It doesn’t take much to make pasta. Just a cup of flour, an egg, and practice. Oh, and if you’re in Gourmandistan, machinery. Actually, several pieces of machinery.
Of course, you don’t actually need the machinery. You can, if you wish, use the 1:1 egg:flour ratio and your hands. Mound the flour in a large bowl, making a well in the center. Lightly scramble the egg, then place in the well. Using a fork or your fingers, stir the egg around in the flour well, incorporating a little at a time until it’s too stiff to stir with fork or finger. Then start mixing with your hands, and use your hands to knead the dough. You may need a bit more egg or a bit more flour to get the dough to a firm, slightly dry yet elastic consistency. After letting the dough rest for an hour, you can roll it out into a flat sheet, then use a knife to cut it in strips. You also could use a manual roller and cutter, available at places like Williams-Sonoma (or, if you live in Alice Waters‘ world, “thrift stores and yard sales are great places to look”).
Gourmandistan started pasta making with a manual roller. But it was a temperamental little beast, refusing to stay fastened to the countertop no matter how many clamps Steve attached, and sporting a “handle” that sprung itself out of the crank about every other turn. So we ordered a set of rollers and cutter attachments for our KitchenAid mixer, and we’ve never regretted it.
Mixer-made pasta goes something like this: Put a cup of flour into the mixing bowl, making a small well. Put a lightly scrambled egg (or with our small eggs, one egg and two egg yolks) into the flour well. Use the paddle attachment to mix the eggs and flour, until it starts to form little blobs. Switch to the kneading hook and knead the dough, adding more flour or egg as needed to get a slightly dry, springy ball. Let the dough rest for an hour or so, wrapped in wax paper. Then attach your pasta roller. Roll the pasta at setting 1 for five or six times, folding the pasta sheet into thirds after each roll. Then roll the sheet through once per setting from 2 through 5 (Steve likes to cut his pasta sheet in half after setting three, then cut the two sheets in half again after rolling through setting 5.) Detach the roller, put in a cutter (we eat a lot of spaghetti and fettucine) and four passes later, you have very nice looking pasta.
Getting the dough texture right does take practice. Steve made Michelle suffer through a number of meals of less-than-great pasta. Gluey stuff that stuck to itself even while passing through noodle cutters, or rubbery noodles bouncy with egg and a too-timid hand on the roller setting. Now that he knows what to look for, Steve sees pasta as a quick solution to the nightly “what’s for dinner tomorrow?” discussion—just a cup of flour, a couple of eggs and a little help from his friend the KitchenAid. And, one day soon, we’ll try our friend Patty’s strozzapreti.