This is by no means a glamorous post–it was actually something I was writing up for another post, but I wrote so much that it just seemed way too long to call it one single post and expect you to actually read the whole thing. So instead, some times, its good to take a moment to focus on some of the basics. Today: how to make something as simple as pasta noodles. In this particular case, egg noodles.
When you think about it, pasta is one of those items taken for granted quite often. You buy a box for cheap, boil for a few minutes, and you’re all set without even having to really give it a second thought. While home-made isn’t quite as convenient (I mean, come on, you’re up against a maximum of 10 minutes!), it can be fun, a learning experience, and, as always, taste better than store bought. I employed my KitchenAid for this task with the shiny new pasta roller attachment that recently came in the mail. Given my prior experience with pasta makers, I tried to approach this with muted, cautious enthusiasm. First order of business: verify that it actually works out of the box, and oh, what a relief: success! Full speed ahead!
This recipe came with the KitchenAid attachment, however, given the questions I’ve received about the attachment and making pasta, I thought this might be informative for the folks who are still merely considering making pasta from scratch (or the first timers!) and want to know what goes into it. Even though I use the KitchenAid, you could certainly do this in other ways (e.g. by hand–others do it with great success).
- 3.5 cups flour
- 4 eggs
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 Tbsp water
This makes 1-1.25 lbs pasta. The usual boxes in the grocery store carry ~1 lb, to give you a rough idea
Begin by placing all of the dough ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer. With a flat beater, mix the dough for about 30 seconds, after which, switch the paddle to the dough hook and continue to mix for 2 minutes. After this, the dough should be in walnut-sized crumbs and, when squeezed together, should easily adhere into larger chunks without being tacky. If it is tacky, add more flour, or, if it seems too dry, a bit more water.
This is a surprisingly easy step to screw up, and I didn’t realize it until my third attempt at making pasta. Every time, I used the exact same amount of ingredients, but on my third try, I used some fresh eggs and a brand new bag of flour, and the difference was stunning–the dough was much more pliable right from the get go and a bit less dry than these photos illustrate.
If using a stand mixer, keep an eye on the clock for these steps–you want to be careful about not overworking the motor as this dough will be pretty tough and you don’t want to stress your mixer.
Pour the crumbs out of the bowl and form into one dough ball, hand kneading for an additional 2 minutes, after which, you should let it sit in peace for 20 minutes so the glutens can do their thing. All of this handling of the dough gets the glutens going which makes the pasta more elastic. If this didn’t happen, you’d just have crumbs, which really, would not make for an impressive pasta, unless you were going for some kind of a laughable orzo. But you’re not.
First off, if your dough looks as crumbly as the above photo, you need to deal with it now–its too dry! More water or even an extra egg and some re-kneading ought to do the trick. The extra effort you spend now will save you your sanity later, I promise.
Now that the dough is ready, divide it into four. Also, a tip which I learned after making this: take one dough ball to work with and cover the other three pieces of dough that you’re not working with to keep them from drying out (because they will dry very quickly and make your life difficult).
One by one, roll each of these mounds to be as thin as you can with a rolling pin (even with a pasta roller, you still have to thin it out some before it can fit through!). For the KitchenAid attachment, this entails feeding the dough through the roller on the widest possible setting, folding it in half, and repeating a few times to get the dough into a more homogenous and easily workable texture.
The difficulty at this stage is ensuring that the dough is fairly uniform all around. Otherwise, one side might feed through the roller faster than the other, and the result will be a pile of torn and shredded pasta dough. This is more likely to happen if your dough is a bit on the dry side (hence my warning earlier and my frustration in my first two bouts with the pasta roller). Once this happens, the mangled dough might require some more flour/water and re-kneading as the texture changes and can be very hard to work with post-rolling. If you do make a mistake and have to deal with this, be patient and methodical or frustration and a kitchen meltdown will follow. 😮 I made many a mistake (e.g. assuming the entire length of the pasta roller was actually usable, workable space–its not really, so trim the edges of the dough so it looks cleaner than what you see in the next photo!), but ultimately, I learned from it and got the dough through successfully. Also, you might need to dust the dough with flour so it doesn’t stick to the rollers–not a problem I had, but in case you do, just something to keep in mind.
Once you get a sheet started, the rest comes pretty quick and easy–just turn to the next setting on the roller (to roll the sheet a little thinner), feed it through, and continue this, working all the way from setting 1 up to setting 5 (for egg noodles). As you progress with the thinness, the sheet of dough will become awkward and quite long, so stop (I stopped half way through on roller setting 3), fold the sheet in half, and cut, working each half separately so as to avoid making a silly mistake in the roller because the sheet got unwieldy.
At this point, all of your dough is now flattened into nice lasagna sheets, but since we’re not making lasagna, we have one more step: cut this into noodles. The pasta roller attachment came with two separate attachments for cutting the pasta (its like the roller, but has blades in it), so I simply fed my sheets through and linguine strands came out (like using the roller, this requires care because having a handful of noodles flying out the other end can be difficult to manage). I hung these on a not-so-sturdy rack that had some (as in total) assembly required. Once all of the noodles were cut and hung up to dry, I was ready to focus on the actual meal I had planned.
Cooking these noodles is pretty much like what you’re already used to when it comes to cooking pasta noodles–boil in salted water, but for ~6 minutes instead of ~10 (sample a noodle to be sure). You can also dry and use within a few days (store somewhere airtight) or even freeze and use much later. Whatever suits your fancy.
Whatever you use these for, practice makes perfect, and enjoy!