This dough. We’ve all read recipes and seen videos of building a “well” with the flour. That’s not new here. What IS new to me with the dough is how precisely perfect it is. Most recipes call for “adding more flour as needed” when it sticks to the board. Not here. I followed the ingredients and measurements precisely and the dough needed absolutely nothing else. I whisked up every flour glob on the counter into the dough. It all came together beautifully.
Once all the bits were incorporated, I kneaded it and kneaded it and it just became more and more silky, more and more homogeneous. Gorgeous. Chef McNaughton describes it as “adult play-doh.” Perfect description. This recipe can be used for ANY stuffed pasta: ravioli, agnolotti, plin, tortellini, etc.
After the dough rested, I divided it into 6 even pieces, just to make passing it through the pasta machine easier. His technique here again is mastery. Please also follow these instructions exactly. I was never able to get my pasta sheets to the correct width before–now I can based on his steps. (I took the time to type all of these details out because I truly believe they should be followed carefully.)
I used this dough to make Mortadella Fattisu with Pistachios, more details here. This dough is used throughout the book for any stuffed pasta recipe. It will certainly always be my GO-TO in the future.
excerpted from: Flour + Water cookbook by Thomas McNaughton
Makes 556 grams/19.6 ounces of dough
360 grams 00 flour (2 well-packed cups, unsifted)
5 grams kosher salt (1 teaspoon)
100 grams whole eggs (1/2 cup/about 2 large eggs)
90 grams egg yolks (1/3 cup/5 to 6 yolks)
6 grams extra-virgin olive oil (1 ½ teaspoons)
Step One: Mixing
To start, place the ﬂour on a dry, clean work surface, forming a mound about 8 to 10 inches in diameter at its base. Sprinkle the salt in the middle of the mound. Using the bottom of a measuring cup, create a well 4 to 5 inches wide, with at least a half inch of flour on the bottom of the well. Slowly and carefully add the wet ingredients (eggs and olive oil) into the well, treating the ﬂour as a bowl. Using a fork, gently beat the eggs without touching the ﬂour walls or scraping through the bottom to the work surface. Then, still stirring, begin to slowly incorporate the flour “walls” into the egg mixture, gradually working your way toward the outer edges of the ﬂour, but disturbing the base as little as possible. If the eggs breach the sides too soon, quickly scoop them back in and reform the wall. Once the dough starts to take on a thickened, paste-like quality (slurry), slowly incorporate the flour on the bottom into the mixture.
When the slurry starts to move as a solid mass, remove as much as possible from the fork. Slide a bench scraper or spatula under the mass of dough and flip it and turn it onto itself to clear any wet dough from the work surface. At this point, with your hands, start folding and forming the dough into a single mass. The goal is to incorporate all the ﬂour into the mass, and using a spray bottle to liberally spritz the dough with water is essential. It is a very dry dough, and it cannot be overstated how important it is to generously and constantly spritz to help “glue” any loose flour to the dry dough ball. (Note: I did not need to spritz at all–maybe my eggs were bigger, but no need for me here.) When the dough forms a stiff, solid mass, scrape away any dried clumps of flour from the work surface, which, if incorporated in the dough, will create dry spots in the final product.
Step Two: Kneading
Kneading is an essential step in the dough-making process: it realigns the protein structure of the dough so that it develops properly during the resting stage that follows. Kneading is simple: Drive the heel of your dominant hand into the dough. Push down and release, and then use your other hand to pickup and rotate the dough on itself 45 degrees. Drive the heel of your hand back in the dough, rotate, and repeat for 10 to 15 minutes. This is how Italian grandmas get their fat wrists.
Pasta is easy to underknead but virtually impossible to overknead (unlike bread, where each type has its sweet spot or ideal kneading time). That said, even though the dough cannot be overkneaded, it can spend too much time on the worktable—and, as a direct result, start to dehydrate and be more difficult to form into its final shape. For best results, I think a 10 to 15 minute range is a solid guideline. When the dough is ready, it will stop changing appearance and texture. The dough will be firm but bouncy to the touch and have a smooth, silky surface, almost like Play-Doh. Tightly wrap the dough in plastic wrap.
