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Fresh Egg Pasta (Pasta all'Uovo)
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Fresh Egg Pasta (Pasta all’Uovo)

Lidia's Italian-American Kitchen

by Lidia Matticchio Bastianich,
 2001, Alfred A. Knopf

Makes enough pasta for 6 first-course or 3 to 4 main-course servings

“Most countertops and work surfaces are built at a height that is comfortable
for chopping and mixing. The best height for kneading any kind of dough is
slightly lower – at about hip level, where you can really get your weight into
the kneading process. If you have a convenient surface at such a height, use
it to knead dough.
If not, any countertop will do – just stand back a little from the table so you’re pushing out, not down, on the dough. My grandmother’s method for kneading
dough is a little different from most – she taught me to dig my knuckles into
the dough in between rounds of gathering and pushing the dough. I pass that
method along to you here.
Even if you prepare the dough in a food processor, I suggest you finish kneading
the dough by hand. Once you develop a feel for the right consistency of pasta
dough, you’ll never lose it. You’ll be able to make adjustments to the kneading
time or the amount of flour or water to work into a dough each time you
make it.”

3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, or as needed
4 large eggs
1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
Warm water as needed

Spoon 2 2/3 cups of the flour into the work bowl of a large-capacity food processor fitted with the metal blade. Beat the eggs, olive oil, and salt
together in a small bowl until blended. With the motor running, pour the
egg mixture into the feed tube. Process until the ingredients form a rough
and slightly sticky dough. If the mixture is too dry, drizzle a very small
amount of warm water into the feed tube and continue processing. Scrape
the dough out of the work bowl onto a lightly floured wooden or marble
surface. (To mix the dough by hand, see below.)
Knead the dough by gathering it into a compact ball, then pushing the ball away from you with the heels of your hands. Repeat the gathering-and-pushing motion several times, then press into the dough, first with the knuckles of one hand, then with the other, several times. Alternate be-
tween kneading and “knuckling” the dough until it is smooth, silky, and
elastic – it pulls back into shape when you stretch it. The process will
require 5 to 10 minutes of constant kneading, slightly longer if you pre-
pared the dough by hand. (Mixing the dough in a food processor gives
the kneading process a little head start.) Flour the work surface and your
hands lightly anytime the dough begins to stick while you’re kneading.
Roll the dough into a smooth ball and place in a small bowl. Cover with
plastic wrap. Let the dough rest at least 1 hour at room temperature, or
up to 1 day in the refrigerator, before rolling and shaping the pasta. If the
dough has been refrigerated, let it stand at room temperature for about
an hour before rolling and shaping.
To mix the dough by hand:
  Pile 3 cups of flour in a mound on a marble
or wooden surface. Make a well in the center of the mound, like a crater
in a volcano, all the way to the work surface. Beat the eggs, olive oil, and
salt together in a small bowl until the eggs are foamy. Pour them into the
well. Beat the egg mixture with a fork while slowly incorporating the flour
from the sides of the crater into the egg mixture. The more flour you in- corporate, the thicker the egg mixture and the wider the well will become.
Continue beating until the dough becomes too stiff to mix with a fork. If
this happens before almost all of the flour is incorporated, drizzle a tiny
amount of the warm water over the egg mixture and continue mixing. (It
is possible that you will not need any water at all.) Flour your hands well
and knead the remaining flour into the dough until a rough and slightly
sticky dough is formed. Shape the dough into a rough ball and set it aside.
Sprinkle your hands generously with four, rubbing them together to re-
move any remaining scraps of dough from your skin. Scrape any dough
and flour from the kneading surface and pass all these scrapings through
a sieve. Discard the scraps in the sieve and use the strained flour to con-
tinue kneading the dough. Make sure your hands are clean, and flour
them lightly and knead the dough as described above.

Variation: Fresh Spinach Pasta

Wash 6 cups (lightly packed) stemmed fresh spinach in plenty of cool
water, changing the water if necessary, to remove all traces of sand and
grit. Drain the spinach well and transfer it, with just the water that clings
to the leaves, to a large pot. Cover the pot and place it over medium heat.
Cook, stirring the spinach once or twice, until tender, about 3 to 4 minutes
after the water in the bottom of the pot begins steaming. Drain the spinach
and let stand until cool enough to handle. Squeeze as much liquid from the
spinach as possible with your hands. (The drier the spinach is, the less flour
the pasta dough will absorb and the more tender the finished pasta will be.)
Combine the eggs called for in the recipe [above] and the squeezed spinach
in the work bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade, and pro-
cess until the spinach is finely chopped. Proceed as above, substituting the
spinach-egg mixture for the eggs called for in the main recipe. It is likely
the spinach-pasta dough will take a little more flour during mixing and kneading than egg-pasta dough, even if you have been very careful to
squeeze out the water.

