I have yet to meet a person who doesn’t love pasta.
Fettuccine, campanelle, pappardelle, cavatelli, rigatoni…the list goes on and on. There a million ways to make and cut pasta and they’re all absolutely delicious. You can’t go wrong when you’re in pasta territory.
For me, it’s comfort in a bowl and food for the soul in a way that no other food is or can ever be. The sight of some old-school spaghetti and meatballs brings up a whirl of family memories from my childhood. The thought of my favorite Umbrian dish, umbricelli alla norcina, reminds me of the super long (but also super delicious and even more fun) dinners my study abroad friends and I would gather around a tiny table to eat at our favorite restaurants in Perugia.
Italians believe that food has the power to unite people. It brings families together. It is best way to show that you care for someone. And, I will say, making pasta at home is definitely a labor of love.
But, it is still very doable. And soooooooooooooooo worth it.
While I have helped my grandma and aunt make homemade pasta in the past, I had never attempted to make my own. But, I decided to embark on this new challenge over spring break.
All of the recipes online are pretty identical. All call for three core ingredients: flour, eggs, and a pinch of salt. I synthesized a few that I saw online with what I remembered my grandma doing, but mainly followed Mario Batali‘s recipe because how could I go wrong with a co-owner of Eataly?
I started by adding all of the flour (about 3 1/2 cups) and a tablespoon of salt to the bowl. I then used my hands to press the flour up on the sides of the bowl to create a sort of flour-bowl within the bowl.
From there, I cracked 4 eggs right into the center of the flour.
I then used a fork to whisk the eggs and slowly began incorporating the flour into the egg mixture.
The dough really started to come together after I had incorporated about 3/4 of the flour. From there, I transferred the dough to the countertop and started to knead it, slowly adding more flour.
This part was the most difficult part of the pasta-making process because it’s all about adding just enough flour to the mix so that it’s not sticky, but not too that much that it’s too dry and falling apart. I really didn’t know where this line was, so just used my best judgement and crossed my fingers that everything would turn out all right (it did.) This instinct definitely seems to be something that is learned through practice. I gained a whole new appreciation for how my grandma understands dough and just knows when it is ready to move on to the next step.
I kneaded the dough to the point that I could cut it open just a bit and not see any air bubbles.
I then dusted the ball of dough in a bit of excess flour before wrapping the ball of dough in plastic wrap and setting it aside for 30 minutes at room temperature.
I used this time to get started on the tomato sauce for the pasta (but, I’ll save that recipe for another blog post!)
Once the dough is done resting, the fun part begins: rolling and cutting the dough!
If you are dedicated and want a good arm workout, this part can totally be done with just a rolling pin and a pasta cutter (or knife). However, you can also find tons of reasonably-priced pasta rollers and cutters online. For example, check out this one at Walmart for less than $20. If you have a KitchenAid stand mixer, you can buy a pasta roller and cutter that attaches right to the front of it. While definitely pricey-er, it is a great option if you want to cut down on clutter in your kitchen.
I used the KitchenAid pasta roller attachment because that’s what we had at my house but the technique is the same no matter how you choose to roll! (ha ha)
You want to start by rolling the dough as thin as possible. It is important to take the ball of dough and divide it into 4 sections. Take one section and slightly pound it with your hand and feed it through the widest setting on the pasta roller. After running the dough through the roller once, fold the first-third of the long sheet of dough onto the second-third and then onto the third-third. Gently knead the dough together and run it through the widest setting on the pasta roller again. This helps the gluten in the dough bond together better. After this, begin to decrease the number on the pasta roller. This will help you roll the pasta dough thinner each time. The widest setting on the KitchenAid attachment was 9 and I didn’t bring it down past 4 because my dough was starting to get fragile. I was really happy with the thickness of my pasta after it was cooked, so I really don’t think it’s necessary to go below 4 unless you are making angel hair or want a really thin pasta.
After rolling and flattening the sections of dough into long sheets of dough, I took the roller attachment out and placed the fettuccine cutter attachment in. This was, by far, the easiest part of the entire process. You literally just feed the sheets of dough through the cutter and get freshly-cut fettuccine through the bottom!
I lightly dusted the fettuccine strands with a bit of flour and wrapped them around my hand to form these little fettuccine nests. This part is not required at all, I just thought that these would be easier to transfer to the boiling water than the long strands of fettuccine that came out of the pasta cutter.
Once all of the pasta was cut, I transferred the little fettuccine nests to a pot of boiling water to cook. It cooked so fast! The fettuccine was perfectly al-dente after only 3 or 4 minutes in the water.
After that, just drain it, cover it in some delicious sauce, sprinkle it with some tangy Romano or Parmigiano, and enjoy!!!
While it took a few hours to complete the whole process, making homemade pasta on my own wasn’t as hard as I had previously thought. It was really fun and I can’t wait to make my next batch. I totally think this is something that everyone has to try doing at least once!!
Our class blog assignment for this week was to attempt to engage with a social media influencer online. I chose to engage with celebrity chef Mario Batali on Twitter. I tweeted at him four times: once at night, twice in the morning, and once in the afternoon. He engages with his followers quite often on Twitter (offering restaurant recommendations, food advice, retweeting followers who cook his recipes, etc.) so I still might have a chance that he will engage with one of my tweets! I will keep y’all posted.
These are my tweets to Mario Batali: