How to make homemade pasta clifford a. wright’s cooking tips

I find making my own pasta, as with my own bread, a relaxing, therapeutic activity, and not a chore at all. Well, that’s not really true–it is a chore–but one with a delicious reward. There are many electric pasta-making machines on the market that can make this process easier. But remember that there are two kinds of machines. One both mixes and kneads the dough and is fitted with extrusion devices for making tubular pastas such as macaroni. The other simple is an electric roller. You need to prepare the dough by hand and then flatten it to get through the roller. I prefer this second type of machine as I mix and knead the pasta dough by hand. The electric extrusion machines generally do not knead the dough sufficiently to develop the gluten in the durum wheat.

Still, if you want to make any kind of tubular pasta you will need this machine. You may be reluctant to make your own pasta because of the time required or past failures. I know this feeling, since I once was a beginner and regularly failed at making pasta. After much experimentation I have come to this recipe, which works for me every time– and it should for you too.

Most failures in pasta making come about because too much liquid is used. When it appears that the dough won’t hold together many people add more water and/or eggs, too much, and the pasta becomes brittle when dried. At first, when kneading the dough with water or eggs, my recipes may seem like they are lacking in liquid. But they are not. You will still have to flour the dough once you are rolling it to keep it from sticking.

Pasta-rolling machines, as opposed to pasta-making machines, are hand-cranked or electric rollers that roll thin the pasta previously made by hand or in an electric mixer. They are widely available, not expensive, and worth having. The rolling process continues, in a fashion, the kneading process, meaning that you need to knead less than when doing everything by hand.

Unwrap the resting pasta dough and push down with your hand. With a rolling pin continue rolling until the dough is about 12 inches in diameter. Divide in thirds, covering two-thirds with the wax paper or plastic wrap. Take the remaining third and roll it through the widest setting of the roller. After reducing by another notch and rolling it through, fold in thirds so you have a nicely shaped rectangle. Reduce the setting another notch and continue rolling, ratcheting down the roller until you have your desired thickness. As you roll remember to flour both sides at the slightest sign of stickiness.

In a large baking tray spread some flour. Cut the pasta into your desired shape or the shape called for in the recipe, either by hand for lasagne or pappardelle, or with the spaghetti/vermicelli/fettuccine cutting attachment that comes with the roller. Drag the larger pasta shapes in the flour to dust and set aside at one end of the tray while you continue rolling and cutting. Dust all pasta with flour as you make it so it doesn’t stick together. Remember–always dust with flour. Otherwise the pasta may become hopelessly stuck together . Arrange the cut pieces of pasta on paper or kitchen towels or a white sheet to dry.

You must be a complete fanatic to want to roll pasta by hand. It’s a pain in the neck and I can’t see the point of struggling with a rolling pin when a pasta roller machine will do the job, unless of course you are following the "therapeutic" concept above. Should you wish to roll the dough by hand you need a long (at least 24-inches) rolling pin called a matterello , rather than the standard rolling pin with handles. Dust the work surface with flour and flatten the ball of dough with the palm of your hand. Start rolling away from you. Rotate and roll. Rotate and roll continuing in this manner so the dough is circular. Continue rolling until the dough is very thin, about 1/16-inch.

At this point the dough needs to be stretched (a job the pasta rolling machine does magnificently). Place the rolling pin at the top of the circle of dough–at 12 o’clock if it were a clock face. Make sure the dough is dusted with flour. Grab the very tip of the dough and pull it over the rolling pin. Roll the pin toward you until you reach the 10 o’clock-2 o’clock line. Place the palms of both hands together in the center of the rolling pin and press down hard, rolling back and forth as your hands travel to the outer edge of the rolling pin, as when you made snakes with play dough as a child. Do this three times. Now roll another half of the dough up and repeat. Unroll the dough and turn it around so the 6 o’clock position is now at 12 o’clock. Repeat the rolling process again. Do this entire process about 4 times, making sure you dust with flour.

In Italy, pasta has always been traditionally associated with the south. Northerners have been rice and polenta eaters for the most part. Southerners have been so closely tied with the eating pasta, people in Naples were know as mangiamaccherone (macaroni-eaters). In the south pasta is usually made with fine durum wheat flour (semolina) and water and nothing else. When cooks in the north make pasta, as they do in Bologna, for example, they use soft wheat or bread wheat such as the fine white flour sold in our supermarkets as all-purpose flour, and they mix it with eggs not water. Things change, of course, so today you find cooks in the south who might use a mixture of durum wheat flour and fine white flour, and sometimes they even use eggs.