Although pasta has become one of the main staples of our diet, very few of us actually make our own. I am lucky enough to live in an area that has some fantastic Italian delis within a short drive of my flat – Italo in Vauxhall and Gennaro in Lewisham are my local favourites – both sell great fresh and dried pasta, so why bother making it? The truth is that making pasta is a bit of a faff. For one thing, you need equipment; I know many blogs will tell you that you can make fresh pasta with nothing more than a bowl, wooden spoon, rolling pin and knife but, let’s face it, this is a huge effort. I will argue that, unless you are very well practiced, you will need a food processor and a pasta rolling machine. In addition to this, you have to allow chilling time and drying time, which turns making a batch of tagliatelle into a whole-evening activity. And you need to buy specialist flour that it expensive. It almost isn’t worth it.
Only it is. Making your own pasta is like making your own bread: the freshness alone gives it the edge over anything you can buy. There is only a couple of hours between measuring out the flour and eating the finished pasta, so you can actually taste the richness of the egg yolk and the slight graininess of the semolina. There is none of the sticky, starchy coating that you often find on shop-bought pasta, and it cooks evenly and in a couple of minutes. I have been making my own pasta since receiving a pasta rolling machine for Christmas a few years ago – if you want to start making your own pasta, I would definitely recommend investing in one. I have a KitchenCraft model that you can pick up in most department stores for around £25. You can also buy an attachment for your KitchenAid, although these are considerably more expensive. You push the dough through a thin slot using a crank, almost like you would use a mangle. Gradually reducing the width of the slot both thins out the pasta and stretches it, creating a beautifully translucent yellow sheet. My pasta rolling machine has a number of cutter attachments for making spaghetti and tagliatelle, or you can make ravioli by adding pockets of pre-cooked filling along a sheet, topping it with another sheet and cutting out shapes with a pasta wheel or cookie cutter.
- 150g type ’00’ flour
- 2 tbsp semolina
- 2 egg yolks
- 1 tsp water (if needed)
Put the flour, semolina and egg yolks into a food processor and pulse until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. When you pinch the mixture, it should come together as a dough. If it feels too dry, add the water a splash at a time until it reaches the right consistency. It should not come together in the way that pastry does when made in the food processor, but should be moist enough to squeeze the mixture together into a very firm dough. Knead the dough for a couple of seconds, then wrap in clingfilm and chill in the fridge for one hour.
Divide the dough into two halves and set one aside. Take the other half of the dough and, using your fingers or a rolling pin, flatten the dough until it it about half an inch thick. With the roller on the widest setting, roll through the pasta, guiding it with your hand on the way in. Fold the pasta in half width-ways and put through the roller, then fold in half lengthways and put through the roller. Repeat this process two or three times until you have a smooth rectangle. Turn the next setting, narrowing the rollers, and roll the pasta through three times, guiding it with your hand. Repeat this process on five further settings until you have a thin sheet – do not use the last two settings as they tend to make the pasta a little too thin. To make it easier to roll, I often join together the ends of the sheet at around the third setting and roll through the pasta on a loop. Carefully remove the pasta sheet from the pan and cut as you wish.
Makes enough tagliatelle or ravioli to serve two, or six medium-sized lasagne sheets.