Fresh Pasta — Don’t Call it a Comeback
It’s been a while, hasn’t it?
Look, let’s not draw this out. I moved to LA, then I moved to San Francisco, and now here I am, making fresh pasta.
I’m what I call a “process cook.”* Sometimes I want to cook something just for the sake of cooking it — I’m interested in the long-form, no-shortcuts stuff. I find it meditative. So, one day I decided to make a huge pot of bolognese sauce with no real plans for it, because I was intrigued by the Food Lab technique of only just barely browning the meat, then allowing a long, slow reduction in the oven under a fat cap to produce the deep umami flavors of the Maillard reaction.
It worked, and it was delicious, but then I had enough bolognese to feed a dozen people, only two people to feed, and a total lack of freezer space. So I invited some friends over on the weekend to help us consume it. And so, as one long-form recipe often leads to another, I tried my hand at homemade fresh pasta.
I love the manual labor involved in these kinds of recipes. I don’t own a food processor or a stand mixer because I love the tactility of chopping and mixing and kneading. So, no need for a pasta machine either, right? Just a board, hands, and a French rolling pin — enigmatically labeled “rouleau americain” at E. Dehillerin.
Two sore arms and some bruises from aggressive pin-rolling later, these beautiful nests of pappardelle.
A minute in boiling water, a quick toss with hot bolognese accompanied by brioche buns, and the conviction that I never want to eat dried pasta again.
*I’m also a “process knitter,” but that’s nerdery for another time.
- 8 ounces all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
- 2 whole large eggs
- 4 yolks from 4 large eggs
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more for salting water
- Pour flour onto a large cutting board or into a large bowl and make a well in the center. Pour the whole eggs, egg yolks, and salt into the well and, using a fork, whisk well. Gradually incorporate flour from the sides of the well, forming a thick batter, then a shaggy dough. Only incorporate as much flour as the dough will take without becoming dry and inelastic, but enough to keep it from sticking. This will vary depending on your flour, eggs, and environment.
- On a large cutting board or other clean surface, knead the dough for 10-15 minutes until the dough feels smooth and elastic, adding flour as needed to keep the dough from sticking.
- Wrap ball of dough tightly in plastic wrap and rest on countertop for 30 minutes.
- To Roll the Pasta: Meanwhile, place a sheet of parchment paper on a tray or cutting board and dust lightly with flour. Unwrap rested dough and cut into quarters. Set one quarter on work surface and re-wrap remaining dough. With a rolling pin, flatten the quarter of dough into an oblong shape about 1/2 inch thick.
- Set pasta maker to widest setting and pass dough 3 times through the machine at this setting.
- Place dough on a lightly floured work surface. Fold both ends in so that they meet at the center of the dough, and then fold the dough in half where the end points meet, trying not to incorporate too much air into the folds. Using rolling pin, flatten dough to 1/2-inch thick. Pass through the rollers 3 additional times.
- Narrow the setting by 1 notch and repeat Step 7. Repeat once more (the dough should now have passed through the third widest setting). Continue passing the dough through the rollers, reducing the thickness by 1 setting each time until it reaches the desired thickness. It should now be very delicate and elastic to the touch, and slightly translucent.
- Place rolled dough onto a work surface or baking sheet lightly dusted with flour or lined with parchment paper, folding the dough over as necessary so that it fits; sprinkle with flour or line with parchment between folds to prevent sticking.
- Cover dough with plastic wrap or a kitchen towel to prevent drying, then repeat Steps 5 through 9 with remaining dough quarters. If making noodles, cut dough into 12- to 14-inch segments.
- To Cut Noodles: Adjust pasta machine to noodle setting of your choice. Working one dough segment at a time, feed dough through the pasta-cutter. Alternatively, cut folded dough by hand with a chef's knife to desired noodle width.
- Divide the cut noodles into individual portions, dust lightly with flour, and curl into a nest. Place on parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet and gently cover with kitchen towel until ready to cook. Pasta can be frozen directly on the baking sheet, transferred to a zipper-lock freezer bag, and stored in the freezer for up to three weeks before cooking. Cook frozen pasta directly from the freezer.
- To Cook: Bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil. Add pasta, stir gently with a wooden spoon, chopsticks, or a cooking fork, and cook, tasting at regular intervals until noodles are just set with a definite bite, about 1 1/2 to 2 minutes. Drain, toss with sauce, and serve.
Adapted from Serious Eats for use with elbow grease and a rolling pin. I would recommend using their recipe without my alterations if you plan to use a pasta machine.