Although dried pasta offers convenience and speed in a last-minute weeknight dinner, sometimes there is no substituting that fresh-cut taste. Made with flour, eggs and a pinch of salt, you don't even have to leave your pantry for wonderful fresh pasta.
Pasta differs from pastry items, in that you want to knead the dough as much as possible. This allows gluten to develop in the dough, which gives the pasta texture, body, and that wonderful "al dente" bite. To ensure this occurs, knead the dough by forcing the heel of your hand down and forward through the ball of dough, then folding it onto itself and rotating the dough 90 degrees. Many people make the mistake of kneading too little, simply because they do not know when to stop. When the pasta is firm, elastic, and extremely smooth on the outside, it is done. A general rule of thumb: 15 minutes is usually fine, but when you think you're done kneading, knead for five minutes more.
While, yes, heavy kneading is involved, I think filling my own ravioli with whatever I please makes up for it! And, as with most things, the more you practice, the faster and better you will get!
- 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 4 large eggs
Place the flour and salt on a wooden surface and form a well in the center. Whisk the eggs to break the yolks and add to the center of the well.
Next, run your fingers around the edge where the eggs meet the flour, and incorporate some flour, little by little. When enough flour is added that a paste forms, incorporate all of the flour around the well, and form a cohesive mass with your hands.
Knead the dough for a few minutes, until most of the flour and dried pieces on the wooden surface are incorporated. Wipe down the surface, and begin to knead the dough, by pushing the heel of your hand down and forward through the dough, then rotating it 90 degrees. Add flour if dough is sticky. Knead for approximately 15 minutes, or until the dough is firm, elastic, and very smooth.
Form the dough into disc, wrap in plastic, and let rest in the fridge for no less than 30 minutes. This is a critical step, as it allows the gluten to "relax," so that it does not spring back and shrink when rolling the dough.
Remove the pasta dough from the fridge and remove the plastic. Cut the disc in half. Put one half of the dough through the largest setting of a pasta machine. Fold in two, and place through the pasta machine again, in attempts to make the width of the dough the same as the machine. Repeat 5-10 times.
Next, switch the machine settings to the next descending number, and roll the pasta through once. Repeat with each number of the machine, adding flour if the dough is too sticky. When at the thinnest setting, cut pasta to desired style.