Life is a combination of magic and pasta.
~ Federico Fellini
I’ve been making pasta since I was a little kid. My grandmother would visit our house every Tuesday, and she and mom would mix eggs and flour and make magic. I remember feeling the raw eggs for the first time, yanking my hand back and flinging the gooey, sticky egg white all over the board, my shirt, and my face. I have to admit that, to this day, I’m still not too wild about poking my fingers in raw eggs. The reward, though, makes it worth it.
It’s not hard to make pasta, but it does take a little time and patience. The ingredients are simple—flour, eggs, and water. I do not add salt to my pasta, nor do I add oil. I also don’t have a recipe. When you make pasta dough, you gradually learn how much of each ingredient you will need. The rule of thumb, though, is one egg for every cup of flour and water as necessary. Let me show you how to make quadratini (little squares), a pasta that is perfect for homemade soup.
Use one egg plus one cup of flour. Some people put the flour and egg in a bowl and mix it. I use a board on my kitchen island as my mother and grandmother did.
Mix the egg and flour. If the mix is a little dry, wet your hands and continue to mix. I never add water directly to the mix, but I keep a bowl of water next to me so I can dip my fingers if I need to do so. You can always add a little more flour if you need to do so.
Knead the dough by pushing it out and folding it over itself until it is smooth and elastic. How will you know if the dough is ready? If the dough sticks to itself when you fold it over, it’s too wet. The perfect dough needs some effort to put it into a ball of dough.
On the other hand, if the dough is too dry, you won’t be able to get it to stick together, and you won’t be able to roll or cut it. I keep a bowl of fresh water next to me so I can wet my fingers while I knead until I get the dough to stick together.
Once you finish kneading the dough, let it rest. Simply put a bowl over the top and let it sit for 15-20 minutes.
When you’re ready to start rolling the dough, cut it into manageable pieces. The size of the piece I cut depends on whether I’m using my pasta machine or a rolling pin to flatten the dough. For this purpose, I’m using a rolling pin.
Sprinkle flour on your surface and roll the dough out. You will want to make sure to roll up and down, flip the dough and roll some more. Push the dough as you roll it so that it thins out. If the dough starts to stick, dust it with more flour.
I prefer thin pasta, so I roll the dough thin enough that I can see through it (See the difference between the photo above and the photo below.) You cannot hurry this as it will tear the dough.
Once the dough is your desired thickness, dust it with flour and fold it over several times.
Using a knife, cut the dough into strips. To make quadratini, I cut the strips about 1/2 inch wide and then cut those strips into 1/2″ pieces. Lightly dust the little squares with flour so they do not stick together.
You can use this pasta immediately or let it dry for later use. (NOTE: Make sure the pasta is completely dry before you box it if you are saving it for later.) If you cook it immediately, be aware that fresh pasta cooks quickly, so be sure to keep on eye on it so it doesn’t become mushy.