Fun with Pasta

This weekend I got to try my hand at homemade pasta for the first time in quite a while. Allison and I cooked for a client that bought a four course dinner for six that we had donated for a charity auction last July. I decided that I would be in charge of the pasta course, mostly because I found my pasta machine after moving recently. I have been working in a restaurant where we make pasta quite a bit differently than the last restaurant I worked at, and I was eager to try my hand at the old egg pasta recipe I used to know so well. The recipe is very similar to the one listed in The French Laundry Cookbook, so you might want to try both and see which one you like more. I think the best thing about making this recipe at home was that I had enough time to knead the dough for a full half hour by hand rather than cutting it down to fifteen minutes like I used to have to do at the restaurant. I know, a half hour seems like a long time, but if you don't have a prep list a mile long, the rhythm of moving and pressing the dough becomes quite meditative after a while. You can knead this dough for a full ten minutes and get good results, but its easier to roll out the more you knead it. Pasta dough has few ingredients, but the technique takes a bit of practice. Don't get frustrated if the dough doesn't turn out perfectly the first time. Remember, you can always add more flour as you knead the dough, and the longer you knead it the better your results will be.

Egg Pasta dough

1 lb AP Flour
10 eggs
1 whole egg
1/2 tsp salt
3 tbs Extra Virgin Olive Oil

You will need:
a pasta rolling machine
a rolling pin
a spray bottle full of clean water
a pasta cutter, a rolling one that has decorative edges is nice, but you can use a pastry cutter.

Measure the flour into a large mixing bowl. In another bowl whisk the eggs together with a fork. Make a well in the flour and add the salt and the olive oil. Pour the eggs into the well. While turning the bowl counterclockwise, whisk the eggs with a fork clockwise to incorporate the flour a bit at a time into the eggs. There should be leftover flour in the bowl once the eggs are incorporated. If the dough is sticky or too wet to turn out onto a floured surface and knead, add more flour. Eggs are often different sizes so the dough can be a little too wet sometimes. Don't worry, just add more flour and you will get the feel for it. Once the dough has enough flour, turn out onto a floured surface and knead until it is a smooth ball, roughly for 10-30 minutes. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap once it is kneaded, and let it rest in the fridge for at least 2 hours. To roll it out, let it sit out of the fridge for a half and hour. Knead it a couple of times and then let it rest 10 minutes. Roll out the dough according to the instructions on your pasta roller.

I made ravioli this weekend, and for the filling I made a white bean puree but you can use sausage or ricotta cheese or whatever as long as it is firm enough to stand in a little blob, but soft enough so it doesn't tear the pasta. So, for ravioli, take a sheet of pasta, and place little blobs of filling about an inch and a half apart. Take a spray bottle of water and spray the the dough. Carefully lay another sheet of pasta over the first one, starting at one end and slowly laying the top layer over the filling. If you start at one end, you can press the layers of dough as you go so you don't get any air pockets in the ravioli. Once the two sheets are put together, cut squares around the filling with your pastry cutter or pasta cutter. Cook the pasta for about two minutes in boiling salted water. Toss in your favorite pasta sauce!