One of the most vivid memories of my youth (of course, it’s concerning food!) is watching my mom and grandmother making fresh pasta for lasagna and fettuccine. A kind of ritual they repeated for every festivity or special occasion, it was a tradition where all of us rediscovered the joy of sharing and working together.
What I realized as a grown-up is that my mother has unfortunately never given me the right quantities to make the dough (my grandmother and she always eyeballed the ingredients!), and so I was worried I wouldn’t ever be able to recreate their awesome (and quite simple) recipe.
Thank goodness in these days my mom came from Italy to visit, so I forced her (;-)) to make her fresh pasta for me, and I watched carefully, not only paying attention to the process, but even more to the quantities, so I could share with you the most clear and exact recipe possible. At this point you should feel very privileged, since I’m revealing to you our precious secret family recipe!
What I’ve learned for sure is that you can dare to make the dough- even with kids around! They will love playing with the dough machine and leaving floury fingerprints all around the kitchen! But for your sanity, and the best results, it is better if you call a friend or relative to help you, because the faster you follow the recipe’s steps (in particular during the “cooking phase”), the better the fresh pasta will turn out.
Here are some shots of my daughter having fun helping us (the little half body on the left is my youngest daughter, that wanted to be in the pic, but just half of herself, ha ha!).
Lastly, (and perhaps obviously) the thing I would add is that you will definitely need a pasta rolling machine, which is quite easy to find in any kitchen supply shop.
4 medium eggs
about 4 cups all-purpose flour
1 Tbs. olive oil
1/4 cup water
1 Tbs. coarse salt (to salt the water)
A pasta roller
(You will notice the pictures show 7 eggs and not 4, but this is because my mom is an expert and she can handle making 7 eggs of fresh pasta in a row!)
In a large bowl, put 3 cups flour (the remaining 1 cup you will need to work the dough), and make a well in the center. Break the eggs inside the well, add the olive oil and the water.
Knead first with a fork until the eggs are no longer runny. Then move the mixture onto a clean counter or table top, lightly dusted with flour, to begin kneading.
Knead the ball of dough by hand as you would bread dough, folding it over, and pushing it down with the heel of your hand.
Continue kneading until the dough is smooth and satiny, homogeneous and no longer sticky (about 5-7 minutes). If the dough feels sticky, add small quantities, a little at a time, of the remaining 1 cup of flour. Be aware that it is not mandatory to use all the flour, but just enough so the ball is no longer sticky. The consistency of the dough is affected by many factors such as the air humidity, the weather, and the density of the eggs. Shape the dough into a loaf.
In the meantime, clear off a good amount of space to be able to lay out the many pasta sheets you are about to create. You will also need to fill a big pot with water (I would say, the more the better, but at least a half-gallon), begin heating it to a boil, and add the coarse salt.
Now take the loaf, cut it into half-inch slices, and dust both sides of the slices with a pinch of flour (so they won’t stick to the machine).
Use a pasta roller to make long sheets of pasta 1/8 inch thick.
Using my pasta machine, I roll the pasta slices out progressively, beginning with the dial on the first (thickest) setting, then put it through again on the third, the fifth, and finally one last time through on the sixth (#6) setting. If the slices become too long, just cut them in two before you proceed to the next setting.
When you have all the slices n. 6 thin, cut them all about 5 inches long.
As you can see, this pasta-making process requires lots of room!
Fill a big bowl with very cold water and set aside. (You will use this to cool the pasta once it’s cooked.)
As soon as the pot of water comes to a boil, you may place the dough slices, not more than 9-10 at a time, into the pot. Return to a boil, then cook for about 3 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Using a slotted spoon, lift the pasta out of the pot, and into the bowl full of cold water. When the pasta is completely cooled off, lay it neatly over the edge of a colander to drain. Be sure to change the bowl of cold water each time, so it is ready for the next round of cooked pasta.
To know if the pasta dough is cooked properly, keep in mind that when it is over-cooked, it crumbles, when it’s too raw, it is thick and hard.
Once all the pasta is cooked, you can start making your lasagna or arrange the fresh pasta in a dish, cover with plastic wrap, and keep refrigerated until you are ready to make your lasagna.
I would suggest preparing the lasagna as soon as possible (if not immediately) to avoid the pasta sheets sticking to each other.
I promise, making home made pasta is way easier than explaining it, but I can understand that the first time you try to make it you’ll feel nervous: that is exactly how I felt my first time!
LEARNT IT, MADE IT, LOVED IT!
Tips:- If instead of lasagna pasta you would prefer making fettuccine, just use the specific setting on your pasta roller, and arrange the rows of fettuccine on a clean cloth to dry, keeping in mind they will expand. When they look dry, you can cook and enjoy them or store in a plastic bag in the freezer.
– Since we only make our lasagna from scratch with fresh ingredients, my mom usually prepares the ragu’ sauce and the porcini stew a day ahead. So on the day she makes the fresh pasta, she can also arrange the lasagna.
– When I mentioned that having a helper makes this process easier, I was expecially referring to the moment when you have to cook the dough sheets. You have to be very quick in cooking the pasta, moving it into the cold water, then to the colander, and at the same time be ready to cook the remaining sheets and change out the warm water with fresh cold water.
– Now that you know how to make the pasta sheets, stay tuned for next weeks when I will post all the steps to put together the perfect Italian Lasagna!
I really hope you like this recipe, and please, if you do,
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