Make Elizabeth's tagliatelle with basic tomato sauce, stracciatella and pangrattato
The recipe for a basic egg dough is universal and follows the ratio of one to one – that’s one egg to 100 g (2/3 cup) of flour per person. However, for consistent results, egg dough requires 55 per cent hydration, so while we say 1 egg, you’re looking for a cracked egg weight of 55 g. I’ll add that this is a pretty standard weight for an egg; just avoid those jumbo eggs! A digital set of scales will sort you out. If your egg is slightly heavier, just scoop out some white with the shell; if it’s too light, add a splash of water. Always weigh your eggs in a separate bowl before adding to the flour.
More often than not I’m making pasta just for myself, or for me and my husband, so I simply use 200 g (1 1/3 cups) of Tipo 00 flour and two eggs (110 g). I wouldn’t bother making pasta for any less as it’s too difficult to knead. To feed more mouths, just increase the ratio. So, to make pasta for four people, use 400 g (2 2/3 cups) of Tipo 00 flour and four eggs (220 g). I find the ideal size of dough to knead is for four to six people. Any more and it becomes a bigger challenge (but totally possible; just make sure you master that form and position).
I like to make my pasta directly on a wooden pasta bench; it makes me feel all romantic and Italian about the process. Wiser people will start it off in a big bowl, so they don’t have to spend the time cleaning and scraping the dough off the bench.
Egg dough will keep in the fridge tightly wrapped in plastic wrap for up to two days. Be warned that it might discolour slightly. Always bring your dough to room temperature before you roll.
200 g (1 1/3 cups) tipo 00 flour, plus extra for dusting
2 x 55 g eggs at room temperature
1. Weigh out your flour and place it in a bowl or on a clean work surface. Make a well in the middle of the flour and pour in your eggs. Using a fork, whisk the eggs. Once the eggs are combined, slowly incorporate the flour from the top of the well, bringing more flour in as you work your way around the inner edge of the well. Take a deep breath as you do this, and breathe out as you hit 12 o’clock in the movement of your rotation. Repeat this circular movement a few more times until you have clumps of dough.
2. You’ll now have the urge to use your hands; succumb to that urge. If you have used a bowl, turn the dough out onto a clean, dry work surface. Squeeze the dough together with both hands, turning the dough as you do this to continue bringing the ingredients together. It’s important to take a mental note of the texture here, as it will serve as a reminder later on as to how far you’ve taken the dough. Watching and feeling the dough change is a small, satisfying step in realising your contribution to the alchemy of eggs and flour. Keep squeezing, turning and slowly kneading the dough together.
3. If the air is very dry (hello air-conditioning or an open window nearby) or if your eggs were too small, your dough might be too dry. If this is the case, a spray bottle of water comes in handy to evenly mist the dough. That being said, if you lightly wet your hands and continue to knead it will do a similar job. If you’re finding that your dough is very sticky, however, then maybe your eggs were too big. Here, a light dusting of flour will do the trick, bringing the dough into what I like to call ‘neutral’, where it feels just right.
4. Feel the need to knead. Form the dough into a ball, then, using the heel of one hand press down and push the dough forward to form an oval shape. Wrap your fingers around the top of the dough and then pull the dough back towards you. Channel the stress and worry in the back of your shoulders down into the dough. Continue in this manner, pushing out with the heel of your hand and drawing in with your fingers. Out, in. Out, in. You’ll notice that the flour continues to absorb more of the egg and that the texture begins to change. Things become more elastic, soft and springy. Don’t forget to breathe.
5. All in all, knead the dough for 8-10 minutes. The ‘done’ indicator is when you gently press into the dough with your finger and it springs back. It should be smooth and silky. Form the dough back into a ball, then wrap it in plastic wrap and press it down to form a disk. Set aside for 30 minutes for the dough to relax, which makes it easier to roll out through a pasta machine or by hand. This is also your opportunity to take a time out. The beauty in the humble act of making pasta is that you, too, should slow down.
6. Many recipes call for the dough to rest in the fridge. I prefer to rest it at room temperature for up to an hour, away from direct sunlight, as I find it makes the dough easier to roll out.
7. To make tagliatelle, roll your dough as thinly as you dare either by hand or using a machine. For me, this is around 1 mm thick.
8. If your dough is sticky, leave the sheet to slightly ‘cure’ for 5 minutes (a wet sheet will be hard to cut and the strands will stick together).
9. If you have a tagliatelle attachment on your pasta machine, simply feed your pasta sheet through the rollers after letting the pasta ‘cure’ for 5 minutes if necessary.
10. If you don’t have one of these attachments, lightly flour your sheet, then gently fold it up. Using a knife, cut the sheet into ribbons that are 8mm wide. Unravel the pasta sheet to release the ribbons.
11. You can then hang your pasta ribbons over the back of a chair, on a coat hanger or anywhere you can. I have a little pasta-drying stand. You can also curl the pasta into nests and keep on a well-floured surface until you’re ready to cook them.
This is an edited extract from Saturday Night Pasta by Elizabeth Hewson, published by Plum (RRP $36.99) and available where all good books are sold.
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