To Roll Fresh Pasta Dough

Using a pasta machine: Cut the dough into six equal pieces, flour them
lightly, and cover them with a kitchen towel. Working with one piece of
dough at a time, shape it into a rectangle about 5 x 3 inches. Set the rollers
of the pasta machine to the widest setting and pass the pasta rectangle
through the rollers with one of the short sides first. Fold the dough in half
and pass the same piece of dough through the rollers a second time, short
side first. Repeat with the remaining dough pieces. Flour the dough pieces
very lightly as you work – just enough to keep them from sticking to the
rollers. Continue rolling the pieces of dough in the same order (so they
have a chance to rest a little between rollings), decreasing the width by
one setting each time, until all the pieces of dough have been passed
through the next-to-thinnest setting on the pasta machine. [Illustration is
included in cookbook.] Don’t pull the dough sheets through the machine
as they get longer or you will stretch the dough sheets out of shape, but
support them lightly from underneath as they emerge from the rollers.
Keep the pieces of dough that aren’t being rolled covered with a towel.
If you find the dough is very elastic, rest it 5 - 10 minutes, then continue.
When all the pasta has been rolled into sheets, let them rest, completely
covered with lightly floured towels, about 30 minutes before cutting them.
By hand:
Cut the rested dough into four equal pieces and cover them with
a clean kitchen towel. Working with one piece at a time, roll the pasta out
on a lightly floured surface to a rectangle approximately 10 x 20 inches (if
you plan to cut fettuccine or tagliolini; to make pasta squares for cannelloni
or manicotti, see separate instructions below). Dust the work surface lightly
with flour just often enough to keep the dough from sticking; too much flour
will make the dough difficult to roll. If the dough springs back as you try to
roll it, re-cover it with the kitchen towel and let it rest 10 to 15 minutes.
Start rolling another piece of dough and come back to the first one once it
has had a chance to rest. Let the pasta sheets rest, separated by kitchen
towels, at least 15 minutes before cutting them.

To Cut Fresh Pasta Dough

For fettuccine: If your pasta machine has cutter attachments approxi-
mately 1/2 inch wide, use them to cut fettuccine. If not, cut them by hand
as follows: Cut each sheet of pasta into 10-inch lengths. Brush the sheets
lightly with flour, and roll them up lengthwise. Cut the rolls into 1/2-inch
strips. Unroll and set the strips and toss them lightly to separate them.
Form little nests with the pasta strands, and keep them on a baking sheet
lined with a lightly floured kitchen towel until you’re ready to cook them.
For tagliolini: If your pasta machine has cutter attachments approxi-
mately 1/4 inch wide, use them to cut tagliolini. If not, flour and roll them
as described above, and cut the rolls into 14-inch strips.
For pappardelle: Cut sheets of hand-rolled pasta into 5-inch widths.
(This won’t be necessary if you’ve rolled out the pasta with a machine,
as the width will be very close to 5 inches.) Cut the sheets into 12-inch
lengths and stack several of them together. Cut the stack crosswise into
1 1/2-inch strips to make pappardelle.

Cooked Pasta Squares

Makes 18 to 24 squares [for manicotti, cannelloni,
or “little handkerchiefs”]

Fresh Egg Pasta
2 tablespoons olive oil

Prepare the pasta dough and let it rest.
To form the pasta squares by machine: Cut the dough into six equal
pieces and roll them out, following the directions above, to 6-inch-wide
strips, each approximately 24 inches long. Cut each strip crosswise into
6-inch squares.
To form the pasta by hand: Cut the rested dough into four equal pieces. Following the directions above, roll each piece out to a rectangle approxi- mately 18 x 12 inches. Cut each rectangle lengthwise into two 6-inch-wide
strips; cut each strip crosswise into three 6-inch squares.
Bring 6 quarts of salted water and the olive oil to a boil in an 8-quart pot
over high heat. Set a large bowl of ice water next to the stove. Stir about
half the pasta squares into the boiling water. Return to a boil, stirring gently.
Cook the pasta, semi-covered, stirring occasionally, until the pasta squares
float to the top, 1 to 2 minutes.
Remove the pasta squares with a wire skimmer and transfer them to the
ice water. Let them stand until completely chilled. Repeat the cooking
and cooling with the remaining pasta squares. When the cooked noodles
are chilled, remove them from the ice bath and stack them in a baking
sheet, separating the layers with clean, damp kitchen towels.

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