I read recently that we never forget out childhood neighbors. So true for me. I was the babysitter for the Williams family from the time I turned 13 to when I went away to school. Toward the end it was more tending the home fires while the young folk played around the neighborhood. Remember just going outside to play? No play dates, no structured activity, just get on our bikes and ride. I’m dating myself, I know.
I remember one afternoon in Mrs. Williams’ kitchen, making egg noodles for chicken soup. This was before pasta was all the rage, then out of fashion and now back again. And certainly before making our own pasta was a thing. We rolled the dough flat, then rolled it up like a cigar and cut wide noodles for the soup. Perfectly simple and no special equipment required.
These memories came flooding back when I received Flour + Water: Pasta by Thomas McNaughton from the good people at Ten Speed Press. McNaughton’s pasta is at a much different level, but he describes in detail how he learned to make pasta from a group of pink-coated women in Italy. Another way food tradition is passed along.
I extricated my chunky manual pasta maker from the back of the cupboard, and now it’s become my Sunday thing. Making your own pasta couldn’t be easier, and I find it great to impress my friends (or myself!) by tossing fresh noodles with fruity olive oil and grated cheese, or just about anything else for that matter.
McNaughton serves up all kinds of seasonal sauces to go with every type of pasta shape. My mouth literally watered. I know I’ll be using this book. His directions are quite precise – he weighs his ingredients and uses only egg yolks. I’m a little more relaxed, but there’s one thing we agree on – let the dough rest.
Essential. Let the dough rest.
Skip this step at your peril. Without a rest – a half hour should do it – your dough will spring back, be difficult to roll and just not be very pasta-esque.
I used my hand-crank pasta maker for the fettucine in the photo. If you don’t have a pasta maker at home, try hand-rolled noodles. Again, it couldn’t be easier. Roll a sheet of the dough, then roll like a cigar and cut into the desired width.
If you know how to chiffonade basil, you know what I’m talking about.
Cook it quickly
Once you have your noodles, be sure to cook quickly – you don’t want them to disintegrate! I mention this because The Citizen, also known as my Uruguayan husband, cooks dried pasta within an inch of its life – none of this al dente business for him. That method will get you a pot of flour. Have your sauce ready and you’ll have dinner in an instant. Toss with the sauce and enjoy.
per serving – multiply as needed
1/2 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon olive oil
Dump the flour into a wide shallow mixing bowl or onto a clean surface and sprinkle with the salt. Form a well in the center, add eggs and drizzle with olive oil. Using your impeccably clean fingers or a fork, break the yolks and stir, expanding your reach as the flour incorporates. I’ve done larger batches using the dough hook in my KitchenAid stand mixer, but it’s fun to get your hands messy. Once the flour is fully incorporated, knead for about ten minutes. Let rest at room temperature for 30 minutes (remember, don’t skip this step).
When ready to roll the pasta, divide dough into about half-cup portions. Form a flat disk. If using a pasta maker, feed the dough three times at the widest setting, then set at progressively lower settings until you reach your desired thickness. Feed through the cutter set at the width noodles you choose.
If making by hand. roll dough on a floured surface to about 1/8 inch thickness, then roll up into a tube shape and cut with your sharpest knife into the width you prefer, or use the flat sheets to make lasagna or ravioli. Whichever method you use, dust the noodles with flour and dry slightly before storing. I drape them over wooden spoons between two tall crocks.
To cook the noodles, bring a pot of water to a boil. Salt generously, then add noodles and cook only until they rise to the top, probably about a minute. Drain and toss with your sauce, or drizzle with olive oil and grated cheese.