How to Begin

Whether making pasta by hand or by machine, you start by incorporating eggs and flour. This is not kneading; it is combining the eggs with as much flour as is required to produce a mass that is neither too dry and crumbly nor too sticky. The basic proportion is two large eggs for 1 cup of flour; but exactly how much flour will be needed is impossible to tell in advance, because it depends on how much of it the eggs you have can absorb and on the humidity, or lack of it, in your kitchen.

Pour flour onto the work surface, shaping it into a mound, and hollow out the center. Break the eggs into the hollow (photo A). Scramble the eggs lightly with a fork, drawing some of the flour over the eggs, using the fork to mix it with the eggs until these are no longer runny (photo B). With your hands, draw the sides of the mound together but push off some of the flour to the side, where you will keep it until you find you absolutely need it. Work the eggs and flour together, using your fingers and the palms of your hands (photos C and D), until you have a smoothly integrated mixture. If it is still moist, work in more flour.

When the mass feels as if it will become too dry if you add more flour, stop, wash your hands, dry them, and perform this simple test: Press your thumb deeply into the center of the mass, and if it comes out clean, without any sticky matter on it, no more flour is needed. Put the dough to one side, wrap it tightly in plastic wrap, and scrape the work surface absolutely clear of any loose or caked bits of flour and of any crumbs. Wash and dry your hands and prepare to knead.