Homemade black peppercorn pasta
Learning to make pasta is definitely a process. When I set out to learn the basics, I literally knew nothing. I don’t bake much bread so I don’t even have experience with kneading dough and in making pasta, the kneading is everything. Good thing I was having so much fun. I also don’t mind trashing the kitchen in pursuit of a beautiful result. Fresh pasta dressed with olive oil and garlic is the most basic artful meal possible.
A few months ago, I started to learn this process by reading tips and recipes online. I read the manuals that came with my equipment and friends unloaded their collections of cookbooks at my door for me to read. I’ve decided one thing. No one actually knows exactly how to make pasta. They just feel it out. Two very different things. In the end it only took a few tries and I got the hang of it. So don’t give up, the end result is so worth it.
It is clear to me now that a lot of my grief could have been eliminated had I been given a few simple facts up front. The sooner you accept these facts, the sooner you will be able to pick up your dough and make it come together. This recipe takes me about 45 minutes from start to finish (I prefer the pasta to go straight into the pot so I make the sauce or topper first). Hopefully the photos and facts below will help you in your endeavors!
Vital facts when making pasta.
#1 Making pasta is not an exact science.
#2 No egg is the same size, so there is no way to say exactly how much flour to use.
#3 No type of flour absorbs the same amount of egg, so there is no way to say how much flour should be set aside. (I promise this is helpful, you’ll see.)
#4 You, the cook, have to figure out how much flour. Once you accept this and just do it, the pasta finally comes together correctly.
#5 You can use any type of wheat flour or blend you desire for this recipe. Any ratio at all. It is a matter of taste in flavors and textures. That said, beginners should always use unbleached all purpose flour for at least half of the flour used.
#6 The quality of the eggs and the flour make a huge difference in taste, there is no disguising them. Look for fresh smelling flours from high turn over bins at your local market and free range organic eggs.
Homemade black peppercorn pasta
3 cups flour (mixture pictured here is 1 1/2 cups unbleached all purpose and 1 1/2 cups semolina)
4 free range organic eggs
1 tablespoon freshly ground pepper
~1 cup unbleached all purpose flour for processing the dough
Begin by placing the 3 cups of flour on a large work area. Form the flour into a wide ring with a well in the center. If the ring is not big enough, you will have a mess on your hands. Break the eggs into the well and add the pepper. Beat with a fork. Working your way out, beating in the flour from the ring evenly until it is all absorbed. Your dough will likely still be a bit wet.
Don’t be afraid if your dough looks like this… it will be ok, I promise. Just keep pressing on.
Once you beat in all the flour on the board, set the dough ball aside and clean up the huge mess you made. Scrape the board and flour it with fresh flour. Make a nice pile of flour on the board off to the side so that you can pull from it easily.
Start kneading. Knead that dough ball for 10 minutes. Add a little flour at a time until your dough ball is smooth and pliable. If you are kneading it and your fingers come away with moisture then keep kneading and adding flour. It’s hard to describe until you actually get it right. When it is ready, it isn’t wet, and it isn’t hard to stretch. Also notice in the photo above there are doughy globs stuck to my hands. When the right amount of moisture is reached, this all gets sucked into the dough ball. The first time I got it right, there was an “Ahh yeah, now it’s right” moment.
Once you have a happy ball of dough, set it aside and cover so it does not dry out.
Take a piece of dough about the size of an egg and flatten it out using your palm. Dust it with flour and run it through the widest setting on your pasta roller. Fold the dough in half either lengthwise or across the width and send it through again. Do this about 5-6 times. Keep dusting with flour if it is sticky. You want that soft and pliable consistency throughout the process.
Send it through the widest setting one last time and do not fold. (You only want to fold it while using the same setting. If you fold it and narrow the setting at the same time, you will tear the dough.) Narrow the setting one step. Dust the dough and send it through. Then fold and send it through 1 time. Repeat until you have the final desired thickness of pasta.
Each strip can be set aside on parchment paper or saran wrap. The dough can be stacked with paper or saran wrap between each layer.
When all the dough is rolled out, you are ready to cut! I used my kitchen aid with a pasta roller attachment, but I have cut the pasta by hand. Just lay out the dough on lightly floured cutting board and use a sharp knife or cookie cutters to make the desired shapes. Right about now, get your pasta hanger or a clothes hanger out to set the pasta out to dry. Even better yet, put a big pot of water up to boil!
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