If you’re ever thinking that there’s nothing in the fridge and you’re not sure what to do for dinner, as long as you have flour and eggs, you can have a fantastic pasta dish. What was once the only way to make pasta, and in fact, a daily method of food preparation has become a delicacy!
It is a common perception to think that freshly made pasta is a special and fancy treat, and in many ways it is. The texture of fresh pasta is incomparable to the dried option you purchase from the supermarket. The bite is somehow chewier but delicately soft, the flavor is fresh and sublime.
But at the same time, fresh pasta is incredibly simple and not fancy at all. What becomes complicated, is the different shapes and fillings.
If your fridge is fairly stocked and you happen to have basil, pine nuts, parmesan, garlic, and olive oil, you can make the best pesto of your life.
What You Need For Fresh Pasta
If you’re lucky enough to have a pasta maker at home, that’s amazing. I myself was ecstatic when my parents gifted me my very own pasta maker, and used the bejeesus out of it for months after.
* That is until I discovered that using a rolling pin ended up yielding pretty much the same quality of dough, in about half of the time.
The pasta maker is amazing if you’re looking for super even and clean cuts, and if you’re wanting your pasta to be particularly thin. My experience with rolling out the dough with the pasta maker is that it is extremely time-consuming, but the neatness of the pasta is worth the time.
But if you’re more like me and don’t mind a rustically shaped pasta, a rolling pin (or even a label-less wine bottle will suffice) will get the job done.
You will also need a plastic bag or cling film, a whisk (or fork), and a pot to boil water.
Ingredients & Method
Another cool thing about homemade pasta is that it is very easy to determine how much of each ingredient you’ll need per person served. The rule of thumb is basically 2 eggs, and 1.5 cups of flour per person. I’ve used fancy semolina flour and I’ve used regular all-purpose white flour. I find that the results can be quite similar, and fresh pasta is simply good no matter what.
* If you’re looking for a more dense and darkly colored dough, just toss in a couple of extra egg yolks!
1. Once you’ve determined how many people you would like to feed, measure out the required amount of flour directly on to a super clean and dry counter. Take your measuring cup and create a nice bowl within the mound of flour, so that it creates a kind of volcano. Ensure that the volcano’s mouth is large enough to fit all the eggs, but the walls of flour aren’t too narrow that they’ll leak — just over an inch width is a safe measurement.
2. Once you’ve established the right size of the volcano, you may then add all of your eggs to the volcano’s mouth. DON’T FORGET TO ADD SALT! You know how much salt you want, I’ll let you take care of that measurement. Add a dash of olive oil, and get to whisking!
3. The technique here is to basically knock in the inner wall of the volcano very gently, and whisk it into the egg bath. Do it slowly, and very gradually keep adding in more flour. Once the mixture is thick enough that it can be kneaded (you’ll be able to tell because it’s getting stuck in the whisk) cover your hands in flour, and incorporate the remaining flour into the mixture.
4. Continue kneading the dough until all of the flour is incorporated.
* If it’s feeling dry and crumbly, add some water. If it’s feeling too sticky and is getting stuck all over your hands, add some more water. Pasta making is a very intuitive type of cooking.
5. You’ll know the dough is ready when it doesn’t stick to the counter, and when you poke it, the hole slowly unpokes itself (did that make sense? It did in my mind). From here, wrap your lovely dough blob in plastic wrap or a plastic bag, wrap it up so it’s airtight, and let it sit for 30 minutes.
Time For Pesto!
While our dough is resting, now is the perfect time to get that pesto prepared. You will need:
- pine nuts
- parmesan cheese
- olive oil
I prefer to make pesto with a mortar and pestle. The reason for this is that this method squeezes the ingredients, rather than chopping them up into fine particles.
* When pine nuts are squished, the oil squeezes out of the nut and becomes very aromatic, and produces a lovely kind of paste. This is an excellent base for pesto.
1. Pesto is another very intuitive thing to make. I like to begin with the pine nuts. Take a hand full of pine nuts and start grinding away in your mortar and pestle. You’ll smell the oil starting to come out, and continue grinding until a paste is formed.
2. From here, add the garlic. You can either finely chop it or mince it first. Add this to the mortar and keep grinding (it ends up being your upper body workout for the day).
3. Tear up your leaves of basil, and slowly start grinding them in. Don’t add too many at one time, or else the surface area becomes slippery and difficult to grind.
* A little pro tip: at this stage add some coarsely ground salt and pepper. These rough particles help tear apart the basil leaves.
4. Now its time to add your grated parmesan. Go wild with this. There is no such thing as too much parmesan.
5. From here, we add olive oil. Do these small splashes at a time, and taste as you go. If it tastes like any particular ingredient is lacking, now is the time to adjust. Keep adding splashes of olive oil until you reach the desired consistency – not so thin that you could pour it out, but not so thick that it would be hard to mix into your pasta.
* It should basically sound like when you stir Kraft Dinner to perfection.
Resume Pasta Making
1. Set your pesto aside, and unwrap your dough. When you poke it, you should be reminded of the Pillsbury Dough Boy. Fill a pot with water, salt it like the sea, and bring it to a boil.
2. While the water is being brought to a boil, divide the dough into quarters. Take 1, and put the other 3 back in the plastic wrap to keep it from drying out.
3. If you’re using a pasta maker to roll in out, start on the largest setting, feed it through once, fold it, feed it through a second time, fold it, and then move on to the next smallest setting. Continue this process until you reach your desired thickness. Do the same with each quarter.
* Sometimes pasta makers will have a toothed setting that can cut your sheet of dough into spaghetti or linguini.
* If it’s quite sticky, don’t be afraid to sprinkle your pasta layer with some flour before feeding it through the pasta maker.
2. If you’re using a rolling pin, divide the dough into quarters again. Take one quarter at a time, sprinkle flour onto a clean and dry countertop, and roll it out. I like to roughly form the dough into a log or cylinder and roll it out lengthways to achieve a longer sheet of dough.
3. Once the sheet of dough is at your desired thickness (don’t forget it will expand quite a bit in the water) take a very sharp knife, or a pizza cutter, and go nuts! Get crazy with your pasta style! Cut it into tetrahedron if you want!
4. Once you’ve finished one-quarter of your dough liberally flour the pieces, and either loosely pile them up or lay them flat while the remaining quarters are processed.
5. Once all the dough is rolled out and cut into your desired type of pasta, toss it into the rolling boil. Make sure you stir the water as the pasta is going in to prevent unfortunate clumping. If your pasta is a thicker cut, it shouldn’t take any longer than 2 minutes to be ready. If your cut is thinner, it’s safe to check it after 30 seconds, it will cook extremely quickly.
6. Drain the pasta, but save a small amount of pasta water. Return the pasta back into the pot or a mixing bowl.
7. Add a couple of splashes of pasta water to the pesto mixture and mix it together, then drop the pesto into your pasta that eagerly awaits. Mix to your heart’s content.
8. Finish your delectable pesto pasta dish off with a little sprinkle of olive oil, some more grated parmesan if you’re a fiend like me, and a nice squeeze of lemon to brighten it up.
So as you can see, it does not take a master pasta maker to create a timeless and incredible pasta dish. And in only about 40 minutes’ time!
If I’m counting correctly, that is only 10 ingredients! And ingredients that many common households may already have.
Give it a try. Once you have made your own freshly rolled pasta, there truly is no going back.