My daughter and I love making pasta. We start from scratch, and enjoy mixing the dough by hand, kneading it while we talk, and finally running it through the Imperia pasta machine to make lasagna sheets, noodles, or squares to stuff with filling.
The recipe is pretty simple, adapted from my father's teaching and from the work of the late great Marcella Hazan. It can be scaled up for any size meal, or you can just make lots and store the dough balls in your fridge for a week or more, ready to dust with flour and roll out into beautiful sheets of pasta.
Take 1 cup all-purpose flour and make a "volcano".
In the hole of the "volcano", crack and beat 1 egg.
Add 1 TBS of olive oil, and 1 pinch of salt.
Add 2 tsp of water (or tomato juice, or nettle infusion). The water helps the gluten form properly.
To this basic template you can add rubbed sage, or chopped parsley, or calendula petals, or cuttlefish (sepia) ink. The possibilities are endless
Slowly incorporate the flour into the egg/oil/water mix. When it's mostly blended, start squishing the dough with your hands and fingers until it forms into a glossy ball (or multiple balls, if you're using more than 1 cup of flour). Keep kneading until the dough becomes elastic and supple.
Place the ball of dough in a plastic bag in the fridge for an hour or two, then take it out and cut in half. Press the dough into a flat pancake - and you're ready to feed it into the pasta machine!
The quality of the dough relies on a protein present in wheat, called gluten. I've been unable to achieve the stretchy quality of good pasta dough any other way. It's elastic, resilient, and can be rolled incredibly thin without tears or breaks thanks to the gluten polymer keeping everything "linked up". Part of what kneading accomplishes is to link many gluten molecules together to achieve this resilient "sheet" effect. I apologize if gluten offends your sensibilities (or you GI tract) - but it's really a beautiful thing.
The other day my daughter and I were admiring the thin sheets, looking at how the light from our western windows glowed through them, alabaster-like. She came up with some great similes to describe the fruits of our labor. I told her I'd steal her words - which led to a conversation about exactly what I meant by that, how one could "steal" words, what plagiarism is. Good stuff for a four-year-old. Regardless, here's my plagiarism in action. It's an ode to gluten.
Metal rolls thick dough
until, when held up
evening sun shines through it -
thin as a rabbit's ear,
silky and cool. We clear
flour off the pine board
and lay a long sheet out
thin as a petal.