Recently, my children and I have rediscovered the satisfaction of making homemade noodles using our hand crank pasta maker. This is truly a group activity in our house, and well worth all the effort. Someone feeds the dough through while someone else cranks, and three others stand at the ready to cut the noodles or better yet, help lift the four-foot noodles out of the machine to dry on the counter.
It is totally possible to make noodles without a pasta maker, perhaps even preferable. The noodles will be thicker since hand-rolling doesn’t produce nearly as thin a dough as a machine can, and consequently pleasantly chewy.
Right now, we’re using a mixture of half soft white wheat flour and half unbleached. I fully intend to figure out a healthier alternative with 100% whole wheat, someday. (My attempts so far have resulted in a dough that tears and breaks before I can get it rolled out.) But even if I never get around to it, these are certainly better for you than store-bought white spaghetti, and much tastier!
Mix the dough:
1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 1/2 cups unbleached flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup eggs (about 4), lightly beaten
1 tablespoon olive oil
Combine the flours and salt in a mixing bowl. In a separate bowl, mix the eggs and olive oil. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and add the egg mixture all at once. Stir to combine as much as you can, then knead the rest in with your hands – it should be a pretty stiff dough, but still soft enough to squeeze without straining.
At this point, I divide the dough ball into halves and work with one at a time. Place a damp towel or an inverted bowl over the second half of dough so that it doesn’t dry out.
To make the noodles without a pasta maker:
Generously flour your counter top.
Using a rolling pin, roll the noodle dough out into as thin a rectangle as possible. Then, starting from one long end, roll the dough up jelly-roll style. Slice the dough into 1/4 inch slices and unroll each noodle. You can toss them into a pot of boiling water or soup right away or dry them to use later.
One good way to dry the noodles is to set a broomstick between two chair backs and hang the noodles over the broomstick. Another simple method is to lay them out on a counter, being careful to keep the noodles from touching each other too much or they’ll stick together. Once they’re dry, you can store them in an airtight container at room temperature for up to a week. If you plan to store them longer than that, it’s best to put them in the refrigerator or freezer.
Here’s how to make the noodles in a pasta machine like mine:
Flatten the dough with your hands and lightly flour it on both sides. Set the machine to the first (or widest) setting and push the dough through. Most of the time, the dough rips quite a bit the first time through. Just assemble it back together and put it through the first setting again. After the second or third time through, your dough should start to resemble a sheet, even if it does have holes and tears in it. Flour it on both sides again if it has gotten the least bit sticky, fold it, and put it through the first setting again. Repeat this until you have a nice smooth sheet of dough.
Set the machine to the second setting; roll the dough through. It is important to flour both sides of the dough whenever necessary to keep it from sticking to the rollers – they’re difficult to clean.
Roll the dough through the third, fourth, and fifth settings. On my machine, this is as thin as we like our noodles to be. Keep narrowing the rollers until the dough is as thin as you like.
Move the crank over to the noodle cutter, and pass the dough through. If you plan to dry your noodles, it’s easiest to make them very long. Otherwise, cut them about 10 inches long as they come out of the cutter.
Toss directly into boiling water or soup, taking care not to let them stick together.
Makes enough for a very noodly pot of soup or a main dish for 6 people.
(Give me a little while and I’ll get some pictures posted.)