Tuesday, 10 May 2011


Being of partly Italian descent I felt quite ashamed when I hit my late twenties and realised I still didn't know how to make fresh pasta. Then, one birthday, I was given a pasta machine...

Delicious dinners plus absolute disasters ensued. That pasta machine was the target of so much abuse before it finally gave up the ghost, with a last ditch attempt to poison us by shedding metal from its gears into the dough. Yum.
I didn't make pasta from scratch again for a couple of years, it just seemed like too much aggro when perfectly delicious dried pasta was available in the shops. The texture isn't quite the same but dried pasta is wonderful enough and doesn't cause stress spikes in your blood pressure.

I did eventually get another pasta machine though and, with some trepidation, set out to make my own once again.

Pasta is honestly easy to make and absolutely delicious

It's a funny thing, a bit like the gardening, somehow everything just clicked into place. Now whether that's just because I had a bit more general cooking experience or because the new pasta machine isn't harbouring a grudge, or maybe just that I'm less stressed out and happier these days, I've no idea. All I know, is that I do now understand how easy pasta is to make and can't really recall what it was that made it so stressful before.

The ratios I use are about 100g flour to 1 egg, with the average batch being 400g/4 for 2 people to have both dinner and a lunchbox the following day. So, that's 100g/1 per portion or, if you're feeling lazy, just use a teacup to scoop out the flour, you can always add a little water if the mixture turns out a bit dry. Strong bread flour seems to work fine for me but the extra finely ground tipo 00 is the easiest to knead.

Stick the flour into a mixing bowl with a big pinch of salt, crack the eggs directly into the center of the flour and start to combine. It'll turn into a lovely yellowish dough which needs kneading, just like bread, for about 10 minutes. Then wrap it in clingfilm and leave it in the fridge for at least half an hour, preferably for an hour, and no longer than a day.

After it's chilled out for a while, pull it out of the fridge and tear off half or a quarter of the dough (depending on how much you made) and flatten it out on the worksurface with your hands.

Put the pasta machine onto it's widest setting, mine runs from stages 1-7, that probably refers to a measurement of some sort but I've no idea what.

Give the pasta a thin coat of flour and then run it through the machine, put the setting up one and run the pasta through it again, continually flouring at any sign of stickiness. By about stage 4 or 5, cut the strip of pasta in half and keep going. I never take it to stage 7 (the thinnest setting), as I think stage 6 works best. Stage 7 would be good for pressing herbs or flowers between sheets of pasta, I think I saw Jamie Oliver demo that.

Depending on what you want to make, once a strip of pasta is ready you can either run it through the spaghetti or tagliatelli rollers, cut it into papardalle with a knife, or look at making shapes from it - fusilli, farfalle etc.

The most common shape I make is tagliatelli, although today I made lazy pasta - strips of pasta that look like they've been cut by a drunk six year old.
No matter what you make, the one thing I've learned the hard way is that you need to keep pasta floured and don't leave it sitting in a pile for too long or it'll stick together and be a disaster. Make sure all the peices have a thin, floury coat and every now and again toss them about to get air in between them and stop any sticky bits from getting settled.

Whatever you do, don't lay peices of pasta on top of each other to store them. They need to be stashed individually with air all around them. I once stayed up until 2am making tortellini only to come down in the morning and find a dish of squish, completely unrescuable. I haven't made tortellini since as it was an utterly depressing sight, so ignore the above advice at your peril!

Repeat until all the dough is used up and ready to cook. Get a huge pan of water on the boil: whichever saucepan you were thinking of using, use one at least a size larger than that. I used to think this was overkill and unnecessary, it isn't though. Without lots of space for the pasta to swirl around in, it does tend to get stuck together and you can end up with clumps of uncooked bits. Don't bother adding oil to the water, greasy pasta is horrible, just use a big enough pan.
Add a huge pinch of salt to the water, it makes a big difference to how great the pasta tastes.

We're talking just a few minutes before it's ready, it'll float to the top when it is but always do the taste test anyway or you won't get it just the way you like it.
Drain it in a colander but keep a bit of the water left over in the pan too. Add your sauce, mix it up and serve.

The Sauce
Today I made a ricotta and green things sauce. I sauteed up some garlic, onions and celery, added frozen spinach and peas, then some sliced courgettes and finally a pot of ricotta. Salt, pepper, chopped mint, the juice of half a lemon and it's ready to go (don't forget the cup of water left in with the pasta, this provides a bit of liquid for the sauce and the starch, so I'm told, helps it adhere to the pasta).

One final thing, grate a little parmesan over the top. Fabulous!


  1. I remember the day the pasta machine learnt how to fly... good times.

  2. I've never made pasta - yours looks so beautiful that I think I'm going to have to give it a go