Guest blogger Derrick is back with his 5th post! Enjoy!
I’ve always had a passion for Italian food. It’s a big comfort to me. I grew up with it: we had an Italian dish almost every week when I was a kid. My parents learned to make sauce from our neighbor Emanuelle Raso, and in turn, taught me. It’s one of the first things I remember learning how to make (besides my grand-maman’s cookies). My family and I would usually make a version of bolognese. We’d start the sauce early in the day and let it cook for hours on low until it thickened. It had such a sweet aroma that would fill the entire house. I can still smell it now.
Back then we would also can our own tomatoes in the fall. We would get bushels and bushels of Roma tomatoes from the local farm and lay them out in my parent’s garage. The whole family would work together to cut, press, jar and seal what seemed like hundreds of jars of sauce. It was a lot of work, but worth it. It’s an amazing thing to be that close to food production, which is often a lost art today.
These days, Mike and I don’t eat Italian every week. But when we do, I still make my own sauce from that old recipe I learned as a child. I’ve got the homemade sauce down, but one thing that I never learned how to make was pasta from scratch.
The trick was finding someone to teach me how to do it. I knew that success was all in the technique. I was fortunate enough to learn with two excellent cooks, my Mother-In-Law Anne who taught me an egg noodle recipe, and my mom’s cousin Anette who taught me how to make gnocchi. They made it seem so easy and were truly artistic in their approach. When I came to make it myself, without their help, the task seemed daunting. So I had to try and learn for myself with a little assistance… from the Internet (Science of Fresh Pasta).
I’m going to share my favourite egg based pasta recipe in 6.5 easy steps that you can follow along with, as I use it to make lasagna for Mike (his favorite food). It was my first time making lasagna noodles, and I was thrilled with how they turned out. Homemade pasta may carry a sense of intimidation at first, but play with it: it’s amazing how quickly you can become a true pasta artist.
The recipe requires only a few simple, but high quality ingredients: eggs, flour and water. The key lies in the flour to moisture ratio in the dough.
- 6 free range organic eggs (2 whole eggs, and 4 yolks)
- 2 cups of organic unbleached flour (organic durum wheat semolina is also great)
- 1 teaspoon of salt
- 2 tablespoons of water (approximately)
Step 1: Making the dough
I like the volcano technique. It’s all manual and takes a bit of effort, but yields great results. Essentially you start out by making a small volcano of flour. In the crater, you put two whole eggs and four egg yolks. Then you beat the eggs with a fork, slowly mixing in the flour until it all starts to come together like a thick paste. At that point, ditch the fork and get your hands right in there to knead the dough. Keep folding it over itself to combine the remaining flour. The dough does get dry and that’s when you drip in some water. You can’t dump it in, you have to add it slowly so the moisture is well distributed.
Step 2: Let the dough rest
When you’ve finished kneading, it will feel like its one cohesive piece of dough (though there may still be cracks and crevices). Wrap the dough up in plastic wrap and let it sit for a few hours. This allows the moisture to distribute throughout the dough, which gives more even texture. I usually let it rest for 4-6 hours.
Step 3: Rolling the dough
As much as I love the manual part of making pasta, rolling by hand is not for me. For this I use my Kitchen Aid mixer attachment. You can also have a manual rolling machine, like my mother in law does, or do it all by hand in the traditional Italian way. Though this would take a long time to do.
Take the dough and cut it in quarters. Roll the quarter out slightly with a rolling pin. Make sure it’s an oblong shape and thin enough to start going through the roller attachment.
Step 3a: Pass the dough through the attachment on the thickest setting three times at the slowest speed (Setting 1 on the KitchenAid pasta attachment). Then pass it through the next setting (2) three times until it gets a little longer and thinner.
Step 3b: Take the edges of your dough and fold the dough so the two edges meet in the middle. Then take one right side edge and fold it so it touches the left side edge. It’s like your making a small package or envelope. Then roll the dough vertically so you can pass it through the rollers again. Trust me, this really is what makes the difference.
Repeat 3a, 3b and 3a once more. Yep, that’s right. Roll it out once more, then refold it, and finally roll it out one last time.
Step 3c: Continue rolling the dough on sequential settings so that it gets thinner. Pass it through three times at each setting (i.e. setting 2, 3, 4, etc.) I usually go up to setting 6. The dough will become thin enough to be semi transparent and quite long.
Step 4: Finishing the dough
Now that the dough is rolled out, you’ll want to pass some flour over it so that it doesn’t stick. You can be generous. It won’t hurt. In the case of lasagna noodles, you only need to cut it to the desired length of the pan that you’ll be using. In the case of other noodles, cut the dough to be approximately 12-16 inches in length. Take the cut segment and pass it through a pasta cutter (I use the fettuccini attachment for my Kitchen Aid). Sprinkle some more flour on it to avoid sticking.
Step 5: Cooking the pasta
Cook the pasta in boiling water for approximately one minute (or until it floats). Don’t overcook as the al-dente is great and you don’t want a pile of mush.
Step 6: Assemble and serve
This is the easiest step. Either assemble it into a lasagna, casserole, or mix it with your favorite sauce. Your pasta is good to go.
For Mike’s lasagna, I had layers of traditional bolognese sauce, cheese (ricotta and mozzarella respectively) on different layers, various meats and some spinach. I topped it off with a layer of mozzarella and cooked it in the oven at 350 degrees for 45 minutes. I had approximately 8-10 layers in the pan. It turned out beautifully, and was one of the best lasagnas I’ve ever made.
When I first started making pasta, there were two steps in the recipe that I initially found challenging, yet proved to be the most important. The first was getting the dough to the right consistency before letting it rest. It was crumbly until I added more moisture to help it bind. The second was the continuous folding and re-rolling. At first I didn’t understand why this was necessary, so I tried rolling out a piece of dough without doing the repeated step 3. The dough ended up being very inconsistent, patchy and difficult to work with. Yes, it takes more time, but the repetition is critical.
I really loved learning to make the noodles from scratch. It not only brought a sense of accomplishment, but also brought back that nostalgic childhood feeling. It’s a tasty way to make me feel closer to home, while enjoying some really great pasta!
Give it a go, and let me know how it turns out! If you have any tips or tricks on making egg free or gluten free pastas from scratch, let me know. I have many dietary concerns in my extended family and would love to make home made pasta for them. Enjoy!