Step Three: Resting
At this stage, the flour particles continue to absorb moisture, which further develops the gluten structure that allows pasta dough to stand up to rolling and shaping. If you plan to use the dough immediately, let it rest at room temperature, wrapped in plastic, for at least 30 minutes prior to rolling it out (the next step). If resting for more than 6 hours, put the dough in the refrigerator. lt’s best to use fresh dough within 24 hours. Under proper refrigeration, the dough will hold for 2 days, but I try to avoid letting it rest that long, simply because the eggs yolks will oxidize and discolor the dough. It won’t affect the ﬂavor or the texture, but the dough will develop a slightly off color and a grayish-greenish hue. (This has happened to me before–it’s just ain’t pretty. Use same day.)
The Final Step: Rolling Out the Dough
Rolling is the last phase of the mixing process. Rolling out pasta by machine—whether it’s a hand-crank model or an electric one—should be a delicate, almost Zen-like art. You can only roll out dough that has rested for at least 30 minutes at room temperature. If it has rested for longer in the fridge, give the dough enough time to come back to room temperature. The fat content of pasta dough is so high that it will solidify when cold, so it needs to come back to room temperature to be easier to roll. The process for rolling sheets of pasta dough is the same whether you have a hand-cranked machine or an electric one, like we have in the restaurant.
To start, slice off a section of the ball of dough, immediately rewrapping the unused portion in plastic wrap. Place the piece of dough on the work surface and, with a rolling pin, ﬂatten it enough that it will fit into the widest setting of the pasta machine. You do not want to stress the dough or the machine. lt’s crucial to remember that whenever the pasta dough is not in plastic wrap or under a damp towel, you’re in a race against time. The minute you expose the pasta to air, it starts to dehydrate. This creates a dry outer skin that you do not want to incorporate into the ﬁnished dough; the goal is to create a dough of uniform consistency. Our dough is purposely very dry. We do not add any raw ﬂour in the rolling process. Extra flour added at this point sticks to the dough and, when cooked, that splotch turns into a gooey mass, a slick barrier to sauce. It dulls the seasoning and ﬂavors of both the dough and the finished dish.
Begin rolling the dough through the machine, starting with the widest setting. Guide it quickly through the slot once. Then decrease the thickness setting by one and repeat. Decrease the thickness setting by one more and roll the dough through quickly one more time. Once the dough has gone through three times, once on each of the first three settings, it should have doubled in length. Lay the dough on a ﬂat surface. The dough’s hydration level at this point is so low that you’ll probably see some streaks; that’s normal, which is the reason for the next crucial step: laminating the dough.
Using a rolling pin as a makeshift ruler, measure the width of your pasta machine’s slot, minus the thickness of two fingers. This measurement represents the ideal width of the pasta sheet, with about a ﬁnger’s length on each side, so there’s plenty of room in the machine. Take that rolling pin measurement to the end of the pasta sheet and make a gentle indentation in the dough representing the measurement’s length. Make that mark with a crease and fold the pasta over. Repeat for the rest of the pasta sheet, keeping that same initial measurement. For best results, you want a minimum of four layers. Secure the layers of the pasta together with the rolling pin, rolling it ﬂat enough that it can fit in the machine. Put the dough back in the machine, but with a 90 degree turn of the sheet. In other words, what was the “bottom” edge of the pasta is now going through the machine first.
This time around, it’s important to roll out the dough two to three times on each setting at a steady, smooth pace. We’ve created this gluten network—a web of elasticity—so if you roll it too fast, it will snap back to its earlier thickness, thereby lengthening the time you’re going through each number. The more slowly you crank the pasta dough, the more compression time the dough has; it’s important to stay consistent in the speed in order to keep a consistent thickness. You should be able to see and feel the resistance as the dough passes through the rollers. On the first time at each level, the dough will compress. It’s time to move onto the next level when the dough slips through without any trouble. The first few thickness settings (the biggest widths) usually require three passes; once you’re into thinner territory, there’s less pasta dough compressing, so it goes more quickly and two passes get the job done.
When handling the sheet of dough—especially as it gets longer-always keep it taut and ﬂat. Never grab or ﬂop or twist the pasta. The sheet should rest on the inside edges of your index fingers with your fingers erect and pointed out. The hands don’t grab or stretch the dough; instead, they act as paddles, guiding the sheet of dough through the machine. Handling the dough with your fingers pointed straight out alleviates any pressure on the dough, which stretches and warps it. Use the right hand to feed the machine and use the left hand to crank. Once the pasta dough is halfway through, switch hands, pulling out with the left hand. If you have trouble doing it alone as the dough gets longer and thinner, find a friend to help juggle the dough, or roll out a smaller, more wieldy batch. Once you roll out the dough, immediately form it into shapes.