While most people immediately think of Italy when they hear the word “pasta”, it is most likely a descendent of ancient Asian noodles. Unlike other common Italian foods (e.g., pizza and tomato sauce), pasta has a long history dating back thousands of years. Many believe that pasta was brought to Italy from China by Marco Polo during the 13th century; however, there is evidence to support the creation and consumption of pasta of Etruscans and Romans as early as the first century AD. The ancient variety of pasta was believed to have contained similar in ingredients, although it was oven baked rather than boiled.
Today, pasta is a staple food all around the world. Italians take their pasta very seriously and are experts at creating both fresh and dried varietals with beautifully crafted sauces and fillings to complement each pasta type. Dried pastas are more common in the South of Italy, made with a mixture of semolina (i.e., the hard grains left after milling flour) and water. Dried pastas are made to stand up to heavy sauces and toppings. Examples of traditionally dried pastas are penne, ziti, and farfalle. In the North, pasta is most commonly made fresh, using some combination of eggs and egg yolks, water, oil, flour, and salt. Fresh pastas are more common in Italy and are made to be served with lighter sauces. Stuffed pastas (e.g., ravioli, tortellini), lasagna noodles, and tagliatelle noodles are all traditionally served fresh.
This recipe is for a fresh egg pasta. Using a rolling pin or a pasta maker (or Kitchen aid attachment), the pasta dough can be shaped into any number of noodle types. The noodles will be eggy and silky, and they are an excellent vehicle to a light olive-oil based sauce, a carbonara sauce, or a meat sauce; this pasta can also be the shining star of the dish and simply tossed with grated parmesan cheese.
2.5 cups type “00” flour, plus more as needed
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 whole eggs
3 egg yolks
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus more as needed
In a food processor, combine flour and salt and pulse to combine. Add egg yolks and olive oil to the food processor and run until the dough holds together. If the dough is too dry, add more olive oil or egg. If the dough is too wet (it shouldn’t be sticky), add more flour.
Move the dough to a floured surface and knead until the dough is smooth. Shape into a ball, cover with plastic wrap or a cloth, and allow to sit at room temperature for an hour.
After one hour, cut the dough into four pieces, working with one piece at a time. Keep unused pieces of dough covered to prevent drying.
If using a pasta machine, adjust the machine to its widest setting (usually #1). Place the dough in the machine and turn the crank until the dough is all the way through. Your goal after this is to shape the dough into a rectangle. To do this, fold the dough into three (like a business letter). Put one of the narrower, open sides through the machine on setting #1. See photo below:
Picture courtesy of http://www.cookingforkeeps.com
Run the dough through the machine four to five more times.
Change the setting to #2 and run the dough through the machine two the three times. Do this for each setting until you’ve reached a desired thickness. If the dough becomes too long, cut it and work in halves. Try to thin the dough to setting #7 for lasagna and stuffed pastas and #5 or #6 for anything else (e.g., tagliatelle, angel hair, spaghetti).
If the dough starts to stick to the machine, add more flour. When you’re ready to cut the noodles, flour the pasta sheets on each side to avoid the dough sticking to itself. Use the machine’s cutting setting to create the pasta type you’d like.
The pasta can be eaten immediately or frozen to be eaten later.
Serve alone, with olive oil and cheese, or with your favorite toppings.