Nothing can compare with home-made pasta. The more you make pasta, the better and better the taste becomes because you can tailor the dough to your tastebuds. It is surprisingly easy to make. You need a rolling pin, knife and metal pastry cutters. A pastry wheel is also very useful. If you decide to make pasta regularly, it is worth investing in a pasta machine. You get attachments for food processors, electric pasta makers and hand-operated pasta machines.
• Flour: Special flour for making pasta may be 100% durum wheat semolina, such as authentic Italian flour called doppio zero (double zero). Other types may be a combination or durum wheat semolina and ordinary flour. Alternatively, use unbleached strong (bread) plain flour or plain wholemeal flour, or a mixture of unbleached strong plain flour and buckwheat or rice flour. A small portion of soya flour will boost the protein content of the pasta.
• Eggs: Although much commercial pasta is made with just flour and water, most homemade pasta includes eggs. Standard medium eggs are ideal.
• Oil: Olive oil is authentic. Since the amount used is small, it will not have a great impact on the fat content of the dish.
• Salt: Fine sea salt offers the best flavour.
TIPS FOR SUCCESS
Flour can vary in absorbency and egg sizes may differ, so results may vary on different occasions even with the same recipe. Weather and humidity also affect the dough.
Sprinkle strands of freshly cut pasta liberally with semolina or flour to prevent them from sticking together.
If you do not want to cook the dough immediately, you can freeze it, then cook it from frozen.
FLAVOURING PASTA DOUGH
Pasta can be coloured and flavoured with a wide variety of vegetable purees and pastes, such as tomato (and sun-dried versions), spinach, beetroot and carrot. Squid ink (available in packets from specialist outlets) can turn pasta dramatically black. Fresh and dried herbs, saffron, ground peppercorns, black olive paste, garlic, wholegrain mustard and spices such as cumin and curry powder can also be added to make interesting pasta.
Makes about 675g
Preparation time: 45 minutes, plus 30 minutes resting time
3 cups (450g) strong (bread) plain flour
pinch of salt
4 eggs, beaten
1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
• Sift the flour onto a clean work surface or into a large mixing bowl. Make a well in the centre and add the salt, eggs and oil.
• Using your hands, gradually mix the flour into the eggs and oil, until the mixture begins to form a firm dough, If necessary, add a few drops of water.
• Knead the dough for about 10 minutes or until it is smooth and elastic. The dough should still be firm. Add a little extra flour if the dough becomes sticky.
• Wrap the dough tightly in a plastic bag or with plastic wrap and set it aside to rest for 30 minutes before rolling and cutting. Do not place in the fridge.
• Cut the dough into quarters, as smaller portions are easier to handle. Roll out the dough very thinly on an unfloured surface, turning it over and around occasionally to prevent it from sticking, then cut it into the chosen shapes such as lasagne, cannelloni or noodles.
• Noodles and unfilled pasta may be cooked immediately or allowed to dry for up to 30 minutes before cooking. It is a good idea to leave pasta to dry on a clean tea towel if it is slightly sticky. Hang noodles over a pasta drying rack, or lightly flour them and coil into nests.
CUTTING SIMPLE SHAPES
Cannelloni: Instead of buying tubes, cut rectangles or squares and roll them around the filling – make your cannelloni small or chunky and long, as you wish.
Lasagne: Cut neat rectangles or squares 7.5 – 10 cm wide, or to fit your baking dish.
Noodles: Flour the rolled-out dough, fold it over several times or roll it loosely, then cut it across into slices. Thin slices give fine noodles, thick slices make wide noodles. Experiment with all the widths, from skewer fine to noodles as wide as a ruler. Slowly and carefully unravel the noodles with your fingers.
Squares and Diamonds: Cut strips, then, without moving them, cut across to make squares or diamond shapes (cut at an angle to make the slanting sides).
WHICH SAUCE with WHICH PASTA
There are no hard and fast rules – pasta is so good because it is so versatile, but some shapes have an affinity for certain types of sauce.
Long thin strands of pasta go well with simple sauces, such as pesto, or can be dressed simply with a little butter or oil to keep the strands separate.
Thicker strands of pasta and ribbon noodles go well with a meat, cheese or creamy sauce or a smooth tomato sauce.
Tubular pasta, twists, shells and similar shapes go well with chunkier vegetable sauces.
THE MAIN OBJECT IS TO HAVE FUN EXPERIMENTING WITH PASTA MAKING!