Friday, November 25, 2005

Pasta all’Uovo – Tagliatelle, Lasagna, Fettucine, Ravioli, Maltagliati, Straccetti

Homemade Italian Pasta

Most commercially made pasta is prepared with semolina of durum wheat. Semolina is the purified heart of Durum wheat. Durum wheat produces a highly glutenous flour used to make pasta around the world. Durum wheat was once produced in great quantities in the wheat lands of Russia but now is almost entirely produced in the North Dakota.

Durum wheat is used in pasta because it will not break down in the cooking process as fast as normal flour. The resulting pasta will have greater consistency.

Semolina is slightly larger grind than flour and will take longer to absorb any liquids. The type of flour used to make the pasta will modify the process and the time involved. Also the way the pasta will be rolled and cut will change the type or mix of flour that you will use.

I have been making pasta for many years so my mix of flours is the same when using a rolling pasta machine or when rolling by hand. I use the liquid to achieve the consistency I want be able to get the best results. However, if you do not have significant experience with pasta, a simple rule is:

· Pasta to be rolled with a pasta machine (hand crank or electric) - 50% unbleached flour and 50% semolina of durum wheat
· Pasta to be rolled by hand – 100% unbleached flour.
· For those who want a very consistent and stable pasta even after a long cooking period – 100% semolina of durum wheat.

The recipe is very simple, for each person:

· 1 medium egg (if you use large eggs eliminate the water)
· 100 g. flour mix
· 1 tspn Olive Oil
· 1 tspn water

I strongly suggest that you do not use a mixer for this process. Over time you gain an understanding of the proper consistency, working the dough by hand, and will avoid many heartbreaks by adding or omitting a little liquid during the preparation process.

Humidity plays an important role in the preparation of pasta. If it is very humid, hold back on the water, if it is very dry add a little more water (maybe ½ as much as the base recipe calls for).

Place the flour on the worktable in a mound or in a large mixing bowl. Create a bowl in the middle of the flour mound by pushing a spoon into the center of the mound. The bowl needs to be large enough to amply contain all of the liquid. Add the eggs, olive oil and water together in the center of the mound. Gently whisk the eggs with a fork just to break the yokes and combine liquid and start bringing the flour into the liquid by rotating the fork around the edge of the well in the flour.

Once 50% of the flour has been absorbed by the liquid, put the fork away and start working the dough, incorporating the rest of the flour with your hands. Squish the dough through your fingers and pick up more flour. I squish the pasta through my fingers to distribute the flour more evenly through the entire mixture. Once all of the flour has been absorbed, roll the pasta in a log and completely enclose in plastic wrap.

The consistency you are looking for changes according to the type of method used to roll the pasta. If the dough is too dry and you are rolling by hand you will not be able to flatten it enough. If you are using a machine and it is too moist the dough will stick to the rolling bars and stick together. Remember the rule is to have the dough as dry as possible while still being able to shape the dough with the method you are using.

Variation for 100% semolina durum wheat – place in the refrigerator for ½ hour. This will allow the moisture to penetrate the semolina and make the dough more pliable. Before working the dough allow it to come to room temperature.


Rolling by hand - the pasta should be pliable but absolutely not sticky. To check, break a piece of dough from the center of the log and with only your hands try to press into a sheet of paper. You choose from the center of the log because the humidity will be highest in that area. If the pasta sticks to your hands or to the counter top, you need more flour, if you cannot press into a flat sheet without breaking the pasta then you need more water.

Rolling by machine – the pasta should be less pliable and will be almost dry to the touch and you may see white undertones of the flour as you roll the dough into the log. Break a piece from the middle, enough to make a medium ball in your hand, and flatten on a hard surface to about ¼ inch thick. Put the machine on the widest setting and run the pasta through. Drop one setting and roll it again. Continue until you arrive at the setting desired. If at any time the pasta breaks or tears it is too dry. If it sticks together at a simple touch it is too moist.

Put the test piece back with the rest of the dough and roll into a log. Cover with plastic wrap to maintain the moisture. While working the pasta open the wrap, take the piece you need and close the wrap again. This will keep the outer portions of the dough at the same moisture as the inside.

You are ready to roll the pasta. For machine some settings I use are:

Tagliatelle and Fettucine 5
Lasagna 6
Stracciati and Maltagliate 4
Ravioli 6

Rolling with a rolling pin:

Divide the dough into the number of people you prepared for, 4 people, 4 pieces. Flour the working surface. Flatten the dough as much as possible by hand, sprinkle the top of the dough with a little flour and roll into a rectangle. Flip over, sprinkle with flour and roll to the thickness desired.

If you are making lasagna, cut the sheet with a knife to the desired size. Remember that the pasta will expand about 20% during cooking so keep the sheets a little smaller than the size of the pan. Place on towels or a pasta rack to dry.

If you are making cut pasta, sprinkle the top with flour and roll into a log. If the consistency is correct it should not stick. Cut into the desired width using a piece of thin fishing line. If you use a knife use the sharpest, non serrated, knife possible. Be careful with the knife it will most likely cause the pasta to stick together on the edges. Unroll as soon as possible. The cut pieces will all be the same length. Hang from a pasta rack or spread in a floured baking pan.

Machine Rolling:

With a knife cut a ½ piece of dough from the log. Flatten by hand to about ¼ inch thickness. Sprinkle both sides with flour. Set the machine to the widest setting possible and run the pasta through the machine. Fold the pasta attempting to get a fairly uniform rectangle and pass again at the largest setting. You want the pasta to arrive almost the entire width of the rolling machine.

A little more flour, change the setting to the next thinner setting and pass again. Continue until you have the desired thinness. If you are making lasagna cut immediately to the desired size and place on a towel to dry. The excess pasta cut from the sheet can be worked again with the next piece

If you are making cut pasta, prepare 4 sheets of pasta at the desired length and then cut to size. Place in a floured baking sheet to dry or on a pasta rack. Do not stack the pasta on itself. Most likely it will stick together and then you will have southern dumplings.

Cooking time: 3 minutes in fast boiling, salted water. This is also true if you are making Lasagna. Cook the pasta before assembling the Lasagna.


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Blogger Martijn.s said...

this is the best guide to making your own pasta that i have ever read, in a book or online.

it's complete and accurate.

most books just talk about proportions, and forget to highlight the most important thing, getting a feel for the right texture of the dough.

all i can recommend is, don't try to make pasta for the first time when u have invited people for dinner :)

the weather is important too, making pasta is much harder on a dry hot summer day.

5:38 AM


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