Making fresh pasta at home might seem like a daunting task, and while it is time consuming and with definite effort involved, it is not all that difficult and you will be handsomely rewarded for the extra work. Fresh pasta is not a replacement for the dried, factory produced pasta you find on the supermarket shelves. They each have a unique texture and consistency and work better with particular types of sauce. That being said, you are really missing out if you limit yourself to dried pasta. Good fresh pasta is much lighter in your mouth and absorbs sauces, especially those made with butter or cream.
Only 2 ingredients are required to make fresh pasta, flour and eggs. Some people add salt and/or olive oil, but I find that they are unnecessary and stick with the basic recipe. Once kneaded, fresh pasta can be made using one of two methods, rolling out the dough by hand using a wooden pasta rolling pin or passing it through the rollers of a hand cranked pasta machine. Here we will concentrate on using one of those old fashioned machines.
Flour and Eggs: In a large bowl add 2-1/2 cups of unbleached all-purpose flour, and make a well in the center. Break 4 large eggs into the well. Beat the eggs lightly with a fork for about 1 minute, then start to work a little of the flour from the edges in to the eggs, until the eggs are no longer runny. Using your hands mix the flour and eggs thoroughly into a ball.
Kneading: Transfer the ball to a lightly floured work surface and knead: flatten the dough with the palm of your hands, fold it back towards you, rotate it a half turn and repeat. Continue this process for 8 to 10 minutes until the dough is smooth and firm. Shape it into a ball, wrap it in plastic wrap and let it rest for 30 minutes.
Rolling Out the Dough: Anchor the pasta machine to your work surface following the manufacturer?s instructions, and set the rollers to the widest setting. Cut the ball into 4 pieces. Take one piece and flatten it into a half-inch disk. Pass the disk through the rollers, turning the crank with your hand. Fold the dough into thirds and roll again. Repeat this 2 more times. Move the dial to the next notch, narrowing the rollers and run the dough through them. Continue this process, narrowing the rollers by one setting on the dial each time until you reach the second to last setting. Lay the flattened dough to the side and repeat the procedure with the other 3 pieces.
Cutting the Pasta: Most pasta machines come with cutters to make two shapes of noodles, fettuccine and tonnarelli. To make fettuccine take the sheets of pasta in the same order you flattened them, cut them in half and run the halves through the broader set of cutters on the machine. Spread the strands out on towels, separating them so they don’t stick together. To make tonnarelli, follow the same procedure only running the sheets through the narrower cutters. You can also make pappardelle by hand, first cutting the pasta sheets in half and then cutting 1-inch wide ribbons lengthwise using a fluted pastry wheel.