Yesterday I experienced an unnatural urge to exercise. But, before risking serious injury by going to the gym, salvation came in the form of fettuccini.
Pasta is deceptively easy to make. It uses flour but, unlike baking, it’s wonderfully imprecise. It’s also very relaxing, taking about half an hour to knead and then roll out the dough. Kneading and rolling count as exercise too, right? Fresh Pasta (4 servings)
- 2 cups all purpose flour
- 2 eggs
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- ½ tsp salt
Mound the flour on a clean, flat surface. Make a depression in the center all the way down to the bottom and, into this, crack the eggs and pour in the olive oil and salt.
A Few Simple Ingredients
And a Lot of Fun
Begin by using a fork to whip the egg mixture, slowly incorporating flour from the side. Once the liquid is beaten to consistency and beginning to thicken you can start using your hands to work in the remaining flour.
Knead the loose dough ball with your hands, folding it over onto itself and pushing it down with the heel of your palm. Do this for about eight minutes, until the dough is soft and has the feel of putty. If the dough gets too dry or begins to flake you can add some water. But be careful – do not add more than a teaspoon at a time. Wrap the dough ball in saran and set aside for 15 to 30 minutes. You can use this time to begin a sauce, and put on some salted water for cooking the pasta. By this time the dough should have recovered from its physical trauma. Take it back to the counter and cut it in half just to remind it who’s the boss. Actually you need to do this because the whole ball would be too unwieldy. Sprinkle some flour on the rolling surface, form the ball into a rectangle, and begin to roll it out with a rolling pin . The goal is to get the dough as thin as possible, where it hangs like a paper towel in your hands and is almost translucent. Continue to flour and flip the dough as in gets thinner and spreads out. You will probably need to cut the piece in half again before you are done. You can wet and seal any tears.
Square Off Edges
Once done you can cut the pasta into any number of shapes – thin strips for spaghetti, thick strips for fettuccini, little rectangles for farfalle, or sheets for lasagna. You could also take two large sheets and make ravioli, or cut squares for tortellini. Half of the original dough ball will yield enough pasta for two servings. Now it’s time to cook. Raise the heat on the salted water to a simmer and put in the fresh noodles, make sure to give it a stir to ensure that they do not stick together. You will cook this for about three minutes, to the point where the noodles start to fill out and become flexible, but not fully cooked. Place the noodles in a strainer and transfer to the sauce to finish cooking, or douse with cold water to stop them from cooking further if the sauce isn’t finished.
Douse in Cold Water if the Sauce isn’t Ready
Finish Cooking in Sauce
(pictured is a quick sauce made from olive oil, diced tomato, vegetable broth, and salt; finished with fresh basil)
You want to finish cooking in sauce so that the taste is incorporated into the pasta. To do this, leave the sauce a little watery, then add the pasta and turn the heat up to high. Residual liquid should be absorbed by the noodles or boil off in a few minutes. You’re done when the sauce is thick and the noodles are soft but still have a little resistance to the teeth (AKA al dente). Left over dough can be stored in the fridge for about a day. You could also roll this into pasta that can be dried on a rack for later use, or dusted with flour and stored in the fridge. Once you’re confident with your skills in rolling out the dough you can experiment with flour mixes, like using half semolina for a stronger texture or whole wheat due to some health myth. You can also add herbs or diced dried vegetable, like sun dried tomato or flaked garlic.