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Simple yet semi-foolproof egg pasta dough

Description

This is a simple egg pasta recipe that I've been refining over the years of making fresh pasta for my family. It's based on a recipe I picked up while I was a line cook at a family Italian place about 20 years ago that has long since gone out of business; I've put it back together and adjusted it so it scales down as easily as it does up. Originally, this was made in 10kg (20+ pound) batches.

This dough isn't suitable for extruders, it is intended for rolling and cutting. That means you can make pretty much any kind of noodle, or lasagna sheet out of it. If you want to make ravioli or other stuffed pasta, you want to use a recipe with quite a bit more egg in it, and more steps for drying. If you want to make shaped pasta, such as shells, you probably want a durum wheat & water (eggless) dough recipe instead.

Yield

450 grams of dough, or roughly 8 'nests' of 50 - 55 grams, depending on type of noodle and thickness.

Equipment Needed

  • Large mixing bowl to mix the dough initially
  • Medium mixing bowl to beat eggs, oil and salt together
  • Medium mixing bowl to weigh ingredients
  • Kitchen scale that supports metric units (grams)
  • Small 'French' style rolling pin, a thick but short wooden dowel will also work
  • Chinois (or slightly coarser but still fine mesh strainer) for sifting flour
  • Tablespoon & Teaspoon measures
  • Dinner fork
  • Half a meter of cling film
  • 1 1/2 inch pastry brush (optional, for containing the mess that flour makes and to dust off the board)

This recipe mentions settings for using a pasta machine which is the most common piece of equipment to use. You can, however, roll the dough out to a uniform thickness of one to a few milimeters and cut the dough by hand, or use an adjustable 'rake' to cut the noodles uniformly. I use machines made by Marcato and Imperia, but you can have an adventure just looking around sites like Amazon for 'pasta roller' or 'pasta cutter'.

Some power mixers feature powered rolling and cutting attachements for pasta, and it's great to use the motor that you already have. I'd recommend allowing yourself a bit of room to fumble around if your first experience rolling pasta is through a powered sheeter, it can take on a mind of its own and get a little unnerving to the uninitiated when it moves that fast.

The bare essentials are a rolling pin of some sort and a sharp knife, anything else is a luxury. But here, we're just talking about the dough.

Ingredients

  • 300 grams of double awt ("00") flour + 50 grams for dusting, get the best quality based on price and reviews
  • 150 grams of beaten whole eggs, 3 "US Large" or roughly 175 grams total weight in shell
  • 1.5 - 2.0 tbsp (20 - 30 ml) of quality extra virgin olive oil. I recommend "James Planiol" available on Amazon
  • 1 tsp sea salt (iodized table salt is fine, too)

Important notes, please read

Making pasta is the act of correcting a slow series of minor mistakes until gluten makes it seem as if you knew what you were doing all along. Do not try to hurry through this recipe, allow at least 1 hour to make it. Once you've successfully made some pasta, invite any children nearby to assist you when making your next batch. It's traditional in Italy for children to be very involed in the process of making the pasta starting at a very early age.

This entire recipe depends on the weight of both dry and wet ingredients. As eggs vary and measuring cups aren't always true, level or even packed the same, it's important to weigh everything each time you make this.

If you find that 3 large eggs are a bit light, up the olive oil a little, or add one additional egg yolk if the difference is greater than 3 or 4 grams. Likewise, if your eggs are a little too heavy, leave out a little of the olive oil. 1 tablespoon of good olive oil weighs about 3 - 4 grams, for reference. If you're making the exact amount this yields, you shouldn't encounter a situation where you have to adjust the flour content. However, if the dough turns out of the bowl a little too wet, you can easily pick up 30 - 50 more grams of flour from your board as you knead. This isn't an exact science, but please see the bottom note about over-kneading and adding too much flour.

The proportion is roughly 75 grams of wet (egg and oil included) to 150 grams of sifted flour. That's the ratio to use when you scale this up or down, or adjust the 'eggyness' of it to your taste.

The convenience of this recipe is that immediately after resting and hydrating, it will not be too wet to roll and cut. It will also not roll too dry to cut for even thin types of noodles. Don't use this for ravioli as it is, it will crack if you roll it that thinly or possibly break easily when boiled, you need a much eggier dough for that. This dough should be good for something as wide as spaghetti rolled as thinly as setting number 8 on most pasta machines, or something closely resembling cappelini.

The sifting of the flour has very little effect on the final texture of the noodle like you'd think of if you were baking something like bread; it simply allows the dough to hydrate quickly and efficiently and form faster as you bring the wet and dry ingredients together. If you're making this in a mixer with a dough hook, you can probably skip the sifting as it's there just to make doing it by hand easier with more consistent results.

Don't over-flour as you knead, I usually put a tablespoon or two of flour in a ramekin and put the bag away so I'm more conscious about how much flour I'm actually using to dust. Lightly flour your hands initially, then only when dough still sticks to them and separates from the ball. Only flour the work surface initially, and if you leave part of the ball behind as you knead. If you add too much flour to this dough it's going to dry and crack if you attempt to make anything thinner than lasagna sheets.

