There is nothing like good homemade pasta. I remember my dad making sheets of pasta when I was little and hanging them over the backs of kitchen chairs and across tables, spread on kitchen towels. I use a hand-cranked manual pasta machine to roll out the dough, which takes virtually no skill at all.
Every time I make this I am amazed by how easy it is and how worth it for the fresh pasta. This time I made Tortolloni Stuffed with Spinach, Prosciutto and Ricotta from Marcella Hazan's Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking. They were fantastic.
Marcella uses these basic measurements for pasta dough:
For yellow pasta dough: 1 cup APF + 2 large eggs = 3/4 lb homemade pasta (3 standard or 4 appetizer portions
For green pasta dough: 1 1/2 cups APF + 2 large eggs + 1/2 of a 10 oz package of frozen spinach, thawed or 1/2 pound fresh spinach = 1 lb pasta (4 standard portions)
NOTE: cook the spinach, drain, and cool it and then squeeze out all excess water before chopping fine.
Here is the recipe for 3 egg yellow pasta dough, which I used for the ravioli:
3 large eggs at room temperature
1 2/3 cup (+ more as needed) all-purpose flour
[1 Tbs milk (only if making stuffed pasta)]
Measure 1 2/3 cup all-purpose flour onto a work surface and form into a mound, and scoop a deep hollow in the center. Break the eggs into the hollow. I you are making a stuffed pasta, also add 1 Tbs milk to the mixture. (If you want to make green pasta, add spinach now too -- see instructions above). Beat the eggs lightly for a minute or so, as though you were making an omelet.
Draw some of the flour over the eggs, mixing it in with the fork a little at a time, until the eggs are no longer runny. Marcella makes this sound easy but it takes practice to not break the walls and let the eggs run off. I made it through about half the flour and then started to lose some egg -- But I just sort of grabbed it and mounded the rest of the flour around it and began to knead it together at this point.
Draw the sides of the mount together with your hands, leaving some flour to the side, and work the eggs and flour together, using your fingers and the palms of your hand, until you have a smoothly integrated mixture. If it is still moist, work in more flour. NOTE: I had to add quite a bit more flour during this process. The dough should be neither sticky nor dry -- knowing the feel takes time but the dough is pretty forgiving.
When the mass feels good to you and like it does not need more flour, wash your hands, dry them, and run a simple test: press your thumb deep into the center of the mass; if it comes out clean, without any sticky matter on it, no more flour is needed. Put the mass to one side, scrape the work surface absolutely clear of any loose or caked bits of flour and crumbs, and get ready to knead.
This is the most important step, and one I will not pretend to have mastered. I have read over and over again that you cannot cheat and get good homemade pasta by kneading in a machine -- you gotta use them hands! Marcella says to do it like this:
Push forward against the mass using the heel of your palm, keeping your fingers bent. Fold the mass in half, give it a half turn, press hard against it with the heel of your palm again, and repeat the operation. Make sure that you keep turning the ball of dough always in the same direction, either clockwise or counterclockwise, as you prefer. When you have kneaded it thus for 8 full minutes and the dough is as smooth as a baby skin, it is ready for the machine.
Here's me in action:
Here is my smooth-as-baby-skin dough:
Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and put it in the fridge to rest for at least 20 minutes, or overnight.
When you are ready to roll the dough out, cut the ball into 3 parts per egg used -- so for 3 egg pasta, into nine pieces.
To make most pastas, the process is simple. Spread clean, dry, cloth dishtowels over the counter near where you will be using the machine to put the pasta on. Flatten each piece; feed one piece at a time through machine at widest setting and lay on towels; reduce the setting by one notch, and feed each through again. Repeat this process until all are at their thinnest setting and then cut pasta in whatever shape you are making (you should let the sheets dry about 10 minutes before cutting them).
If you are making stuffed pasta, wrap all but one piece in plastic wrap to they do not dry out and thin one piece at a time, stuff it as directed, cut it, and then proceed to the next piece, like so:
That's pretty much it! Worth the effort entirely!