Having grown up in Italy, my great-grandfather expected the family over for dinner every Sunday. Homemade pasta, or macaroni as we called it, was just one of the items on the menu, usually served sometime after an appetizer and before a meat or fish dish. My grandmother would hand-cut the pasta dough, dry it on her wooden rack and serve the pasta with one of the many jars of marinara sauce she prepared and stored in her cold cellar. There would be more courses after the main dish which usually led to a very long day at the table. Card games were played while we cracked nuts, shared orange slices and biscotti, enjoying stories about the old country.
I was 16 years old when my grandmother sat me down in the kitchen to teach me how to make pasta. I remember how strong her hands were as she kneaded the dough over and over. I was mesmerized by her skill and speed at making spaghetti and cavatelli. She hand-cut all of her dough, and I still remember the rustic looking homemade noodles on my plate.
For homemade pasta, you only need a few ingredients: eggs, flour, salt, water, and olive oil (optional). Mixing together on a wooden cutting board, slowly incorporate the eggs with the other ingredients until you have formed a ball of dough. Forceful kneading your dough for another 10 minutes will produce a smooth consistency.
The dough will need to rest for at least 30 minutes so it will be easier to manipulate and stretch.
While the dough is resting, I set up my pasta machine which my mother handed down to me. Easy to clamp to a kitchen counter or island, keep plenty of flour to add to the machine as you prepare to flatten the dough. If you don’t have access to a pasta machine, you can do this easily with a rolling pin.
I prepare pasta to use later so I freeze a couple pounds. I layer it onto wax paper, sprinkled with flour to prevent sticking and place it in a box in the freezer for up to a month or so. You can dry your cut pasta and cook it right away too.
Depending on the size of your pasta, you will want to boil it in salted water for approximately 3-6 minutes, longer for thicker pasta. Drain and serve with your favorite sauce!
The York Public Library is making it easier for you to make pasta. We have added a Marcato Pasta Machine to our “Library of Things” that you can check out with your York Public Library card. If you need more guidance, check out this video as I go through each step with you to make delicious pasta! Or if you prefer a live experience, register for the in-person pasta-making workshop at the library Nov. 18 from 1 to 2:30 pm in the Craft Room where I will be helping you make a pound of pasta to take home! Space is limited, so register early at yorkpubliclibrary.org/calendar.
For more information on making pasta, check these books out at the Library:
- “Lidia’s Italian-American Kitchen” by Lidia Bastianich
- “Ciao Italia: My Lifelong Food Adventures in Italy” by Mary Ann Esposito.
This article was originally published in the Library’s weekly “Shelf Life” column, which is featured in The York Weekly and SeacoastOnline.com.