The jokes just keep getting better, don’t they?
Being of Italian heritage, it is expected that you make fresh pasta at least a few times a year. It doesn’t have to be all the time…but you do have to do it. Otherwise you forfeit your ‘being Italian’ card. Someone actually comes to your door and takes it away. Seriously. It’s true. It happened to this guy I know’s brother-in-law’s sister’s cousin’s nephew’s uncle. So, it’s totally legit.
All kidding aside, there is just something about fresh pasta; both making it and eating it. It’s different experience, a different texture, a different flavor.
I remember the first time I ever made fresh pasta. I was in 6th grade and it was during our Home Economics class. I remember it distinctly because I was in class with a boy I had a major crush on. We didn’t work together, but his work station was across from mine. Ah memories. While I might have been distracted by my crush’s beautiful blue eyes, I was brought back to reality by the taste of the pasta. All romantic thoughts for the boy were gone, replaced by noodles. They had a bit of a bite to them, or what I’ve heard described as a ‘tender crisp’ feeling. While my family would always cook our pasta to Al Dente at home, this was something beyond that. This was new. This was unexpected. This was fresh. You could tell there was something different about this pasta. It was just better.
But, Home Ec ended and with it the fresh pasta faded from memory.
I’ve been taking out a bunch of cookbooks from the library. We have a great cookbook section full of not only recipe books, but books that talk about the science of good food, cooking in general, and what makes recipes work. Those are the books that I’ve been reading about. They are really interesting. While I get to learn about what makes good food work, I also get to apply those principles to my food. And. so far, it’s been working. I don’t know why I’m surprised. I think I’m more in awe of just how much science goes into our food. Especially when you make it yourself. That’s good chemistry. The science that goes into prepackaged food is terrifying chemistry.
I love applying what I learn, so I’ve been cooking up a storm for myself and my boyfriend. I knew I wanted to do something with pasta, and decided to whip up a batch of fresh noodles and see how it went. I don’t have a pasta machine; I mixed the dough by hand; I rolled it out by hand; I cut it by hand. Sure, this was probably more work, but it was absolutely worth it.
That pasta had a beautiful golden yellow color, it tasted delicious, and looked really rustic (because my noodles were cut unevenly–obviously this was intentional). It was easy to make, and fun, too. I highly recommend it. Even if you aren’t Italian. You don’t have to be of a certain heritage to enjoy good food. I do have to say, however, that this recipe is so delicious because it is made with egg yolks, whole milk, and butter. This make the dough silky, rich, and utterly wonderful. Not the healthiest for you, but we all deserve to splurge once in a while.
I used these noodles in a roasted ratatouille dish. I’d like to think that all the fresh veggies offset all of the delicious fats from the pasta, thereby rounding out the meal. But, this dough is just as good for making ravioli (which I did later), or simply eating as plain noodles with a little oil and cheese. The only limit is your imagination.
This pasta is meant to be cooked and consumed right away. Because it is made with egg yolks and milk, it will not keep terribly long without being fully cooked. While you are cutting all the dough, it is fine to drape it over something to keep the pasta from sticking to itself, or whatever you are resting it on. Be sure to flour each piece.
Egg Yolk Pasta
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
8 egg large yolks
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons whole milk
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
Salt and pepper to taste
Mixing by hand
Place the flour in a mixing bowl, forming a well in the center. In the well, place the egg yolks, oil, and milk. Gently whisk the wet ingredients together with a fork. Once the wet ingredients have been combined, begin mixing the flour into the wet ingredients, working from the inside out, until a soft dough is formed. At this point, not all of the flour will be incorporated. Turn the dough out onto your floured work surface. Kneed the dough, pulling in more flour from the excess, and adding more as needed, until a smooth, silky dough has formed.
Resting the dough
Cover the dough with oiled plastic wrap and let it rest for 30 minutes before rolling out.
Rolling the dough
Uncover the dough and cut in half. Keep one half of the dough wrapped in plastic while you work with the other half. Lightly flour your work surface and, using a rolling pin, begin to roll out your piece of dough. Dust the surface of the dough with flour and roll from the center outward to the edges, turning the dough a quarter of a turn and flipping it completely over every few rolls. Continue to roll the dough until it is about 1/8 inch thick and about 10 X 12 inches. Cut into your desired shape. You’ll notice in the pictures below that I’ve folded the dough in order to cut it into lengths. If you do that, make sure to flour generously. Otherwise your pasta will stick.
Once the first half of the dough is rolled and cut, repeat with the second half. If you don’t want to have that much pasta, then proceed to cooking!
Cooking the pasta
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Make sure it is generously salted, think ocean water. Cook the noodles for 3-4 minutes. Serve with the sauce of your choice, fresh veggies, or simply tossed in olive oil and sprinkled with cheese.
This recipe makes enough pasta to feed 4-6, depending on your portion sizes.