Making pasta dough by hand is simple. Do not be discouraged by the length of my instructions. With a little practice it will easily become second nature, and you will have finished dough in less than 15 minutes. Rolling the dough out by hand with a rolling pin undoubtedly makes better pasta than using a machine with rollers, but it is a difficult skill to master. Fortunately, machine-rolled pasta is almost as good as hand-rolled and certainly far superior to store-bought. If you must buy pasta, look for dried egg noodles in boxes rather than the so-called “fresh pasta” in the refrigerated case. Pasta cooked while still fresh is not superior to pasta that dried completely. Pasta that is not allowed to dry spoils unless some kind of preservative is used, which is why you should avoid commercial “fresh pasta.”
The region that is best known for egg pasta is Emilia Romagna, of which Bologna is the capital. There are other regions that have an egg pasta tradition and each makes it differently. In Tuscany a little olive oil and salt is often added to the dough. In Liguria they use fewer eggs and add water. In Piedmont and the Veneto, a very rich pasta is made using mostly egg yolks and very few whites. The egg pasta from Emilia Romagna is made simply with whole eggs and flour. My family is from Emilia Romagna, so perhaps I am biased, but I find this egg pasta the most satisfying.
It is impossible to give a precise measurement for the flour. Depending on the size of the eggs, the humidity, and even the temperature in the room, you may need more or less. When making pasta, it is important to avoid cold, so use room-temperature eggs. Also, do not work on a naturally cold surface, such as marble or stainless steel. Wood is best; otherwise Corian or linoleum will work. If you do not make perfect pasta dough the first time, don’t be discouraged. All you need is a little practice. Just have some store-bought pasta on hand for dinner the first time around.
© 2005 Giuliano Hazan. All rights reserved.