This weekend, I was lucky enough to have three days off. It gave me some time to sleep in, clean house and tackle a kitchen experiment I’ve always wanted to try: fresh pasta.
My wonderful aunt gave me a set of pasta-maker attachments for my KitchenAid mixer as a Christmas gift. She’s had wonderful pasta in Italy, so I promised her I’d try to perfect my fresh pasta and make some for her next time we get together.
I was a little intimidated by the process. It seems that anytime I try to make a dough, it is challenging. Pie crusts took a while for me to master, I’m still working on biscuits, and dumpling wrappers and pierogi wrappers were both a long and arduous process even though they turned out well.
Amazingly, I only had to make two batches of pasta dough to get it (almost) right. I used a basic egg pasta recipe from the manual that came with the attachment. If my memory serves me well, it called for four large eggs, 3 1/2 cups of sifted all-purpose flour, a teaspoon of salt and a tablespoon of water.
When I tried to gather the first batch of dough with my hands, it was too crumbly. I forced it together, thinking it was a bit like a pie crust in that it would seem too crumbly when it wasn’t. Not the case. I could tell almost immediately that it wasn’t the right texture, so I went about making a second batch while the first one rested.
For the second batch, I probably ended up using about three tablespoons of water before the dough would stick together when pinched without sticking to my fingers. This second batch was more pliable and therefore easier to knead. I think these kinds of recipes are written with the least amount of water possible to make them work, and maybe one tablespoon of water would work in the summertime or in Florida. But in this dry winter weather, it was just not enough. It’s possible, too, that the eggs I was using, while marked “large” on the carton, were not large enough. A large egg to one recipe might be too big or too small for another.
The key, as with other doughs, is knowing how it should look and feel. The second batch rolled through the pasta maker well. I cut it into fettucine, let it dry a bit on towels on the kitchen table, and cooked it about one hour later. I had no trouble with it sticking together. We ate it with homemade tomato sauce and meatballs, and it was delicious.
My next batch will hopefully be just a wee bit more tender (I probably overworked the dough a little). As with any of these dough recipes, practice makes perfect.
I know a lot of my readers are very experienced at making fresh pasta, so I thought it might be fun to have a discussion about it. I’d sure love to hear your tips and tricks so I can perfect my method, and I’m sure other readers are interested in making pasta.