by: Chef Jim Berman
When I pondered this article, this tackling of creating fresh pasta, I was as nervous as a school boy on prom night; So many questions, so much anticipation for a fulfilling experience. Everyone does it, Would I live up to the expectations that, undoubtedly, were had of me? Would I be able to capture the right combination of movement and genteel touch that would pay off with visceral and guttural satisfaction? How would I compare to those that have tried before me? Due diligence wins, here. This is not a lexicon on the idiosyncrasies of 'all things' pasta. No quibbling over shapes, sauces and styles. I am not even going to attempt to bridge the divide of the transoceanic battle that surrounds the origin of pasta, or the noodle, or macaroni, or whatever. Nor is there any treatise on the virtues of fresh pasta versus dry pasta. (Both have their applications and anyone that tells you different is a food snob.) No, dear reader, merely a few images capturing my grab of making fresh pasta. Sure, a little verbiage here and there, but a mere pittance of what you can find out there. Tomes abound covering pasta and garnishes for pasta and shapes of pasta and the history of pasta. Rather, this offering is a succinct declarative method for making pasta with a stand mixer, imported pasta roller and two little hands.
For the pasta dough:
1 ½# flour (I used high gluten, bread flour – but read on…)
2 teaspoons, salt
1 Tablespoon, olive oil
4 Large Eggs
¾ Cup, water (I used beet juice; author's discretion – it is summer and I am simmering some beets; beautiful color and it is a conversation starter.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, combine the flour and salt. I do not usually keep durum flour on hand, so I substituted the protein-laden bread flour. Durum will yield a slightly smoother finished pasta, so it is worth the stocking the extra item in your pantry if this will be a mainstay of your repertoire. Also, when using durum, you can actually get away without adding eggs and still produce a very high quality pasta.
Add the oil, eggs and the water (or beet juice or whatever liquid you prefer). The juice adds color and little else to the pasta. Have you ever had spinach fettuccine that really tasted of spinach? Or sun-dried tomato rotini that tasted of tomato?
There is so little flavorful liquid added to hydrate the flour, the impact on flavor is nearly, if not completely, absent.
Mix the ingredients on low speed until an amalgamous ball of dough appears to be clinging to the hook. Remove the dough from the mixing bowl. A bit note on technique: the dough should be firm and very nearly dry. Depending on the specifics of the flour you use, as well as humidity, size of eggs, accuracy of measuring the water and about a dozen other variables, you may need to mix in some additional flour and continue kneading by hand on a floured work surface. The determination of how much more handy work is required will come in time. Really.
Allow the dough to rest at room temperature in a covered, gently oiled bowl for at least thirty minutes. Hasten the process and the pasta will tear.
Using a pasta roller (Ampia, d'Imperio, Atlas, etc) roll the dough as you see fit. Or roll it by hand with a rolling pin and plenty of counter space. Be sure to liberally flour the pasta during the rolling and cutting process, or a clumpy mess of dough will be the only evidence of your time investment.
And that is as far as this bus goes. Last stop. What you do with the finished dough is up to you. Roll it for spaghetti or fettuccine, pinch it for orechette, fill it for tortellini, angliotti or ravioli, layer it for lasagna or merely gaze at the splendor of creating something so versatile and functional composed with a mere pittance of ingredients from which to start. I brought you to the river, for it is yours to cross.