Inspired by a pasta-making class, a friend suggested that we hold a pasta cook-off. The ingredients were identical – flour and eggs. The combination of semolina flour and “00” flour gave the pasta both texture and lightness, while the eggs added density, color, and richness to the dough. We could agree on those basic components, but we differed in our processes. Our challenge lay with the implements used to mix the flour and eggs (fork versus fingers) and in the rolling and stretching of the kneaded dough (her KitchenAid versus my hand-cranked pasta machine).
There was flour on both sides of the kitchen counter, as we sieved and measured the night away! My friend used a fork to mix in the beaten eggs, whereas I used my fingers for a more old-fashioned approach. While we waited the 30 minutes necessary for the dough to rest, we cleared the kitchen, set the table, and drank wine. Then we rolled (rolling pin versus hand-stretching) and folded the dough before passing it through the KitchenAid or the hand-cranked machine. She trimmed the dough by hand into wide strips, while I got more uniform spaghetti-thin and wider strips from my cutting attachment. However, both of our pasta was uniformly delicious! We served the pasta with three different sauces that we’d previously made and brought to the cook-off, matching flavors with the differing widths of pasta. The widest pasta was reserved for the rich pork ragout, the medium-cut pasta with an eggplant and roasted pepper sauce, and the spaghetti-thin pasta worked well with the plain marinara sauce.
We ended up with the best of a potluck and communal meal at the end of the evening. Cooking together allows people of all ages and abilities to contribute to a meal, something to keep in mind for the holiday visitors soon to come! (If you need ideas, other favorites include cheese fondue, shabu shabu, and injera)
“00” flour – 2 cups, sieved
Semolina flour – 2 cups, sieved
Eggs – 4, plus two yolks
- Heap the two flours separately. Bring them together, forming a small well in the middle.
- Break an egg into the middle, and using your fingers (or fork) start to form a mixture pulling in the two flours from the sides of the well to combine with the egg – until you get a runny consistency. Keep pulling the flour into the middle of the well and mixing and kneading as you go.
- When the mixture loses its stickiness, break the next egg into the middle. Continue the process, until all the eggs and two yolks are incorporated into the dough.
- Pull, stretch, and knead the dough, adding flour as needed. The dough is ready, when pulled apart there are no sticky bits in the middle. The dough should be just firm enough, such that an indented thumbprint would show.
- Place the dough in a wet towel to prevent drying.
- Set aside for at least ½ hour.
- Sieve the excess flour and keep it aside, ready for dusting.
- When the dough is ready, slice the dough into four equal parts.
- Work with one portion at a time, while keeping the others covered in moist cloth.
- Flatten the dough with your fingers. Feed the dough through the machine that is set on the lowest setting (1). The first pass lengthens the dough a little. Fold over the dough and pass through the setting at least 4-5 times, continuing to fold the dough both in half and along the edges. Dust with sieved flour to keep the dough from sticking to the counter.
- Move up the setting to 3, and repeat at least three times, making sure you get a straight edge, working with aligning the dough. Continue, until you have an even sheet of stretched dough.
- Move the setting to 5 or 6 and pass the now lengthened sheet through at least twice, dusting with flour as needed.
- Cut the thin sheet into shapes, or use the cutter on the machine to make thin, medium-size or fat ribbons.
- Repeat with other sections.
- The cut pasta can be placed on parchment paper, until ready to cook. Alternatively, freeze the pasta to use within a month.
Serve with your favorite sauce. Tomato sauce.