Each format represents a regional variation, each step and little trick speaks of a different family history, of a custom that is transmitted to today’s kitchens starting from those of the past. Whether they are formed fillings or sheets for lasagna, whether they are egg dough or simply based on water and flour, fresh pasta is an art with a universal language. This small guide aims to introduce you to the fundamental bases to give life to more elaborate and complex recipes.
Which flour to choose
The most used flours in the preparation of fresh pasta are basically two: soft wheat flour and durum wheat semolina. Soft wheat flour or semolina should be chosen depending on the recipe the first is characterized by an excellent degree of absorption of water and moisture, and the second is more resistant, making the dough tend to be drier and more compact.
To understand what type of flour to choose, you will have to consider the final destination of your recipe: if you have to prepare a stuffed pasta the dough must be particularly resistant, therefore, durum wheat semolina will be preferred.
In other cases, the best solution is to create a balance between the two types of flour unbalancing in favor of one or the other depending on whether you want a more or less elastic paste.
The right proportions
The dough of fresh pasta can be composed simply of water and flour or provide for the addition of eggs. While in the first case, When adding eggs, the proportions are more precise just add a quantity of warm water equal to half the weight of the flour and do it from time to time depending on the type of flour and its degree of absorption, when it comes to eggs the proportions to be followed are much more precise.
Although the weight of the eggs can vary (even significantly), the rule to follow is to add one egg to every 100 g of flour. Starting from this proportion you can change the doses – increasing or decreasing the number of eggs – if you need a wetter or drier and more compact paste. Remember, however, that if you need to roll out the dough with a rolling pin, it will be preferable to obtain a softer and wetter dough in order to work it more easily. Different speech if you use the classic Nonna Papera, which is the machine for handmade pasta, which will require a more resistant consistency that does not fall apart when it is pulled.
How to knead
To obtain a perfectly soft and smooth consistency without cracking, you will have to work the dough in a dry but not too ventilated place. Choose a steel bowl that maintains the temperature of the ingredients and start with liquids, i.e. eggs. Beat them, pour them into the center of the container and gradually incorporate the flour, stirring with slow but energetic movements.
Kneading the dough slowly will allow you not to overheat the ingredients too much: once the consistency begins to uniform, turn the dough upside down on a lightly floured work surface and continue with slow and decisive gestures. Often we also start from a flour fountain with a hole in the center in which to pour the eggs, to be incorporated slowly with a fork or with the tips of the fingers: choose the method that seems most comfortable.
An essential step to prevent the dough from absorbing too much moisture and remaining dry and compact at the right point is rest. The best thing would be to let the dough rest after each phase (kneading, pulling, and cutting): as for the timing, one night represents the minimum required can reach up to 4 or 5 days. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and place it in the refrigerator choosing the coldest shelf.
Roll out by hand
As per tradition, the processing of the dough by hand requires a certain familiarity and a good dose of elbow grease. The dough should be rolled out, rewound, and folded until small bubbles begin to form on the surface and the consistency will not be beautiful elastic, and homogeneous. Always make sure that the rolling pin is fresh and lightly floured. Pass it on the dough until you have reached the desired thickness. To simplify your work, divide the dough into several loaves so as to roll out a smaller amount at a time.
Laying with the machine
Roll out fresh pasta with the help of a machine – whether it is the classic Grandma Duck crank or the most performing automatic robots –For a more homogeneous result and with less effort, using the machine is certainly a great help and will allow you to obtain perfectly thin and homogeneous sheets.
The precaution that you will have to have in these cases lies in the preliminary phase of the dough which must have a good composition of durum wheat flour and rest longer. Before passing the balls between the rollers, flatten them with your hands and set the thickness of the machine reducing it as the dough becomes thinner.
Always remember to sprinkle a good dose of flour on the sheets that, after the first passage in the car, will be folded on themselves until they form squares to pass again between the rollers. Once you have reached the desired thickness, simply cut the sheets of the most suitable size for your recipe and leave them well-spaced on a well-floured work surface.
The cooking times of fresh pasta are much shorter, however, the precise timing will depend on the type of dough, the format, and the final use for which it is intended. In the case, of egg pasta, it will take just3-4 minutes from the moment of boiling. However, if it is a stuffed pasta to sautéin a pan with its seasoning, you will simply have to blanch it for1-2 minutes.
Different speech applies to fresh pasta only based on water and flour: here, the cooking times are lengthened and approach those of dry pasta. Depending on the format you can go from cooking about6 minutes up to 10-12. Finally, for recipes of lasagna, cannelloni, or other types of flan, remember to drain the pasta absolutely al dente before baking it together with its seasoning.
Tips and tricks
The danger that something can go wrong during the preparation of fresh pasta is always around the corner, even if you know the basic steps. That’s why little tricks and tips can help us to unleash at the right time.
- If, for example, you need a particularly resistant dough and you are not getting the desired result despite the classic precautions, try to add more yolks to the dough. Conversely, for a softer consistency, it is preferable to increase the dose of egg whites.
- To obtain perfect sheets for the realization of lasagna or cannelloni let them dry on a dry and lightly floured cloth. While, for the stuffed dough, keep the moisture of the dough leaving it wrapped in plastic wrap until ready to use.
- If you want to dare and color the dough with natural ingredients – such as vegetables or aromas – the advice is to add them directly to the liquid part of the eggs in order to mix the ingredients better and understand more easily how much flour to add.
- As for storage times, remember that you can leave your fresh pasta in the refrigerator for a couple of days. If you want to freeze it, before storage in the appropriate bags, you will have to cool and dry the pasta completely for a couple of hours in the freezer still lying on the tray.