The first pasta I ever made was a very soupy looking lasagne when I was a teenager & it didn’t improve much until my twenties – it tasted very nice, but you needed a spoon to eat it (although my boyfriend at the time was far too polite to mention this). My pasta skills have progressed a bit since then & I am happy to say, you don’t need a spoon to eat my lasagne anymore (although I do recommend wearing an elasticated waistband).
Some people may think of pasta making as a bit fiddly or time consuming (it’s like the bread making scenario all over again). I appreciate this, because I too had a few issues in the beginning (actually, I still do on occasion) & that’s OK, because your kitchen isn’t a Michelin starred restaurant – you’re making it for family & friends, not paying customers! It just takes a little practice, that’s all. The best thing is pasta takes very little time to make from scratch, plus it’s fun to make when the weather is a bit pants & the kids are “bored” – get them making pasta!
What you need:
The recipe I use is 100g of strong ’00’ flour (or strong bread flour) & one large egg, per person (so if you’re cooking for three people, that’s three eggs & 300g of flour). However, I like to mix half flour with half fine semolina, which gives it that gorgeous golden, sunshine yellow colour (& everyone likes a little sunshine).
Also, I recommend buying good quality free-range eggs – trust me, it makes all the difference. Here’s a little test to see if your eggs are really fresh. Half fill a jug with cold water & gently plop the eggs into the jug, one at a time. If they sink, they’re fine & fresh; if they float, it means they are not that fresh & probably shouldn’t be used.
What to do:
Measure your flour into a bowl & tip onto a clean work surface. Make a well in the middle, crack your eggs in carefully & combine them a little before using clean, cool fingertips to bring the flour in from the sides & gently combine into a lovely golden dough (it’s messy, but that’s half the fun).
Knead for about five minutes until flexible, then wrap in cling film & leave to rest in the fridge for half an hour. After that, you can roll it out, stuff it with some fabulous fillings, or cut into ribbons (such as tagliatelle) & even hang some up to dry for another day (if you don’t have a rack, use a clean clothes horse). It’s that simple!
To make ravioli, roll the dough out until it’s almost thin enough to see through. Lay it down on a flour dusted surface (sprinkle some semolina too – this will stop it sticking). Then simply add small splodges of your filling (about a teaspoonful), roughly an inch apart, down one side of the pasta sheet – sometimes I use a piping bag to do this (less mess & a bit quicker). Dip your finger in a cup of cold water, run it along the edge & between the fillings, before folding the other side of the pasta over the top. Press the edges down firmly, using a cupping action with the side of your hand to separate the fillings into individual bumps & remove any air. Cut them into little parcels using a ravioli or pizza cutter & set aside on a plate or board, again dusted with flour or semolina (or both).
Bring a pan of water to a rolling boil, chuck in a couple of generous pinches of sea salt, then gently add your pasta to the water. It should cook in about 2-3 minutes, so pick one out & have a taste to check – obviously, if you’re cooking ravioli or similar stuffed pasta, use your judgement on this & make sure the filling is piping hot. Then drain (saving a cup of the water) & serve as you like it- spoon on some sauce, or just add a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil & a sprinkle of black pepper. If your sauce is a bit too thick, add some of the cooking water to loosen it up a bit & make it silky smooth (you really don’t need much). All you need to do then is eat it!
One of the best tips I can give is to treat yourself to a robust pasta machine – forget brand names here, go for the one that you feel most comfortable with.
When I first began making pasta, I would roll out the dough by hand with a rolling pin (several times until it was thin enough & my arms ached), so my pasta machine is one of the best purchases I’ve made. With the turn of a handle you can have perfectly precise spaghetti (they are also really good for rolling out fondant icing – bonus!).
So next time it’s a bit dull outside, create some indoor sunshine & make your own pasta parcels! Stay hungry! 😉 A x