Procedure

  1. On the scale, tare one of the medium bowls. Measure out 300 grams (2 cups) of flour. Sift it into the large bowl.
  2. Form a well in the middle of the dough so that the flour is evenly distributed around the sides, and you have a vacancy of roughly 5 inches in the center for the wet ingredients to go.
  3. Measure out your eggs and beat them in the medium bowl with the fork. Beat a bit more air into them than you would scrambled eggs, then beat in the oil thoroughly, then the salt.
  4. Add the wet mixture to the vacancy in the large bowl, do this gently to avoid any splashing.
  5. Using the fork and taking evenly from the flour forming the well as you rotate the bowl, add about 2 tablespoons at a time of flour to the wet mix, then cause it to hydrate by stirring, then continue taking more. Repeat this until you've got all of the flour wet.
  6. Dust a surface (counter or board) large enough to knead with a pinch or two of flour. Also, flour your hands and fingers lightly.
  7. Use your fingers to scrape the dough stuck in the tines of the fork back into the pile in the bowl. Turn out the dough mixture (it should look like crumbs) onto the floured surface, and begin bringing it together as you would any other dough.
  8. Begin kneading, which you'll continue for about 10 - 15 minutes. Here are the stages you'll encounter:
    • A crumby, crumbling mess that seems like it's taking forever to come together
    • A rough, tacky, stiff and sort of flaky ball
    • A bit of a shaggy mess that tears easily as you knead it, but gets easier to handle as you knead
    • A more cohesive ball that doesn't 'shag or flake' so easily, even though the 'skin' on top splits easily
    • A final ball that no longer 'shags or flakes' as you knead it, which is elastic and will hold the shape of a ball. It might still 'split' a bit on top as you tighten it up, that's fine. It should be pliable, spring back when pushed, not sticky and not as it was in the first two stages. You'll feel the gluten form.
    • Do not over-work the dough. If you do, even if cooked 'to the tooth' (al dente), the noodle will have a gummy and unpleasant texture. 450 grams usually takes no more than 10 - 12 minutes to knead, you might want to set a timer until you get the feel of what 'done' feels like. Do not try to develop a blemish-free ball of dough, this is pasta, not bread.
  9. Use your hands and tuck the ends of the dough under the top of it, making a ball. Roll it up in the cling film so that it's protected by several layers. Twist the ends tightly and use gravity to keep it from coming unraveled.
  10. Allow it to rest in the warmest part (front & center) of the fridge for at least 45 minutes, but no more than 2 hours, or the oil will begin to 'break out' of the dough. An hour is perfect, don't fret if it has to stay an extra hour before you can get to it.

Once rested & hydrated, quarter the dough and roll each quarter out to number 6,7 or 8 on your pasta machine (6 being slightly thicker than commercial linguini). Each quarter produces two sheets of approximately 11 inches after bring trimmed to make all edges straight and cut in half. Each sheet produces a nest of about 50 - 55 grams. It takes practice to produce even sheets and lengths of pasta, don't expect any batch to be close to the same until you've done it several times.

Serving

A good rule is approximately 100 grams per person if the pasta is a main (served with an ample sauce), or around 55 grams if the pasta is a side, such as a buttered bed for grilled fish and herbs.

Cooking time for fresh pasta is generally 1/3 of that for a completely dry commercial equivalent. If 10 minutes until 'to the tooth' if purchased, it's probably going to take about 3 1/2 minutes if made fresh, even if dried but not yet completely dehydrated. Remember that you set your timer after the water recovers to a boil, and be sure to test frequently every 30 seconds as you approach time until you get a feel for the recipe. This goes for pasta rolled to setting number 6, 7 or 8.

Thicker pasta (setting 4 - 5) will take approximately double that amount of time. For lasagna, parboil the sheet about 1.5 minutes and then shock in ice water before baking.

For anything thicker, such as diamond cut dumplings, you'll just need to use your best judgement and test, while remembering that they'll finish cooking in sauce or gravy.

Drying

This recipe is quite flexible in that it doesn't required drying your sheets after rolling them prior to cutting them into noodles. However, you can use a drying rack or floured baking sheet to dry the cut noodles if you want to prepare the pasta in advance. It will keep about a month if dried and stored air-tight, or several months if frozen while still moist.

I mention freezing only for the sake of completeness as I don't recommend freezing wet pasta; the process alters the structure and texture in ways that I'm not sure all can detect, but I find rather abhorrent. While you can keep cut fresh and wet noodles refrigerated for a little while, I recommend just drying them if they aren't to be used immediately.

About me

Just a grumpy old cook retired fromn the line. I work mostly in PR and Community stuff.

Copyright © 2018 Tim Post. Use as you see fit, attribution is appreciated. I can be reached at tinkertim at that mail service Google runs, or @tinkertim on Twitter.

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