat rollers and pass the dough through the machine 3 times. It will double in length. Then decrease the width on the flat rollers and repeat the same process. The ideal width of the pasta sheet should allow you to have a finger's length space on each side, so there is plenty of room in the machine. Keep the speed consistent when you roll out the dough. As the dough gets thinner, it will dry faster and will get stiff easily. So cut it immediately as soon as it forms and use it to cook.