Pasta is just one of those things that is so easy to buy. Pasta is in every store and its inexpensive. In a corporate sense, it can be scaled very easily. Make a pound or kilo, or make 1,000 it is the same process, ergo the more you make the less incremental work it takes. The recipe is so simple, that a big production can cut corners on quality and it’s still pasta. The texture and flavor are lacking, but it’s still essentially a noodle. This excerpt is from an “Italian” pasta manufacturer in the United States edited to protect the innocent.
opened a pasta processing plant and distribution facility in New York, US. Spread over 49 acres, the facility features a 110,000ft² pasta processing plant and a 205,000ft² distribution centre. …the plant produces 81,000t of pasta per year.
Interesting that they left the words “with love” out. To make pasta with love it takes effort actually you could probably make two to three trips to the store in the same amount of time. So why bother?
Like so many scaled products, pasta is lost. You know its lost when you can now buy handmade pasta in stores for 4 times the price of the cheap box stuff. People know the difference and will pay for it. Paying eight to ten dollars or six to eight quid for pasta is, frankly insane. Not when you can make it yourself, and the taste and texture are even more amazing. It is totally worth the effort.
Flour is the Key
For really excellent pasta you will need some really excellent flour. The flour you want is “00” or “Double Zero”. What makes this flour different is it is a low protein, low starch, and low gluten flour, milled very fine so it is soft. I realize a lot of those words are trendy, this flour is ancient, I guess everything old is new again. Certainly, you can use all-purpose unbleached flour, but you will notice the difference.
The first time I bought this flour was in a small Italian market in San Diego, right in the center of Little Italy. After we moved away I was perplexed where to buy it. Turns out you can get all you want on Amazon, a slew of brands too. They ship right to your door, it’s genius. Typically, I buy six at a time and just put them in airtight bags.
From Here it Is Just some Effort
If you have a Kitchen Aid with a dough hook life is a bit easier, but not much, making the dough by hand is really pretty easy too. If you are going the Kitchen aid route, they have clear instructions here. I’m not a fan of their recipe, I do not add oil to my pasta dough, I opt for wine. It’s a Ligurian trick I picked up in my travels, and so good. It’s the only dough I make now.
Making by hand is fun as well as unique. Sadly, pasta does take some experience, so don’t be disappointed the first time, it may not be perfect, but you will find after a few tries it will be amazing. Don’t worry unless something catastrophic happens, like you left the eggs in their shells, it will be edible and good. Feel free to cheat, whenever you want you can chuck the dough in the mixer and let the dough hook finish the kneading.
Pasta dough with a splash of wine it’s a Ligurian trick I picked up in my travels, and so good. It’s the only dough I make now.
- 2 Cups (300g) ‘00’ Flour
- Pinch Kosher salt
- 2 Eggs plus 2 yolks (or 3 eggs)
- 1 tsp White wine or "Splash"
- 1 tbsp Water (just in case it's dry)
- Extra flour, for dusting
On a good size cutting board or a smooth countertop, make a volcano of flour. That’s a mountain with a crater in the top deep enough to hold the eggs. Sprinkle with salt.
Put the eggs and yolks in the crater, you can break the yolks before, I like to poke them as I start. Add the wine.
Here is where the real fun begins, our goal here is to integrate this into a dough without it running all over. Some people use a bowl, feel free, I like a board. Lift the sides to the center, and stir with your fingers, repeat this and soon a loose dough will form. Your fingers will be coated, so the real trick here is getting to this point with just one hand.
Once you have a dough add another hand and knead the dough into a ball. If it’s too hard drizzle water, too wet more flour. You will know the consistency with a few tries.
The dough will be a light yolk color, and a smooth sturdy ball, sadly this is where experience comes in. wrap it in plastic wrap and let it sit for 20 minutes.
When you open it If it’s too wet (soft or worse sticky) when you press it in the roller you can dredge it in flour and it will integrate into the dough too. Pasta rolling numbers equate to passes through the roller, ergo a six is six passes where each is consecutively thinner. Plenty of chance to add flour.
You are done with the dough
Making the Noodle Pasta is either extruded or rolled, depending on the noodle. You need a machine for this, hand or electric. I strongly, strongly, very strongly recommend the KitchenAid pasta roller, and if you want tube noodles like ziti and penne, or spiral versions, there is another attachment. We are talking an investment if you don’t have these, if you need an economical option, there are hand crank versions that have long histories. They work very well too. For the flat noodles, you will roll. I like to roll to a 5 or 6 depending on the noodle, linguine is a 6, spaghetti is a 5. Again, it’s an experience thing. Here is where we stop, picking a noodle type is recipe dependent
My Pasta Pal
We have what is arguably the sweetest dog in the universe. Lily is a real character and there is one food this dog loves above any, fresh pasta. She is my pasta pal and will not leave the kitchen while I’m making it. I don’t feed her any (okay so once maybe, or twice), but she knows a secret of how to get some. As the noodles are hanging to dry some crack and fall. As they pile up and one will fall on the floor. She is on the spot for that event. Often, I dry them over cookie sheets to catch any falling noodles. When there is a crack and fall it makes a light sound of noodle hitting metal. She runs at something close to lightspeed to the kitchen, looking for opportunity.
That sound we call “Lily Crack”.