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This is sort of a perennial topic online; some existing eG threads, including a fairly recent one I started (below), discuss fresh-pasta nuances.

A little perspective: The cookbooks that introduced much of the US to practical pasta making (and other delights of Northern Italian cooking), and paved way for these other recent authors, were Marcella Hazan's Classic Italian Cookbook (1973) and its sequel (1978). Reissued more recently (but in abridged form) as a single volume.

Marcella Hazan was to N. Italian cooking in the US what Julia Child was to French (and unlike Julia Child, who wasn't from France and who started cooking about age 40, Hazan grew up cooking in the milieu she wrote about). Marcella's books surface periodically here, as in this and this thread.

Recent thread on variations of homemade pasta recipes.

"A properly made ragù clinging to the folds of homemade noodles is one of the most pleasurable experiences accessible to the sense of taste." -- Marcella Hazan, 1973

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I've had really good success with Cooking by Hand by Paul Bertolli, the founder and former chef of Oliveto. There's a lot of really good explanation of different flours and processes, which gives a lot of insight into why a simple pasta recipe without the necessary understanding often comes out rather unhappily. After surprisingly little practice, semi-objective parties notice marked similarity between the book's pasta and the restaurant's. It also made me understand the story in the book about the guy from Italy who strongly prefers pasta with no sauce, only butter or olive oil and sometimes good parmesan: pasta from this book, at least, even when made from simple (fresh) white flour, can have sufficiently interesting flavor and texture to satisfy only with a little seasoning.

Edited by eac (log)
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Thanks for posting that, eac. I'm going to check out that book. (I very much resonate with the experience of learning that good fresh pasta is a different animal, and can be delicious with the simplest seasonings.)

I'm not surprised at all to hear that Paul Bertolli would do a good job of this. (Like Marcella Hazan, he had Italian ancestry and grew up seeing its cooking in action. He also worked professionally in Italy.) Locally he is perhaps even better known (before Oliveto) as the low-key longest-tenure chef of Chez Panisse in Berkeley (1980s-1990s). With Alice Waters he co-authored Chez Panisse Cooking (1988) which opens with recollections of his Italian grandmother's cooking.

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I have that one too, although I've cooked less from it, since its genre is sufficiently close to Keller's (especially Bouchon), and the latter is significantly more reliable. Cooking by Hand and the Keller line both have pretty good coverage of all the necessary information to make even very complicated dishes not suck, even if you were very recently so utterly ignorant of all things food and cooking that you attempted to cut strings of cheese and weave cloth out of them when a recipe instructed you to wrap herbs in cheesecloth. They will tell you, here is what a stock is, here is how to make a good one, here is why this makes a good one, this is what this is supposed to look like, etc, etc. They will tell you, crucially, that you must not stack uncooked lobster ravioli (p. 175 of Chez Panisse Cooking) on top of one another, or they will stick together and self-destruct, and your Thanksgiving dinner will be pretty seriously untasty as a result.

That said, Bertolli's Chez Panisse book is definitely the best of the Chez Panisse cookbooks.

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It seems like he favors a very firm and dry pasta dough compared to what I'm used to. Harder to need and roll out that keller's dough or some of the other high egg yolk doughs I've made.

I've only made Bertolli's doughs a couple times though (the semolina and water as well as the whole egg pasta), But I'd love to here your experience working with the dough. I'd love to see a video of him making the dough. He has a lot of great information in the book, but the recipes themselves are VERY skimpy on detail of what to look for.

I have Bugali on Pasta as well and think it's a a much better book for most people, with a lot of detail, drawings of the rolling proceedures, a lot of great recipes. Of course if you're a 5%er then and want to grind your flour, make your own version of Italian cured meats or sun dried tomato paste. Well Bertolli's your guy.

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Whoever published Silver Spoon (Phaedon? I'm not at home) has just published a book called "Pasta". Its about half as thick as Silver Spoon, but is all pasta. I just got it a week or so ago and haven't thoroughly done it yet.

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I'd love to here your experience working with the dough.

Without a specific quotation, the "your" is slightly mysterious. But if it's of interest, the fairly recent thread I mentioned (see correction below) on fresh noodles discusses dough stiffness, I mention my technique of combined kneading and adding flour, which automatically brings the dough to the consistency you want. (Beware any recipes specifying fixed ratios of flour to eggs! even by weight! it doesn't work like that. Not only do "eggs" vary over considerable range in volume, but flour properties also vary, even different lots of the same brand.)

