My heritage doesn’t include any Italian roots, but my Grandma Madeline enjoyed making fresh pasta for us growing up. She would start by scooping a generous heap of flour onto her counter and then would ask my sister and I to shape it “into a mountain.” We’d gladly oblige and shape the flour, making a pretty decent mess. Once the mountain was made, then she would carve a well into the flour to drop the eggs into. She swirled a fork around the well to slowly incorporate the flour. There was a certain memorable rhythm she practiced that I remember to this day.
Grandma then kneaded the pasta dough until it was smooth while she talked about “all of the places she’d visited” through a European travel show she watched religiously on public television. She would turn the dough over to my sister and me for a few pushes across the counter and then let the dough rest under a damp tea towel. We’d enjoy some black walnut cookies for a treat then clean up the counter and prepare the pasta machine for the fun part of the pasta making process.
Rolling pasta sheets properly isn’t as easy as sliding a big mass of dough in between the rollers and cranking away. There’s an art to it that combines patience and experience. If you are new to using a pasta machine, there are some fail safe tips to ensure great results!
First, make sure your pasta machine is clean and free of dried pasta pieces from previous use. Cut pasta dough into pieces a bit smaller than a tennis ball and press into a thick rectangle. Let dough rest while you generously flour a work space. Resting periods for any wheat flour based recipe are important because it gives the gluten in the product time to rest, making rolling easier.
Once the pasta dough is rested and ready, set the pasta machine to roll on the thickest setting. Roll floured pasta pieces at every setting of the machine, from thick to thin until desired thickness is achieved. Pasta will tear if machine is set to a setting that is too thin or if pasta is rolled too fast or is too sticky. Once long sheets of pasta are cut, use a pizza or pastry wheel to cut to desired sizes and lengths.
Pappardelle means “wide ribbons” and will pair beautifully with any rustic sauce or even a simple dressing of butter and garlic salt or Parmesan. The use of semolina flour in the recipe gives the pasta a little more substance to absorb hearty sauces.
Basic Egg Pasta Dough for Pappardelle/Linguini/Ravioli Sheets/Lasagna Sheets
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 tablespoon semolina four (if desired, otherwise just use additional all purpose flour)
2 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
3 large eggs, at room temperature
3 tablespoons water (tepid or warm)
2 tablespoons olive oil
On a clean countertop, add flours and salt, mix with fingers. Build a mountain with flour and salt mixture. Carve out a well into the flours. Add eggs, water and oil to center of well. Combine traditionally, or in a food processor or stand mixer. Knead for 10 minutes until smooth dough forms. Let rest 30 minutes covered with plastic wrap or a moist tea towel. Hand roll or prepare for machine rolling. Roll to 2 millimeters thickness or thinner. Dust with flour, roll and cut into ½ inch strips for pappardelle. Separate strips immediately. Dry on floured surface and prepare within a couple of hours. Drop strips of pasta in simmering salted water. Boil for approximately two minutes. The length of time will depend on the thickness of your pasta. Drain pasta and combine with sauce. Serve immediately.