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How to make fresh pasta

By By Suzanne Gibbs and Lucy Buhler
How to make fresh pasta
Photography: Richard Mortimer
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Freshly made pasta has a wonderful texture and flavour that adds another dimension to many classic pasta dishes.

Slideshow: how to make fresh pasta

Traditionally it is mixed by hand and then a machine is used to roll and cut the pasta. However, it is quickly and easily mixed in the food processor, then it can be rolled out using a pasta machine or by hand.

Mixing dough by hand
A food processor is the easiest way to mix the dough, however if you don't have one you can do the mixing by hand:

Sift 2 cups flour into a mound on a work surface. Break the eggs into the centre and add salt.

Start blending the eggs into the flour using a fork. Then use your hands to gradually work in more flour, until a paste forms. The dough should be soft and you may not need to work in all the flour. If the mixture is too moist, add a little more flour.

If you have a pasta-making machine, you can use it to knead the dough according to manufacturer's directions.

Otherwise, scrape down and a clean work surface. Lightly dust your hands with flour. Holding the dough firmly with one hand, use the heel of the other hand to push it down and away from you, then fold it back towards you. Repeat this action, giving the dough a quarter-turn each time. Flour the surface and your hands when necessary. The dough should be smooth and elastic after about 10 minutes.

Cutting and shaping
To help thin the sheet of dough, lift it with one hand and gently pull it with the other without letting it break. It should be at least 2-3mm thick. Loosely roll each strip over on itself three or four times. Using a very sharp knife, cut the roll lengthways into strips:

2-3mm for linguine
3mm for tagliolini
6mm for tagliatelle
8mm for fettuccine
20mm for pappardelle
Lasagne should be cut into rectangles about 7 x 11cm.

Pasta machine know-how
Pasta machines are invaluable if you like making fresh pasta. Though they may take time to get used to at first, they will speed up the process of making pasta.

1. The purpose of a pasta machine is to flatten the dough into a thin sheet and cut it, and also to knead the dough. Set the rollers at their maximum opening. Cut the dough into 4 pieces. Flatten one of the pieces and run it through the machine.

2. Fold this sheet into thirds. Give it a quarter turn and run it through the machine again.

3. Repeat this three more times, until the dough feels smooth and elastic and has a satin glow. Repeat with remaining three pieces.

4. Reduce the opening of the machine one setting and run the strips through the machine again, one at a time. Lay the sheets on a cloth as they are done.

5. Reduce the opening another setting and repeat. Continue this way, reducing the setting each time, until the dough is flattened to the desired thickness.

6. Cut sheets into strips, using the cutter recommended.

7. Spread pasta out on tea towels as they are cut, or hang them on a suspended dowel or broomstick until ready to cook or store.

Flavoured pasta

Herbs: For herb pasta, you will need approximately ½ cup of finely chopped herbs. You can use one herb or a combination of two or more. Basil, coriander, mint, oregano, parsley, and thyme work well. Be sure the herbs you select are fresh.

Whole leaf herb pasta: A pretty affect can be made using whole leaves of flat-leaf parsley, chervil or coriander. To do this, lightly scatter whole herbs on half of rolled out pasta dough and fold over other half to enclose. Roll out again thinly before cutting.

Spinach: Select enough fresh spinach to produce approximately 1/3 cup pureed spinach. Frozen spinach can also be used in place of fresh spinach. Thaw frozen spinach, drain well and puree. Less egg may be needed.

Tomato: Flavour dough with 2 or 3 tablespoons of tomato paste. Pureed sun-dried tomatoes can also be used. Egg may be needed.

Beetroot: Select 1 medium or 2 small beetroot and cook, peel, and puree before adding to pasta dough. Less egg may be needed.

Black pepper: Add 1 tablespoon coarsely ground black pepper to the flour before beating in eggs.

Pasta storage
While the noodles are still semi-soft, take a few at a time and curl into nest shapes. Leave the nests in a cool, dry place on towels for at least 24 hours, until completely dried, or they will become mouldy. Pack into airtight containers, with absorbent kitchen paper between each layer.

Cooking fresh pasta
Cook fresh pasta in rapidly boiling, salted water. Once it has risen to the surface of the water, cook it another minute and it will be done.

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