Everyone should make pasta at least once in their lifetime – it's very rewarding. There's something magical about turning flour, oil and eggs into a delicious food at home. You'll get better as you go along, so expect a good result the first time and a better one next time.
To make Pasta for 4-6 people you need:
500g flour (preferably strong flour – ask at the deli, if not you can use plain white flour)
2 tablespoons of virgin olive oil
4 eggs (medium)
1. Prepare a clean large wooden board or a clean table or counter top. Make sure it is clean but please do not spray it with disinfectant first. You don't want to taint the food or poison yourself.
2. Sieve the flour from a height onto the surface to make a fountain shape. Make a hole in the centre.
3. Put the four eggs in the hole and and pour in the oil.
4. Beat the eggs with fork – you will do this by making circular motions with the fork, breaking up the yolks, combining it with the oil, then gradually drawing in flour from the edges. This is a very comforting thing to do.
5. Once all the flour has been taken in to the egg and the oil mixture, you should have a dough – only take in as much flour as you need to make a soft dough. If your dough looks soft and pliable and is forming a ball, don't take in any more flour. The weather can be humid or dry and it affects the flour, you may need less flour some days. If you need more flour, add it too.
6. Knead the dough until it is smooth and forms one piece. Do this by pushing the dough out with both hands and turning it over on itself. It takes about ten minutes gentle kneading to get it round, smooth and it will become slightly shiny when it is ready. Don't pummel the life out of it, enjoy the process. However, it is good to know that you can't overwork pasta dough, it's not like pastry so don't worry about over-kneading, just don't resort to violence, this is a pleasurable activity and it takes a little time.
7. Cut the dough in half and make two balls. Let the pastry sit for an hour, covered with a dry clean teatowel, or in cling film. It will be tired after all that kneading and it needs to rest. So do you. Clean the kitchen and get ready for the next stage.
8. Sprinkle flour over a clean board or surface. Roll out the dough with a rolling pin, clean wine bottle but preferably a long thin piece of wood. If you are serious about making pasta, you can buy a pasta rolling machine or go to the DIY shop and get them to sell you a piece of a thin brush handle (you need one about 1 to 1 and a half inches in diameter, and about 12 inches long). It's perfect for rolling out pasta and quicker than taking out a machine and cleaning it afterwards. It's also more authentic.
9. If when you are rolling out your pasta, you think it is too stiff or tough, cover it again and leave it for another half an hour to ease out.
10. Cut into small squares, strips of tagliatelle or large squares if you are making lasagne. Cook in salted boiling water, gently stirring as the pasta will be delicate. It takes between 3 to 6 minutes to cook, depending on what size you make the pasta, and how much you have in a pan. Pull out a bit of pasta to check after 3 minutes, and check after 5. Drain gently, toss in a little olive oil to stop it sticking. You can also make ravioli but for a first timer, it's best to do something simple. Serve with a strong ragu/bolognese sauce which you have made the day before and a glass of Italian red.
– It's best to make your first pasta on a day when you are not expecting visitors. Make it a private celebration between you and one trusted friend, then if it is not all you hope for, you wont' be under pressure. Having said that, this is an excellent recipe so your first attempt should be good.
– In Italy, they have a little strip of wood on the end of their wooden boards to stop the dough slipping off the board.
– We hate wasting food, but it's better to start again with more flour and eggs if you are not happy then to stop making pasta dough forever if you don't meet your high expectations.
– Fresh pasta keeps for a few days, wrapped tightly in the fridge. Knead it again before using, then leave to rest for half an hour. You must use very fresh eggs if you want to keep it.
– If you are making lasagne (cut the pasta into lasagne size sheets), you need to cook them until they are al dente, that is slightly 'resistant to the teeth' when you test them, then layer them into the dish.