I love pasta. I used to think I would be happy eating pasta every day. It is my ultimate comfort food. When I’m sick I want pasta, when it’s cold I want pasta, when I’m celebrating I want pasta, when it’s hot out I want pasta. I love pasta.
Then I worked at a high end Italian restaurant here in town, that shall remain nameless, where we had pasta every day for staff meal. It was always spaghetti with whatever we had kicking around left over. Except that there was never anything left over, so it was always spaghetti with butter and parm. We also had a salad of leftovers alongside it, except there was never any leftovers, so he ordered in iceberg lettuce for us. It was a sad sad meal, and everyone who worked there was significantly plumper when they left than when they had arrived.
It was a restaurant full of flaws, full of some extraodinarily cruel people, and full of beautiful food for the guests, and iceberg lettuce for the staff. I felt really crappy about myself when I worked there. And for quite a while I stopped eating pasta. I had just gotten my fill.
Slowly though, it came back, and it ought to. I’m a tiny bit Italian and it manifested itself into my diet when I was very small and it never left. I love, passionately, food that uncomplicated, unfussy, that used very few ingredients, but uses the best ones possibly, to make simple beautiful food. That’s what Italian food is all about.
Which brings us back to pasta. Pasta for me is the epitimy of simple food. The combination of essentially just flour, salt and eggs makes the most gorgeous textured noodle that, at it’s best, is just graced with a sauce made of only a very few things. It is simplicity done right.
Making pasta is not complicated, it just takes a bit of patience. You don’t need any fussy equipment, you can easily do it by hand, in fact it’s very satisfying to do it that way. But in a pinch you can do it in a kitchenaid, although the dough is a bit tough and I wouldn’t recommend doing it regularly in your mixer. Apparently old ladies in Italy roll theres out by hand too, but I’m not that skilled so I have a pasta roller, a little handhelp device that costs about $30.00. It’s not a huge expense, and it’s not very large either, so it’s not too hard to store. This batch makes quite a bit, I like to dry out about half of it for later, but you could of course,
Adapted from the French Laundry Cookbook
7 Egg Yolks
1 3/4 cup (8 oz) AP Flour
2 tbsp Olive Oil
1 tbsp Milk
1 tbsp Salt
In a large bowl mix together the flour and salt. Create a well in the centre of it and add in the yolks, oil and milk. Mix together until it combines. Now put the dough onto a clean surface and knead it- push the dough out flat, fold it over and push it again with the base of your hand, pushing and folding over and over again. When the dough is ready you will be able to do the window test- Pull a small piece of dough and gently stretch it with your fingertips. If it is ready you will be able to get the dough to become so thin it is slightly translucent. If not and the dough rips, keep kneading. If you doubt at all whether or not it is done, keep kneading.
When it is done, wrap it up in plastic wrap and let it cool rest for at least half an hour, or up to overnight.
Once it’s rested set up your pasta roller. Cut the dough into quarters and cover the others carefully. On a very well floured surface roll out the dough by hand with a rolling pin to about 1/2 cm thick.
On the pasta machine on the thickest setting roll out the dough.
Now on the second thickest roll out the dough again. Keep going until the pasta machine is on setting number 3.
Flour the dough again and fold it into thirds and cut into strips for linguine. Either coat them heavily with more flour and wrap them up to use within a couple days or while they are still soft hang them up. I used my towel rack, but you can also hang them up (clean) hangers and dry them that way.