Correction: Above I cited a "Recent thread" on fresh pasta variations ("Praising freshly made noodles"). The link above is wrong, and someone also evidently merged and re-named my thread later, which I didn't know, so my archived links to it are bad too; but a little archeology surfaced the late-2009 postings in question, especially This One (I'm referring to Post #98 in that thread's current numbering, 20-Nov-2009), now part of a general fresh-pasta thread.

Further discussion of making pasta (maybe even of books) belongs on that thread, joining existing eG contributions on the subject. Also, newcomers to this specialty may want to review that whole thread before repeating ground already covered there.

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Are we going by volume, or weight, or what, here? Does one of them use extra-large eggs? Once of my pasta books does, but I don't remember which. Frankly, I completely ignore any actual recipe for pasta, as MaxH points out, none of them really work that well. Once you have made pasta a few dozen times you start to get a feel for what texture of dough you are looking for, and just add flour to get there. I never add any water, it's interesting that Bertolli calls for it.

Chris Hennes
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Yes, Bugalli uses XL eggs, I calculated it out at 27 oz per dozen or 2.25 oz ea. I wanted a way to compare the recipes and converting to a bakers percentage seems the best way. Bugalli's ratio seems to be pretty standard. Bertolli's is very different and a lot lower hydration on both his whole egg and semolina recipes. His egg yolk heavy formula goes back to a higher hydration. I just am very curious if anyone has had success with it. My experience is that it yields a VERY dense dough that is difficult to work with.

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... My experience is that it yields a VERY dense dough that is difficult to work with.

I haven't "been there" - not least because he is

-- using a very specific ("Artisan") flour

-- and he is trying to make "flat pasta with a very firm bite and superb flavour" (p97) when he uses that flour.

Like he says, tweak things for your flour, and your goal.

If the dough is cracking, it needs a drop more hydration.

If you are trying to make pasta with a "very firm bite", I'd expect it to be very (physically) hard work.

My guess is that Bertolli is deliberately trying to make just about the firmest fresh pasta he can, and so is working with the very minimum of hydration, fat and lecithin.

I don't think Bertolli is suggesting this as a 'go-to' pasta recipe for everyone. Rather it produces what he is looking for. And if you are trying to exactly reproduce his product - don't expect it to be easy!

Its all a continuum, more or less egg, water, flour-protein, oil ...

And note that, additional to the measured quantities, most pasta recipes expect considerable (usually unaccounted) flour pick-up during kneading and rolling.

These recipes aren't tablets of stone.

Roll your own!

100g flour to each egg is a fairly standard starting point. Then tweak it to your taste, your flour, your eggs, etc ...

Right now, I'm reading a lot of good sense in Katie Caldesi's "The Italian Cookery Course" (Is it called 'Cook Italy' in the USA? - ADDED - Yes and it has been deliberately 'improved' with volume measures instead of metric weights! Oh dear ...)

Interesting (retrospectively obvious) point about surface texture - hand rolling on the exposed grain of a well-worn wooden tabletop (or a floured Italian tablecloth) produces a textured, sauce-grabbing surface, quite unlike that produced by smooth metal rollers.

So, maybe ideally a final 'texturizing' pass, by hand, on something less smooth than the melamine worktop? (I had a linen proofing 'couche' once upon a time, I wonder where its hiding?)

And I also rather like Rose Gray and Ruth Rogers' River Cafe Pocket Books: Pasta & Ravioli. This is cheap/small/handy - valid reasons for republishing themed collections of recipes. Their standard dough for filled pasta (therefore ideally nice and supple) involves 500g of Tipo 00 (itself hardly an exact spec) to 4 medium eggs PLUS 6 yolks from medium eggs, a bit of salt and an allowance of 50g of semolina (durum) flour for dusting. They suggest about 10 minutes in the mixer with the dough hook to get it smooth, a brief hand knead and then an hour's rest before starting the rolling. Even then, they want ten passes (with doubling folds) to get the dough "silky" before starting to reduce the roller spacing!

Very rich fare at The River Café!

Edited by heidih
Fix links (log)

"If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch ... you must first invent the universe." - Carl Sagan

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Yep! I don't dis-agree with you I just wish I could see it done (you tube) or hear a report of someone who made with success, because it is so different. Don't get me wrong, I've made pasta a lot and know how it's supposed to be when made in the usual 100g per egg or high ratio yolk formula. I'd love to master his technique because his reputation is so solid.

The formula is soo different it seemingly has to be genius or unworkable and I can't figure out which?!

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