Ten years ago nearly to the week, the woman who will become my wife and I became “official.” We had graduated from the dating stage to become girlfriend-boyfriend. Much credit for crossing that threshold I attribute to making homemade pasta.
One of the joys of approaching and entering your 30s is experiencing that tangible feeling of “grown up.” Making pasta for the first time felt like a mature act, on the level of hiring an accountant or buying A Love Supreme on 180-gram vinyl.
This isn’t intended as a tutorial, because I’m far from the expert on pasta-making. But if a 27-year-old noob could make tagliatelle impressive enough to woo a lady, then anyone with egg, flour, two hands and a rolling pin can, too. Consider this a friendly nudge to better your life.
How exactly to make it? It’s 2019, and all the world’s knowledge can be found on YouTube. (Note: You can make pasta with a food processor, but I’m opting to share videos using the “egg-in-flour-well” manual method.)
For starters, I enjoy Gennaro Contaldo’s fold-back-and-press technique of forming the dough ball:
Binging with Babish is a relative newcomer to the YouTube cooking video elite, and his videos are filmed beautifully with filled with practical tips:
Here’s a delightful Italian grandmother demonstrating how she makes pasta by hand:
If you’re making pasta once a year, you really don’t need a pasta machine (though a good one could be purchased for $60). Heck, you don’t even need a rolling pin; my colleague Gwen Ihnat rolled pasta with a wine bottle.
At the very least, you’ll want all-purpose flour and semolina (track down some double-zero flour for bonus points), some good eggs, a fork to whisk, and a clean surface.
What text-based resources can further your pasta-making knowledge? Serious Eats, one of our favorite things about the internet, has written perhaps the best deep-dive on fresh pastas extant. Just read this and you’re set for life.
Let me also offer three books: My desert island-cookbook is always The Complete America’s Test Kitchen TV Show Cookbook, forever and always, and in that book is a pasta recipe that’s been tested and perfected by a team of the smartest and methodical cooks in the country. Jamie Oliver’s original The Naked Chef cookbook turns 20 this year (!!!), and what I remember about this recipe was it involves a lot of egg yolks. Finally, I know we’d rather never invoke the name Mario Batali again, but his Molto Italiano is a book I begrudgingly pull from my bookshelf often.
If I can offer one tip: Let the dough ball rest! It’s tempting to immediately roll out the pasta into sheets, but by wrapping the dough ball with plastic wrap and letting it sit for 30 minutes, the dough ball becomes more pliable, and much more of a joy to handle.
I hope that’s enough of a nudge, or a swift kick to the rear end. Go make pasta. It’s a nice thing.