The syllogism at work was simple, logical, but, alas, wrong. It followed these lines:
Major premise: all Italian prepare homemade pasta.
Minor premise: the Tuscan Foodie is Italian, and claims to be able to cook.
Conclusion: the Tuscan Foodie is regularly making homemade pasta.
The problem with this is that the Major Premise is wrong: I don't know ANYONE in Italy who regularly makes homemade pasta. We all buy it at the supermarket, exactly like everywhere else in the world. I myself have done homemade pasta probably only a dozen time (before I used violence on the pasta machine, but this is another story...)
Homemade pasta was a regular in Italian kitchens a couple of generations ago. I have NO memories of my mother, now in her sixties, preparing homemade pasta. But I do remember her mother, my grandmother, regularly making homemade tagliatelle and gnocchi, and quadrucci, a short pasta used in a chickpea soup common in the Marches region (so you know the truth: I am not 100% pure Tuscan. My blood is 50% Tuscan, 25% Lombardy and 25% from Marches).
Making homemade pasta is not difficult. On the contrary, it is pretty easy. But it requires time, and you end up making a mess in the kitchen. All these elements explain why, unless you own a restaurant or you have a strong passion for homemade pasta, you almost never make it.
My sister has been visiting me from Italy over the past couple of weeks. We have been talking a lot about my grandma, who recently passed away. Among other things, we were also revisiting our childhood memories of the many dishes that she used to cook but that now have gone kind of lost. And so we also talked about homemade pasta. And we felt like cooking it together, as a sort of tribute to her.
And not only did we do it, but we even made it grandma style: no pasta machine to cut it, no Kitchenaid to prepare the dough, no nothing. We made it with our good old hands kneading the dough, and then folding it and cutting the tagliatelle with a knife. Exactly how she used to make them.
And since I have been asked many times, here is how I do it (when I do it):
DOWNLOAD OR PRINT THIS RECIPE HERE
Ingredients for 6 people300 g / 10 oz of all purpose flour
salt, a pinch
1 tablespoon of water
- Create a "volcano" type of shape with your flour, with a hole in the middle. Put your eggs in the crater of the volcano, add the salt, and start kneading. You can let a Kitchenaid type of machine do the work for you, or you can do it old-style, by hand. In the Kitchenaid it will take 10'. By hand a bit more.
- Mid-way kneading, add the water. You want the end result to look like this ball here:
- Let the dough rest for at least 20 minutes, covering it with a dry cloth. I usually let it rest for at least one hour.
- Then you have to roll out the dough. You can do it with a pasta maker, but if the dough is too humid (it happens) you are going to get mad (and you may - if you are crazy like me - go berserk and destroy the pasta machine). My advice is to roll it out with a roller, by hand. You want the end result to be a thin layer of pasta. If the dough is too humid, and get sticky on the roll, just add more flour.
- Once you have a thin layer of dough, you can do whatever type of pasta you want with it. I decided to do tagliatelle. Again, if you have the pasta maker, all you do is to pass the dough through the machine, and it will cut the tagliatelle for you. We did it grandma style here: what you do is fold the thin dough three or four times, and then cut it with a knife, like this:
- You then have to open each tagliatella individually. They will not be all the same: some will be larger, some will be longer. It doesn't matter. It is actually better, because the pasta will really have a homemade look. The different width will not affect cooking time.
- Put the tagliatelle to rest on a floured plate, so that they dry, and add some more flour on top. The end result will look like this:
Now you are ready to cook them. Keep in mind these two facts:
- Home made pasta cooks in less time than the pasta you buy at the supermarket. It very much depends on the type of pasta you are making. As a general rule of thumb, count 3-5 minutes. Taste the pasta to make sure it is ready!
- Homemade pasta absorbs A LOT more sauce than regular pasta. If you are used to a certain quantity of condiment when you cook spaghetti or tagliatelle from the supermarket, consider adding 50% more (rule of thumb, it may vary) condiment.
PS: as you might have guessed, this is the first of what I think could be a long series of recipes. We'll see.