Perhaps the only thing more important to the Italian psyche than soccer is pasta. The late,
great and legendary soccer coach Bill Shankly once said “Some people think soccer is a
matter of life and death. I assure you that it’s more important than that.”
What does that tell you about pasta?
Making this astonishing variation on water, flour and eggs is a very serious undertaking,
and the subject of some debate between cooks, chefs and Italian mamas everywhere.
Fortunately, the mere act of kneading and kneading – and then kneading some more –
removes all the stress from these arguments.
Here’s how I was taught to prepare this simple but quite divine food:
What you’ll need:
4 egg yolks
2 whole eggs
1 tablespoon milk
½ tablespoon Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 ½ cups of 00 (double zero) pasta flour, plus extra for kneading
And here’s our first important proviso. There’s double-0 flour and there’s double-0
flour. Caputo Molino is my choice but you will make your own, the result of your
experience and ever-growing knowledge. You’ll be able to feel the difference in the
softness between any two double-o flours and, of course, the softer the better.
In pasta making, there is no substitute for practice and experience – and that applies, too,
to the measurements you use, which depend upon the size of the eggs, the humidity of the
day and perhaps even the warmth of your hands.
Like soccer, you have to have the basic talent but nothing will come of that without the
hours spent practicing. You can only learn about pasta by making it, feeling it, touching
it; working with someone who knows what it’s supposed to feel like.
Note that some regions of Italy do not use eggs and even despise their use as being effete
– rich man’s pasta – and it’s true that some rich dishes are better served with a white and
eggless pasta. Again, it’s experience and experiment which will enable you to make the
right choices – if, indeed, there is a ‘right’ choice. Personal taste is everything.
What you do:
Blend the ingredients together, either by hand or in a mixer, and then begin to knead the
dough by hand. When you think it’s completely and entirely mixed, blended and homogenized,
knead it for as long again. And when you’ve done that, knead it some more. You simply cannot knead it too much and, anyway, it’s a wonderfully soothing and comforting task.
So, knead the pasta until it’s as silky as you can get it, then knead it some more. During
the process, you might want to rest (if you’re working hard enough) and sip a little wine. That’s the time to let the pasta rest, too, which allows the gluten to relax and to absorb the flour more
Now, with all the kneading and resting complete, you can roll the pasta out and it will be
so at peace that it won’t snap back. It will be ready to be transformed into whichever pasta type you intend to use.
Lightly steam spinach. Squeeze all liquid from the spinach. Place in a food processor with the eggs until combined. Continue with recipe above.