OK, so this is one of a few deviations away from food which could be deemed to be healthy. The unhealthy part of pasta is the gluten. This applies to bread and pastry and, well, all things that we find we love to eat. However, as we should eat some gluten once in a while to make sure that we don’t become intolerant, I have decided to put it in the blog; it’s also really, really good!
The flour I normally use for egg pasta is 00 flour made from durum wheat. There is nothing wrong with using normal plain (or all purpose) wheat flour. Durum wheat grows only in the south of Italy, so durum wheat pasta is not traditionally made in the north where soft wheat flour is used instead. The durum wheat is a hard grain and whilst is a high protein flour it does not produce an elastic gluten structure. Therefore, it is good for making pasta but not for most breads. Pasta made from plain flour, tends to be more elastic and easier to shape.
In terms of shop bought pasta, dried pasta is of a higher quality than most people believe. Mostly made in Italy, it is a better product than the “fresh” pasta sold by most supermarkets. When you understand that homemade egg pasta should be used within 24 hours or frozen; what is in the shop sold stuff that allows it a several week shelf life? Probably some thing you don’t want to eat!
Dried pasta is generally better to serve with heavier, oil based sauces as it has a more robust texture and a rougher surface which can hold the sauce. Lighter, creamier, dairy based sauces are better suited to fresh pasta. Generally, though, I don’t mind either pasta type.
Once you’ve made your egg pasta, you will need to store it until ready to cook. This is best done in semolina flour. The semolina flour will keep it from sticking, but you will need a fair amount. Liberally spread it on a baking tray and lay your pasta on top, then sprinkle more over the top. When you come to cook, gently lift the pasta out and drop it into the pan. Most of the semolina should fall off back into the baking tray and any left stuck to the pasta will dissolve into the cooking water.
Speaking of the cooking water, it can be used to help loosen and enrich your sauce. The cooking water will be rich in starch so don’t pour it away until you have plated your food.
Fresh pasta should be dressed with the sauce and served straight away so I would not suggest that it is held before serving as you could do with dried pasta.
As I see making pasta at home as a special event, I always go for a very rich recipe – 4 egg yolks. You can find many different variations depending on your taste.
Ingredients (to make 170g pasta, enough for 2 portions):
- 100g 00 flour
- 4 egg yolks
- some cold water may be required (I normally add approx. 1-2 TBSP)
- Put the flour and eggs into the large bowl of a Magi Mix.
- Pulse until combined (it will look like small bread crumbs).
- Check for consistency, if too dry, add a little water, 1 tsp and pulse again. Repeat until you are happy with the consistency of the dough.
- Tip the crumbs out onto the worktop and bring together to form a ball. The dough should not be sticky. If it is, add a little flour and knead. The dough should be soft but not sticky but you should not be able to to easily push your finger into it.
- Wrap the dough tightly and rest it in the fridge until ready to roll. It will need to rest for at least 20 minutes.
- To roll, remove the dough from the fridge and knead it to soften it and let it come to room temperature. Cut in half and wrap the piece not being rolled. Flatten the dough ready for rolling.
- Set up your pasta roller. Set it to the widest setting.
- The first thing to do is stretch and knead the dough using the roller. Pass the dough through the widest setting. I like to get the dough into a regular shape before continuing, so fold the dough back up into a rectangle and repeat the first roll. Then pass the dough through each setting, getting thinner.
- Once you finish, fold the dough again and repeat. This time you are going to roll the finished pasta so you roll it to either the second thinnest setting (for cut pasta) or to the thinnest setting for filled pasta.
As a general rule of thumb, for the pasta dough you need 60g liquid to 100g flour. So decide before you start what pasta you want to make. The one above is very rich with 4 yolks; a lighter pasta would just be 1 whole egg.
Eggs: a large egg is approx. 60g in weight; 15g of yolk; 45g of white.
Cutting the pasta – most pasta rollers come with a set of cutting blades. Use these to cut pasta to the size you require. If you don’t have any, you can cut the pasta by hand, making sure you sprinkle plenty of semolina over the pasta so it does not stick whilst cutting.
Eggs – the type of egg makes a big difference to the final colour and richness of the pasta. If you use standard supermarket egg yolks the pasta will be pale. If you buy better eggs which have richer more orange yolks your pasta will be bright and slightly richer.
When to add salt – some recipes suggest you should add a pinch of salt to the pasta dough. This may be ok if you use the dough straight away, but you may find that the pasta becomes spotty. So normally, I don’t add any salt. The pasta is seasoned with the cooking water. This should be as salty as the sea (so saltier than you think!).
Whilst you can make shapes with egg pasta, you are probably best buying the dried shapes in the shops. It is time consuming and takes practice to make it yourself.