In a quest to find out how to make perfect pasta from scratch, Essteele chats with Anna Maria Eoclidi from Sydney-based Casa Emilia Cooking School.
Chef Anna Maria hails from a small village in the Emilia-Romagna region, which just happens to be the pasta-making capital of Italy. Anna says, “making your own pasta is really rather a simple affair, but for some reason, many home cooks are completely intimidated, which is a shame because the real deal is far superior.“
Please note: you will need a pasta-making machine for this recipe.
- 400 plain flour
- 4 eggs, at room temperature
- Plain flour, extra, to dust
Sift flour and salt together onto a clean surface. Use your hands to shape the flour into a circular mound. Make a well in the centre. Place the eggs in the well and use a fork to lightly whisk. Use your fingertips to gradually blend a little flour into the egg mixture. Working with your fingertips, gradually draw the flour into the centre (being careful the egg mixture does not run out of the well) until the mixture forms a dough. To check that the dough is the right consistency, press a dry finger into the centre of the dough. If it comes out clean without being sticky, it is the right consistency. If not, continue to knead in a touch more flour and test again.
Lightly flour the surface and begin to firmly knead the dough by using the heel of your hand to push down into it and then away from you. Lift the dough with your fingertips and fold it back on itself towards you. Turn the dough a half turn and repeat. Continue and repeat. Keep kneading the dough for 6-7 minutes or until smooth and elastic. Kneading is an essential part of the pasta-making process as it develops the gluten in the flour, giving the pasta a firm texture. Divide the dough into four equal portions and wrap it individually in plastic wrap or cover with a clean, damp tea towel to prevent dough from drying out. Set aside for 10 minutes to rest.
Attach your pasta machine to the side of a workbench and fix the machine’s rollers to the widest setting. Spread four clean, dry tea towels over the bench and close to the pasta machine. Unwrap one of the dough portions and use the palm of your hands to flatten it into a rectangle. Lightly dust the rollers with flour and roll the dough portion through. Dust again with flour and repeat on the same setting. Fold in the shorter sides of the dough to meet in the centre to form a smaller rectangle and feed through the machine again. Repeat this process 5-6 times or until smooth.
Reduce the width between the rollers by 1 and roll the dough through as before. Repeat the process, reducing the setting each time until the dough is 1-1.5mm thick. Please note that settings on all pasta machines vary, in some cases the last setting on some machines may roll the dough too thin, resulting in it sticking to the rollers and tearing. Be mindful to reduce the setting and roll the dough until it reaches the desired thickness.
Spread the pasta sheet over the clean tea towels. When laying out the pasta sheets, they should not touch or overlap as the moist pasta will stick together. Repeat steps 3-4 with the remaining portions of dough. Set the pasta sheets aside for 10-15 minutes (depending on the temperature in your kitchen) or until dry enough not to stick together but pliable enough not to crack. Trim the edges of the pasta. Cut into 14 x 25cm pieces to make lasagne sheets or see follow the instructions in step 6 to make fettuccine.
Make sure the sheets of pasta are well-dusted with flour on both sides so they don't stick to the cutting tools. To cut the pasta into fettuccine by hand, loosely roll up a pasta sheet starting from the shortest end. Trim the ends and discard. Use a sharp knife to cut the pasta crossways at 5mm intervals. Unravel the pasta. To cut pasta into fettuccine using the pasta machine, you will need a fettuccine-cutting attachment. Fit the machine with the attachment and feed the pasta sheets, one at a time, through the fettuccine attachment.
Cook your pasta! Bring plenty of salted water to a rolling boil in a large stockpot. Cook until just al dente and serve immediately.
With thanks to the Casa Emilia Cooking School.Regular classes Saturdays - Group bookings by arrangement.