There’s something amazing about fresh pasta that you just can’t get with pre-packaged grocery store pasta. It’s a bit of work, but a pasta machine helps. You can do it without (and I have), but I don’t recommend it unless you’re looking for a really serious arm workout. I suggest getting a pasta machine with a crank handle and the basic lasagna and fettucine/spaghetti cutters, nothing too fancy (I got mine for about $20 at Benix in Toronto). Once you taste homemade pasta I’m sure you’ll be using it a lot! To make four heaping plates of amazing fresh pasta, you will need:
3 cups of all-purpose flour
4 large eggs
The traditional way of making pasta is to make a mound of flour on your marble counter and make a well in it. Then you crack the eggs into the well and very gently beat them with a fork, gradually incorporating flour into the centre well. I’ve tried this twice with zero success: The flour levy always breaks and I end up with egg all over my counter. If, like me, you’re a pasta novice, I suggest doing the above in a large mixing bowl. I think you get the same results, minus the eggy mess on your counter.
Once the egg and flour are incorporated, add water a tiny bit at a time until the dough holds together nicely and is neither sticky nor crumbly. Knead it for 3 to 5 minutes, then place the dough back in the bowl. Cover the bowl and let the dough rest for at least half an hour, then break out the pasta machine.
In case you got a pasta machine with no instructions, here’s how to use it: Take a piece of dough about the size of your fist and flatten it down into a disc. The key to getting it to run smoothly through the pasta machine is lots of flour. Sprinkle flour on both sides of the dough and spread it around with your hand. Set your pasta machine to 7 using the adjuster (or whatever makes the gap between the rollers the widest) and start trying to squish the dough disk between the rollers as you turn the crank. It helps to really squish down the lip of the dough and let the roller take care of the rest. Run the dough through at 7 twice, then reduce the dial to 6. Run it through once on each setting, reducing the space between the rollers each time until you get to 1. Run it through more times as needed if the dough gets twisted or folded. You may need to sprinkle more flour on the dough if it starts feeling sticky as you go. Once you have a nice flat sheet of pasta, you can attach the fettucine cutter. On my pasta machine, you have to take the crank handle off and move it to another spot to turn the fettucine cutter. Feed the sheet of pasta through the fettucine cutter to make noodles. If you aren’t in the mood for fettucine, you can use the sheets of pasta for lasagna, cut them into large rectangles and roll them into manicotti or canelloni, cut the pasta randomly to make maltagliato (literally, “badly cut”) pasta, or use a round glass to cut it into circles for ravioli.
For fettucine, sprinkle flour over the cut noodles to keep them from clumping up. If you’re making sheets to use for ravioli, etc., place them on a plate and cover with a slightly damp paper towel, then layer more pasta over the paper towel, cover that with paper towel, and so on. Fresh pasta needs very little cooking time (only about 3 minutes), but it still expands a lot through cooking. Cook the pasta in a large pot of heavily salted boiling water. Serve with your favourite sauce.
This recipe makes a lot of pasta (probably enough for two generous meals for two people, plus leftovers each time). If you don’t have time to roll out and cut the rest of the pasta you can freeze the dough in a zipper freezer bag, probably for about a month. If you can stick it out and roll out and cut all of the noodles, make sure they’re generously floured then lay them on your counter to dry for about an hour. You can then roll them into little nests (if they’re fettucine or spaghetti) or just toss them in a container before putting them in the freezer. Enjoy!