Noodles, the dough of which has been rolled out by hand, well dusted with flour, rolled up, and sliced, have a charm apart, which depends largely on the slight variations of thickness and of width, but also, because the dough is worked less brutally, with greater suppleness, than by the machine, the fresh egg taste is more in evidence—or, in the instance of green noodles, the spinach flavor is cleaner. The quasi-miraculous little Italian pasta machines, however, turn the work into a fantastically effortless, amusing, childlike game, and with a smattering of experience or habit, splendid results may be had (mine bears the trademark “Titania” and is manufactured by the firm “I.P.S.” in Turin; it is commercialized in the United States—as are several others with which I am unfamiliar). I willingly bear witness to the fact that, whereas, in the past, months at a time went by without my preparing fresh pasta, a week never passes now that I do not offer myself or guests fresh egg noodles, my funny little machine doing all the work.
The dough may be firmer for a machine than that which is to be rolled out by hand—and it is easier to work, but less good. It may also, if one is pressed for time, be worked immediately (although it tends to fall apart for the first two or three passages through the rollers during the kneading) rather than being left to relax, but, in that case, it must be kneaded longer before being rolled out thinly, and the result is very like that of commercial fresh pasta. For best results: (1) an “instant-blending” flour is easily superior to others; very fine semolina gives good results also—count about 3 minutes longer cooking time than for noodles made with flour; (2) the dough is much finer if forced in egg yolks—one made only of egg yolks is quite remarkable (count about 5 yolks to a cup of flour and
Green noodles are traditional in Niçoise cooking, but they are more often made with parboiled, squeezed chard greens than with spinach as in Italy (2 cups flour; salt; 1 whole egg and 1 yolk;
Put 1½ cups flour in a mixing bowl with the other ingredients, work with a fork until consistent, adding a bit more flour if necessary, then knead with your knuckles just long enough to bring it all together in a firm, cohesive mass. Roll into a ball and leave, covered by a towel, to rest for about an hour.
Divide the dough into two or three parts, press one out flatly on a lightly floured board and turn it through the rollers set at the widest notch. Fold it in three and if it is sticky, drag the two sides over the floured board before passing it through again; fold again, in triple or double, and continue passing and folding until the sheet of dough is smooth-textured, consistent, and its width equals that of the width of the rollers. Adjust the rollers to the thickness desired (I prefer, for most purposes, the next to finest), pass it through, and hang it to dry while treating the other sections of dough in the same way. Pass the sheets through the noodle-cutting rollers and toss them lightly, sprinkled with a bit of flour, with splayed fingers, to keep them from sticking together while waiting to be cooked (for Alsatian noodles, use the finest rollers—spaghetti or tagliarini width—and keep a handful apart to be sautéed raw in butter until lightly colored and crisp; they are scattered as garnish over the remaining noodles, which are boiled, drained, and tossed in butter).
Cook them in a large quantity of salted, boiling water to which a dribble of olive oil has been added (an old Italian habit, which the French, mistakenly, do not always respect). The moment they are added to the water, gently shake them free of each other with the prongs of a wooden fork. Count 3 to 4 minutes’ cooking time, surveying them closely—the time necessary may vary some 30 seconds, depending on the thickness of the noodles, the firmness of the dough, the extent to which the sheets of dough or the noodles have been dried before cooking, etc. Drain and, as a garnish, serve rapidly tossed with butter; tossed with butter and grated cheese; tossed with butter, cheese, chopped butter-stewed tomatoes (to which chopped fines herbes or fragments of fresh basil may be added) . . . However served, freshly ground pepper is welcome and hot plates are essential. Note: Eaten in the Italian manner, the long strands twirled on one’s fork are an integral part of the experience; outside of meridional France, noodles are conceived of as a garnish and, as such, it is wiser to cut the sheets of dough into 7- or 8-inch lengths before passing them through the noodle cutter.
Tender young peas require about the same length of cooking time as fresh noodles; throw them into the boiling water at the same time, drain, and serve with butter . . .
The two following recipes I have noted in the course of emptying out the refrigerator for my solitary needs. Each, in itself, is deliciously satisfying but should be entertained as a symbol of infinite possibilities; in the context, there is no reason ever to do precisely the same thing twice.
Copyright © 1974 by Richard Olney. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.