Egg Pasta of Emilia Romagna

Pasta all’Uovo

Preparation info

  • Difficulty

    Easy

  • Makes enough pasta for

    4

    as a main course

Appears in

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.

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Preparation time: 20 minutes
Total time from start to finish: approximately 45 minutes

Ingredients

  • cups all-purpose unbleached flour
  • 3 large eggs

Method

  1. Pour the flour in a mound in the center of your work counter. With your fingers make a well, pushing the sides out to make it large enough for the eggs to fit comfortably. It is better to make the well too wide than too small to avoid the possibility that the eggs will overflow.

  2. Break the eggs into the center of the well. Using a fork, beat the eggs as if you were making scrambled eggs until the yolks and whites are thoroughly blended. Use the fork to mix a little flour into the eggs by taking it from the bottom of the inside walls of the well. Continue until the mixture is thick enough to cling to the fork. Use your fingers to squeeze the dough attached to the fork back into the well and set the fork aside. Push about ¼ cup flour to the side, then use your hands to bring the rest into the center of the well. Mix together with your hands to begin forming a dough. If the dough feels sticky when you plunge a finger into it, add a little more flour. The dough should feel moist but not sticky. Wrap the dough in plastic, because the surface of the dough can begin to dry out in as little as a minute, while you scrape off any bits of dough that have stuck to the counter. Reserve any remaining flour to the side.

  3. Unwrap the dough and begin kneading it. Think of stretching the dough rather than compressing it by using the heel of your palm and pushing away from you. Knead until the dough feels homogeneous and smooth. If it sticks to your hand or to the counter, add a little more flour. On the other hand, if it feels too hard to knead, you may have added too much flour. Try wetting your hands and kneading the moisture in. If that does not seem to help, it’s probably easier and faster to start over. If you don’t need to add any more flour while kneading, it should take only 5 to 6 minutes. Adding flour during the kneading process will increase the time since the further along you are, the longer it takes for the flour to get incorporated. When you have kneaded the dough sufficiently, wrap it in plastic again and let it rest for at least 15 minutes and up to 3 hours. As the dough rests, the gluten in the flour will relax, making it much easier to roll the dough. Never refrigerate or freeze pasta dough.

  4. Unwrap the pasta dough and knead it a few times to incorporate the moisture that inevitably rises to the surface. The surface of the dough at this point should feel silky smooth (a baby’s bottom is what it is traditionally compared to).

If rolling the dough by hand

  1. Flatten the dough by pressing it down on the counter with your hands, making an even, round disk. Use a rolling pin at least 30 inches in length if possible, place it on the bottom third of the disk, and roll away from you, stopping just short of the edge. Turn the dough 90° and repeat. Continue until the dough is about ¼ inch thick.

  2. Roll the top edge of the dough onto the rolling pin. Hold the dough in place with one hand and place your other hand on top of the rolling pin. Gently stretch the dough by rolling the pin back and forth. While the dough is still on the rolling pin, turn it 90°, unroll it, and again roll the top edge onto the rolling pin.

  3. After you’ve done this at least four times and the dough is no more than inch thick, begin rolling more of the dough onto the rolling pin and use both hands on the pin, sliding them together and apart while rolling forward and back. Continue until the pasta is very thin, almost transparent.

    If making noodles, let the pasta dry on a cloth until it is leathery in consistency, dry enough so that the cut noodles will not stick together but will still be pliable enough to keep from cracking. It will take between 5 and 25 minutes, depending on the temperature and humidity in the room. To cut pasta using the machine, cut the pasta sheets into 12- to 15-inch lengths. Put each piece through the desired cutting attachment of the pasta machine. Loosely fold the noodles into nests. Once the noodles are completely dry, they will be easier to pick up. If cutting the pasta by hand, roll the dough loosely and use a chefs knife or cleaver to cut the pasta into noodles of the desired width. After every 5 or 6 cuts, unravel the noodles, then loosely fold them into nests.

    To make filled pasta: You need to keep the pasta moist in order to seal it. Work on just a portion of the pasta at a time and cover the rest with plastic wrap so it won’t dry out. If using the machine, roll out only one piece, while keeping the rest of the dough wrapped in plastic. Cut the pasta sheet in half before putting it through the rollers the last time. For filled pasta squares, such as tortelloni or tortelli, lay the pasta flat on a cutting board. Place tablespoon size dollops of filling at 1-inch intervals along the bottom half of the pasta sheet. Fold the top half of the pasta sheet over the filling and gently press down with your fingers between the dollops to squeeze out excess air. Use a pastry cutting wheel to trim the bottom and sides and cut between the dollops of filling, forming approximately -inch squares. The edges will be sealed by the cutting action of the pastry wheel. Place the filled pasta in a single layer on a dry cloth. Continue the process until all the pasta and/or the filling is used up.

    Noodles can be cooked right away or dried and stored in a cool dry place (not the refrigerator) almost indefinitely. Noodles that are cooked right away will be done by the time the water comes back to a boil. Dried noodles will be done in about 3 minutes. Filled pasta needs to be cooked within a couple of hours or the pasta that is in contact with the filling will get too wet and eventually dissolve. Filled pasta is best when served as soon as it is cooked, but it is possible to make it up to 2 days ahead if necessary. Cook it partially, about 1 minute, then toss with some vegetable oil, cool, and store in resealable plastic bags in the refrigerator (do not freeze). When ready to serve, drop into salted boiling water and cook until done, 1 to 2 minutes.

    Green pasta variation: Cook 8 ounces frozen spinach or 12 ounces fresh spinach in salted boiling water until tender. Drain and set aside to cool. Using your hands, squeeze out as much water as possible. Finely chop by hand or in a food processor. Proceed as for Egg Pasta of Emilia Romagna (above), adding the spinach to the eggs and increasing the flour by ½ cup .

If using a pasta machine to roll out the dough

  1. Cut the dough in as many pieces as you used eggs, in this case three. Wrap two of the pieces in plastic wrap. Flatten the remaining piece of dough as best you can with your hands, then put it through the rollers of the machine set at the widest setting. Fold the dough in thirds and put it through the rollers again with the folds perpendicular to the rollers. Fold the dough in half and put it through one more time, again with the folds perpendicular to the rollers. Lay the dough on a towel and repeat the procedure with the other two pieces.

  2. When all the pieces have been through the machine at the widest setting, adjust the rollers down one notch and put each piece of dough through once more. Repeat, going down one notch at time, until you reach the next-to-last setting. Cut each sheet of pasta in half, then put each piece through the machine at the thinnest setting.