The Pleasure of Fresh Pasta

Fresh Egg Pasta and Variations (Roasted Beet, Spinach, Lemon, etc.)

Yield: 4 to 6  |  Total time: 1 hour 20 min
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Photo by Jennifer McGovern
Photo by Jennifer McGovern

I admit that I've gotten lazy and have been relying on dried noodles, which are delicious in their own right and more than suitable for thicker, deeper sauces.  However, I recently gave my friend and test kitchen mate, Jennifer, a pasta machine as a gift and when we decided to have a pasta-making day, I had forgotten how fresh noodles always amaze; they're simple to make (flour + egg or flour +water + olive oil) and deliver a textural richness that is both delicate and perfect for lighter sauces. 

So, as Jen and I rolled up our sleeves and dug into our pasta-making adventure, we got a little carried away and made fresh egg dough and then decided to try adding in roasted beet, fresh spinach, lemon zest, herbs (photo below), and so on.  Once you master the basic egg dough, experiment by adding in your favorite ingredients--think cracked black pepper, garlic, squid ink, butternut squash, and saffron.  I've even seen red wine pasta and chocolate pasta.



Fresh parsley leaf in pasta; photo by Kim Sunée
Fresh parsley leaf in pasta; photo by Kim Sunée

For beet pasta: we roasted beets and puréed them before working them into the flour and egg; the dough is wetter than the basic flour + egg, so you'll need to keep adding a bit of flour at a time until the dough is no longer sticky.  The beet flavor is earthy and deep and just needs a little bit of crème fraîche to brighten it up.  For spinach, substitute the beets with lightly blanched spinach that you purée before adding it in with the eggs and flour.

photo ks
photo ks

A NOTE ON FLOUR: Italians use "00" flour and I had some on hand, but we also made the dough using Bob's Red Mill unbleached white flour and King Arthur unbleached bread flour.  Frankly, the "00" was a bit tougher (and took longer) to knead and the result, though delicious, was not that much tastier than the pasta made with the other easier-to-find flours.  For an explanation of flour types, check out the experts at The Kitchn.

 

photo ks
photo ks

ingredients:

  • 8 ounces beets (about 2 medium), *roasted, peeled, and pureed (in a blender or food processor); Save beet greens for garnish
  • 14 to 15 ounces all-purpose or bread flour
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Optional: Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese; crème fraîche

NOTE: If making basic fresh egg pasta, omit the beets and use 4 whole eggs in place of the eggs and egg yolk to 14 ounces flour.

directions:

  1. *To roast beets: Trim beets of greens (reserve greens to sauté in olive oil with salt, pepper, and garlic); place on aluminum foil and drizzle with olive oil (this will make peeling easier).  Roast at 400° for about 35 minutes or until tender when pierced with a fork.  Let cool enough to handle; peel with a knife or vegetable peeler.  Cut into quarters and pulse in a food processor or blender until smooth.
  2. Place 14 ounces of flour on a clean kitchen counter.  Have more flour at the ready.  Make a well in the center, using your hand.  Gently crack the eggs and egg yolk into the well. Using a fork, slowly whisk the eggs, whisking flour from the sides and into the well until most of the eggs and flour are incorporated.  The dough will look a little shaggy.  At this point, it's helpful to use a bench scraper or pastry scraper to work the eggs into the flour.  IF USING THE ROASTED BEETS OR SPINACH, add the vegetable purée into the flour and egg mixture and start kneading it together.  Use the heel of your hands and push the dough away from you; continue kneading until the dough is very smooth; this can take 5 to 15 minutes.  Add flour, a little bit at a time until the dough is no longer sticky and forms a smooth ball.  Wrap in plastic wrap and let it sit at room temperature to rest for about an hour.  AT THIS POINT, you can refrigerate the dough, just make sure it's wrapped tightly.  Bring back to room temperature before continuing.
  3. Remove plastic wrap and place dough onto a lightly floured surface.  Divide the dough into 4 to 6 portions.  Using one portion at a time, roll/stretch the dough a bit and then pat it down into a rectangle.  Fold dough in half or thirds and, making sure the machine is dusted with flour, pass the dough through the widest setting (usually number 7; on mine it's 1).  Fold the dough again in half or thirds and pass through a second time. Continue passing the pasta through the machine, narrowing the rollers with each pass until your pasta is to your desired thickness.  At this point, you can hand cut the pasta into larger sheets or, using the pasta cutter part of the machine, run the dough through to make spaghetti or fettuccine.  Dust the pasta generously with flour or semolina until ready to cook and place on a clean kitchen towel or parchment paper.  NOTE: You can also drape the pasta over a a pasta drying rack (or the back of a chair or along the side of a wooden spoon).  Once completely dry, store in plastic bags until ready to use.
  4. Bring a large pot of salted water to a vigorous boil.  Add the fresh pasta, stirring occasionally to keep the pasta from sticking and bring the water back to a boil.  Let cook about 3 minutes.  Drain and toss with olive oil, butter, crème fraîche, or your sauce of choice.  Serve pasta in warm bowls and serve at once with grated cheese on the side.

 

Allow the dough to rest at least one hour before shaping and cutting; photo by Jennifer McGovern.
Allow the dough to rest at least one hour before shaping and cutting.


Photo by Jennifer McGovern
Photo by Jennifer McGovern


Date Published: February 18, 2014

All recipes have been tested by the Test Kitchens unless otherwise noted.

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