Considering my short attention span and increasingly busy schedule, it seems a bit strange that I’m so drawn to making things from scratch. This blog is full of examples (pho bo, tamales, ice cream) and I’m sure there are many more in my future. The most baffling thing about my recent adventure in pasta-making is that I decided to do it after a full day of work. I believe it was even the first day of my work week. I don’t have any kind of pasta maker, nor had I made fettuccine before. It just seemed like a fun thing to do when I got home.
If that sounds a little crazy, well, it probably is. However what you should take from it is that making fettuccine from scratch is quite simple and something that, if you wish, you can achieve in a just few hours. The active time is under an hour. The ingredient and equipment list is very minimal. And the best part? You get to eat it when you’re all done!
I’ve made fresh pasta from scratch only once before, but it was pappardelle; thicker and wider than fettuccine. The method I used here, adapted from the amazing resource that is The Dean & DeLuca Cookbook, worked far better than my previous attempt, and was a lot easier as well.
The book doesn’t offer a clear-cut recipe for fresh pasta, but instead informs the reader about the different shapes of pasta and how to choose the right flour. Then it provides steps to make the pasta, including stretching and cutting, all by hand. I chose to go with a mix of all-purpose and semolina flours, since that’s what I had on hand. Here, I’ll lay it out in recipe format for you.
Fresh Egg Fettuccine
—Adapted from The Dean & DeLuca Cookbook—
Makes about a pound of fresh pasta
- 1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting
- 1/3 cup semolina flour
- 3 large eggs
- water and salt for cooking
1. In a big, wide mixing bowl, sift together the two flours. Mound the flour in the center of the bowl and press down in the center, creating a well. In a separate bowl, throughly beat the eggs. Pour the eggs into the well in the flour.
2. With your hands, begin to push the flour into the egg, mixing until a ball of dough begins to form. When the dough still moist but manageable, move the ball onto a clean, smooth work surface. Rinse your hands in warm water, then dry them well.
3. If the dough is still sticky, sift a bit more flour onto the ball. The dough should not be too moist but not too dry either. Begin to knead the dough, using the heel of your hand to push the dough outward to stretch it. Knead for about 10 minutes, until the dough is soft and pliable. Divide the dough into two equal-sized balls, sprinkle each lightly with flour and wrap loosely with plastic wrap. Allow the dough to rest at room temperature for 45-60 minutes.
4. When the resting time is up, remove one piece of dough from the plastic wrap and place it on a lightly floured work surface. Flatten the dough into a disc, and dust the top with flour. Take a large rolling pin and place it in the center of the circle. Roll the dough out away from you, pushing the pin outward, not downward. Then, without pressure, roll the pin back to the center. Repeat this motion 4 more times, then turn the dough an eighth of the way around. Repeat the rolling motion again, but this time, repeat it 5 times. Turn slightly, then roll 6 times… get the picture? Do this until the dough has been turned full-circle, increasing the number of rolls with each turn. Now you should have a nice, smooth disc about a 1/4″ thick. If it’s thicker than that, keep turning and rolling until it’s the proper thickness. If there are any uneven spots, fix those with a quick roll.
5. Now for the stretching. Doing this by hand is going to create a much better texture than a machine. Put the rolling pin about a third of the way from the top edge of the dough. Grab the top third and wrap it over the pin, gripping it with one hand with your fingers curling around the dough-covered pin. Then, with your other hand, take the bottom edge of the dough and firmly, but carefully, begin to pull the dough, stretching it out. Again, you want to find the happy medium here: make sure you are indeed stretching it, but don’t pull so hard that you tear it either. After the stretch, unroll the dough from the pin, give the dough a 45 degree turn, and start the stretching process again. Go around the whole circle twice, stretching a 8 times total.
6. Now, with the stretched dough in front of you on your work space, use the pin to roll the dough from the center up to the top about 4 times. Turn the dough an eighth of the way and repeat, adding one more roll per turn. Continue around the entire disc of dough. By the end, you should have a thin piece of dough (1/8″ or even 1/16″). Now it’s time to stretch it a second time. Like the first stretch, curl the top third around the pin, with the very top under the pin. But this time, there’s no pulling. Instead the dough will be stretched from the center out. To do this, place both palms on top of the dough-wrapped pin. Apply pressure with your hands and begin to roll towards you, but as you roll, move your hands outward towards the ends of the pin. When you’re close to the bottom, carefully unroll the dough, make a 45 degree turn, and repeat. Do this 4 times total to stretch the entire piece.
7. By now the dough should be really thin, under 1/16″ thick. Don’t worry about the shape of the dough; if it’s a perfect circle, then you’re probably some kind of robot. As long as the dough is the right thinness, it’s ready to dry. Take a clean kitchen towel and lay it out on the edge of a table. Put the edge of the dough on the towel, with the majority of the dough hanging off the side of the table. Use something, such as a small bowl or heavier utensil, to weigh down the edge on the towel, just enough to keep the dough in place. Let the dough dry this way for 1o minutes, then turn it 180 degrees, hang over the edge, secure, and let dry for another 10 minutes. By the end of the drying time the dough will be a bit leathery, but not too hard.
8. Lay out the thin, dried dough on your work surface. It’s time to start cutting! Again, unless you’re a robot, this is not going to be perfect. Start with the irregular edges for some practice. Using a sharp thin knife or a pizza cutter, start cutting long strands 1/8″ wide. After each strand is cut, just lightly push it to the side and keep cutting. Keep your hand steady and your eyes focused, but it’s easier and more effective to move faster rather than slower. Pretty soon you’ll get into a rhythm, and the whole thing should be cut in about 5 minutes. When it’s all cut, spread the pasta out on your workspace and let it dry for a few hours, or even overnight. Repeat steps 4-8 with the second ball of dough.
9. To cook the dough, fill a large pot 3/4 of the way with water, cover, and bring to a boil. Once boiling, uncover, and add a pinch of salt. Let boil for another minute or two, and then add the pasta to the pot. Stir with a long spoon to keep the strands from sticking together. Keep the water boiling, covering the pot if needed to get it boiling again. Unlike purchased dried pasta, fresh pasta cooks quickly. For me, this fettuccine cooked in about 3 minutes, but after a minute and a half pull out a strand to test. Keep testing until al dente, and then pull it off the heat. Drain the pasta, and rinse in cool water to stop the cooking process and to separate the strands. Prepare with your favorite sauce or recipe.
With my fresh pasta, I came up with a recipe for Fresh Egg Fettuccine with Artichokes, Peppers, Fontina Cheese Sauce, and Frizzled Leeks.
Have you ever made pasta from scratch, with or without the use of a pasta maker/cutter? Leave me a comment and let me know! Thanks!