Homemade pasta is surprisingly simple to make from scratch—no machine required—and so, so delicious.
In the States, when people talk about pasta, they're usually talking about the sauce. We do love our red sauce! In Italy, they know that the sauce is important—but so is the pasta itself. When I was in Positano, I ate a lot of pasta: spaghetti and tagliatelle, orecchiette and rigatoni; some of it was dried, some of it was fresh, but all of it was made with the best ingredients.
It's possible to find really good pasta in the United States—so many restaurants are making their own these days, including mine! We make all of our pastas in-house so they're fresh every day. And you can find some good dried pastas at the supermarket or specialty stores (I like De Cecco, Setaro, and Rustichella d'Abruzzo), but fresh pasta is a totally different experience. It has a richer flavor, an amazing toothsome texture, and it's easier than you think to make.
The most basic recipe has just two ingredients, which you probably already have in your kitchen: eggs and flour. You can mix it up a bit: I like to use a 3:1 combination of all-purpose flour and semolina flour, for example, and you can also substitute milk or mascarpone for some of the eggs. You want about 2/3 cup of wet ingredients for every 2 cups of flour.
To make the dough, create a well in the middle of the flour and add the wet ingredients. Whisk your wet ingredients into your flour with a fork until the dough gets too firm, then switch to mixing with your hands, continuing to work in flour until the dough no longer sticks to your hands. On a lightly floured surface, knead the dough until it is smooth and pliable, then wrap the dough tightly in plastic wrap and let it rest in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.
You can use a pasta roller to stretch out the dough, but it's just as easy (and with less cleanup!) to use a rolling pin. Unwrap the dough and divide it into manageable batches and roll each batch as thinly as you can. Use a paring knife to cut it into even- sized pieces and you're ready to go.
These noodles are gutsy enough to stand up to a Bolognese sauce, but in the summer, I like a no-cook sauce I can throw together while the pasta water comes to a boil. I just chop up fresh tomatoes, garlic, basil, olive oil, and mozzarella cheese and toss them together in a serving bowl. When the pasta is ready (and fresh pasta cooks in just a few minutes so check often to prevent overcooking) scoop it directly from the pot into the serving bowl and mix with the sauce. The tomatoes and basil will wilt and the cheese gets all gooey and melty from the heat of the pasta. The whole thing is ready in minutes and as easy to make as a salad. Why not give it a try tonight?
Recipe: Fresh Pasta Dough
1 ½ cups flour --
½ cup semolina flour
2 whole eggs, at room temperature
3 egg yolks, at room temperature
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour and the semolina. Create a well in the center and add the eggs and egg yolks.
Using a fork, break up the eggs then gradually start to draw flour from the edges of the well into the mixture.
When the dough gets too firm to mix with the fork switch to mixing with your hands. Continue to work in flour until the dough no longer sticks to your hands; you may not need to incorporate all of the flour.
Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and knead the dough for 8 to 10 minutes or until it is smooth and pliable. Wrap the dough tightly in plastic wrap and allow to rest for at least 30 minutes.
If using a rolling pin: Divide the dough in half. Dust your surface with flour and sprinkle a bit on your rolling pin as well. Roll out the dough as thin and as evenly possible, adding flour as needed to prevent sticking. Use a paring knife to cut your dough into even ribbons, then set aside, dusting the cut pasta with more flour. Repeat with the remaining dough. (At this point the pasta can be transferred to a sealable plastic bag and frozen for up to 3 months; do not defrost before cooking.)
If using a pasta roller: Divide the dough into 4 pieces. Starting with the machine set to the widest setting, pass the dough through the rollers. Fold the dough into thirds and pass it through again 2 more times. Continue passing the pasta through the machine, reducing the setting a few notches each time. You may need to dust a bit with flour if the dough sticks to the rollers at all. Once you reach your desired thickness, use the cutting attachment to cut the pasta sheet into fettuccine. Dust the cut pasta with more flour to prevent sticking and repeat with the remaining dough.
Cook the pasta in a large pot of generously salted boiling water, checking for doneness after just 1 minute; fresh pasta cooks very quickly. As soon as it is just al dente, no more than 3 or 4 minutes, drain, reserving some of the cooking water if desired for saucing the pasta. Toss with your sauce, loosen with some of the reserved cooking water as needed and serve immediately.