Yesterdish’s Basic Pasta Dough

Another core technique that is worth mastering. And it is more of a technique than a recipe, really. It has two ingredients, only one of which you’re actually measuring.

Soft wheat flour and egg. This is the traditional way of making fresh pasta in Emilia-Romagna, home to tagliatelle and Bolognese sauce, as well as tortellini. It has the right elasticity, lightness, and cooks to the correct al dente texture.

We should probably talk about what’s not in this recipe. First, there’s no salt. There’s no salt because you’re going to cook it in salted water and it’ll absorb salt when it absorbs the water. If the water tastes like it’s got enough salt, the pasta will have enough salt. If your pasta doesn’t get salty enough, then it didn’t absorb the water (which would be a neat trick, since fresh pasta will cook in seconds).

Just as a recipe can’t give you a certain measurement for water in pizza dough, I can’t give you a certain time to wait before cutting noodles. Touch is the only measurement you can trust.

Second, there’s no oil. Some people theorize that oil makes the dough easier to work with. I disagree. If you have a problem with your dough not being flexible enough, you’re probably not rolling it thin enough or you’re living in the desert and it’s drying out too quickly. I suppose if you’re feeling the need to make lasagna in Death Valley, then yes, a little bit of oil might help. Otherwise no, you don’t need this.

Third, it doesn’t use durum wheat. Durum is high in protein and very hard. It’s used commercially because it holds its shape better, which is important if you’re extruding your pasta. So it doesn’t help in making long pasta or filled pasta or lasagna, where you want the pasta to stay supple.

There are at least two homemade pastas that you might reasonably make with semolina and water: orecchiette (which requires no special tools) and cavatelli (which requires a board with ridges or a mechanical cutter). And semolina does have a slightly more pronounced flavor than 00 flour. But I’ve never said, “gee, I wish this product that is primarily made of flour tasted even more flour-y.” For more or less everything else you might want to make at home, you’re better off using soft wheat flour, like in this recipe.

Some basic advice on rolling out pasta with a hand-cranked machine (which I used here): you don’t need to pass the pasta through EVERY number. I use just the odd numbers. The traditional thing to do is roll the dough through a number; fold it in thirds, like an envelope; roll it through again; then reduce the number, putting the rollers closer together. How far you want to go on the machine depends entirely on your machine–I’ve owned machines where 1 was a bit thick for my tastes, and I’ve owned machines where 1 was too thin to realistically use for anything.

It actually took me years to learn to make long pasta because I couldn’t figure out just when to cut them. I’d try waiting as long as I’d seen my mother wait, and I’d feed my beautiful sheets of dough into the cutter and roll to watch ribbons fall apart, then clump into a mess at the bottom. The humidity here is much higher, so I needed to wait much longer. (I ended up making a lot of lasagna just so I didn’t have to cut anything.)

How long will you need to wait? I’m not sure. Just as a recipe can’t give you a certain measurement for water in pizza dough, I can’t give you a certain time to wait before cutting your sheets into noodles. Touch is the only measurement you can trust.

If you’re wondering where these noodles ended up, continue to the next recipe

From Yesterdish’s recipe box.

Yesterdish’s Basic Pasta Dough

Per Person:
100g (about 1/2 c.) bread or 00 flour
1 egg

Stir egg and flour till dough comes together. Knead well, about 8 minutes, till smooth. Rest 30 minutes in fridge. [Note: wrap in plastic wrap before resting.]

Roll out; let dry slightly before cutting, till dough has texture of parchment.

Can add black pepper or herbs when rolling out.

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