The beauty of pasta is its simplicity and versatility. Everyone has a selection of go-to pasta dishes from the repertoire of usual suspects, such as spag bol, carbonara or lasagne, but don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone as pasta is one of the most forgiving dishes to experiment with. It’s hard to beat the convenience of buying fresh or dried pasta but making your own always impresses. It’s not difficult to do and even simpler with a pasta machine to take the strain.
Master a basic pasta dough and you’ll be able to use if for all shapes and forms of pasta.
Ingredients to serve 3-4:
350g plain flour (ideally ’00’ strong Italian flour), sieved
4 eggs, beaten
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
Pile the flour straight onto a clean work surface, make a well in the centre and pour in the eggs and olive oil. Use your hands to draw the flour into the centre and combine the ingredients. Knead the dough until it’s dry and smooth with an elastic texture, which should take about 5-10 minutes.
Wrap the ball of dough in clingfilm and refrigerate for an hour. If making the pasta by hand you’ll need to do a lot of rolling out at this stage, but a machine will make quick work of it. It’s a good idea to have a clothes airer or something similar to hang the pasta on while you work.
Using the pasta machine:
Cut the dough into pieces small enough to fit through the rollers of your pasta machine. Dust the dough with flour and feed through the rollers, on the widest setting. Fold the pieces into three as they come out of the rollers. After the first pass through, put the rollers on a narrower setting, feed the dough through and fold again. Repeat a couple of time more to work the dough until your pasta reaches the desired thickness.
The pasta machine will cut slices of tagliatelle or other noodle shapes for you but you’ll need to cut other shapes by hand quite quickly, before the pasta dries.
Filled pasta dishes use the same basic recipe but need finishing by hand.
Run your dough through the pasta machine as above:
You’ll need a large, very fine sheet to lay over a ravioli tray. Push the dough gently into the indentations in the tray and fill the hollows carefully with your chosen filling. Lay another sheet of pasta on top and cut between the indentations to make individual ravioli squares. Alternatively you can use a shaped ravioli cutter to make individual parcels.