When people tell you that making your own pasta is extremely satisfying and no rocket science, believe them. I can verify this. For every 100g of flour, you just need 1 egg and a pinch of salt. There's really nothing more to remember!
But when these people, especially the Italian nonne, tell you that it's real quick and easy peasy, don't blindly believe them like I did. Well, actually you can! If you have a pasta machine, it's quick and easy. Without it, it's not the end of the world, but it will require a lot more effort. I will tell you what happened to me without a pasta machine in just a minute.
My recent pasta-making frenzy was actually provoked by a TV programme, Simply Italian, presented by a gorgeous, young Welsh-Italian, Michela Chiappa. In just 4 short episodes, she demonstrates how to cook the Italian way. From pastas of different shapes and colors, to delicious sauces and outstanding fillings, she never fails to impress! Unlike my beloved professionally-trained Little Paris Kitchen goddess, Rachel Khoo, Michela is not chained to the stove at all. Instead, she's a full-time marketing consultant. But thanks to her Italian upbringing, her family has been making pasta for generations and she's been taught all there is to know to cook and eat just like Italians.
So on and on I kneaded and rolled, tried so hard to flatten the dough which just by nature, loves to retreat and shrink back into their original size and thickness. Phew, when I finally managed to roll them thin and nice, bits of it somehow stuck to the station and I had to stretch and carefully pull it off the table, and rarely would I not tore it apart or rip some holes out of it. This is absolutely normal and still fun if you're making pasta portions enough for two people. But bear in mind that I was mass producing both farfalle and very thin ravioli, of different colors too! So without a pasta machine, it took me around 5 hours of rolling, cutting and shaping in total. I was completely exhausted, with sore arms and shoulders I walked to my bed like a zombie at 9:30p.m. And in just a day, I dropped 2 pounds.
Please don't get me wrong, I am not writing this to discourage you to make your own pasta. I am in fact encouraging you to do so while sparing you from any unnecessary pain and sweat! In short, if you don't have a pasta machine, it's fine, but be realistic and make limited portions of thicker pasta like fettuccine, as opposed to ravioli sheets that have to be really thin to be tasty. However, if possible, please buy a pasta machine! It's seriously one of the best kitchen investments I've ever made! It's not expensive, and I bought it from Pantry Magic in Hong Kong. Now, I can easily mass produce pastas of different sizes and shapes from scratch in just half an hour! You can now tell that there will be many posts on pastas up soon.
(Servings: 3 people)
- 200g* of "00" flour**
- 2 eggs
- 2 pinches of salt
- 2 tbs of tomato paste for orange colouring (optional)
- 1 handful of finely minced herbs/spinach/arugula for a hint of green (optional)
- extra flour for dusting
Instructions (Making the dough)
1. Place the flour on a flat surface. Dig out a well in the centre and crack the eggs into it. Add to it a pinch of salt.
2. Start mixing the eggs and flour in the centre with a fork at first. Then mix everything with your hands. If you want to add some colour your pasta, you may add the tomato paste or the minced herbs at this stage. Mix and knead until everything is combined.
3. Be patient, knead the dough until it's smooth and silky, firm and dry. If the dough is too sticky, add some more flour. If it's too dry and cracks as you knead it, add a little bit of water or the tomato paste/ minced herbs. Ultimately, you want a dough to be like playdoll, rubbery and elastic.
4. Wrap the dough with glad wrap and let it rest for 30 minutes to let the gluten relax in the flour.
Instructions (Rolling and Shaping)
5. Dust the station with a little flour. The least flour you use here, the better.
6. Cut your dough in half. Cover one half of the dough with a damp tea towel to prevent it from drying. Meanwhile, place the other half of the dough on the dusted surface. Press and flatten it a bit with your fingertips.
7. (Without a pasta machine) Start rolling with a rolling pin. Turn your flattened dough 90 degrees and roll again. Keep turning and rolling until it is thin as a playing card or 2 playing cards max. If you're making stuffed pasta like ravioli or tortellini, make sure it's as thin as possible.
8. (With a pasta machine) Feed the dough through the machine at the widest setting. Then fold the dough twice towards the middle. press it with your fingertips and feed the dough through the machine at the widest setting again. Repeat this for two more times. The feed the dough through the machine at a narrower setting one at a time. Keep doing this until the dough is thin to a point when you can see your hands through it.
9. Use a pasta cutter or a knife to cut nice lines on your pasta sheet and create long rectangles (3cm x 4cm, bigger or smaller as you please) out of it. Trim off the edge. Pinch each rectangle in the middle.
10. Gently place your farfalle on a board dusted with semolina. This will prevent the farfalle from sticking together.
11. Let them dry for at least 20 minutes before cooking. Once completely dried, you may even keep them for weeks in a container.
*Try to find a cup that holds 100g or 200g of flour when full. This will save you from the trouble of weighing the flour every time you make pasta.
**"00" flour is finely ground and sieved flour. It is commonly known to make better and lighter pasta than normal all-purpose flour.