The dough for homemade pasta consists of flour and eggs, nothing else. The only exception is when spinach or Swiss chard leaves are added to the basic egg and flour dough to make green pasta. Olive oil, salt, colorings, seasonings have no gastronomic reason for being in pasta. Some, such as olive oil that makes pasta slicker, are wholly undesirable and a detriment to good pasta. If one respects the freshness and immediacy of the Italian approach to cooking, one puts all flavors and seasonings in the sauce.
Since you can never tell in advance exactly how much flour you will need, do not mix the flour and eggs in a bowl. You may find you want to use less flour than you thought. Pour the flour onto a work surface, shape it into a mound, scooping out a deep hollow in its center. Break the eggs into the hollow.
Beat the eggs lightly with a fork as though you were making an omelet. Draw some of the flour over the eggs, mixing it, a little at a time, until the eggs are no longer runny. Draw the sides of the mound together, pushing to one side any flour you think you may not use. Work the mixture of flour and eggs with your fingers and the palms of your hands until it is well amalgamated. If it is still too moist, work in more flour as needed.
Put the egg and flour mass to one side and scrape the work surface clean of all loose or caked bits of flour and of any crumbs of dough. Wash your hands and dry them. You are now ready to knead.
If using fresh spinach, trim away all the stems and wash the leaves in several changes of cold water to remove every trace of soil. Cook it in a covered pan over medium heat with only the water that clings to the leaves and with
If using frozen leaf spinach, cook it in a covered pan with
Squeeze all the liquid out of the cooked spinach with your hands, then chop it very fine.
Follow the directions given for combining eggs and flour; beat the chopped spinach into the eggs in the well of flour before drawing any flour over them.
Kneading dough may be the single most important step in making good pasta. It is best done by hand, which takes no more, and possibly less, time and effort than with a machine, if you include the work required to clean the machine.
Return to the egg and flour mass you had set aside. Push against it with the heel of your palm, keeping your fingers bent, fold it in half, give it a half turn, press hard again, and proceed thus for at least 8 minutes, pressing, folding, turning.
If you are not sure that you have put in enough flour, push a finger into the dough as far as its center. It should come out clean and dry. If it is moist or there are bits of dough stuck to the finger, work in what additional flour you judge the dough needs.
Unless you are ready to run the dough through the machine immediately, wrap it airtight in plastic wrap. Do not refrigerate it, but be ready to proceed with making the pasta within 2 or 3 hours at most.