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MEET THE PASTA grannies

Try these authentic recipes from Italian nonne (plus one nonno!) for whom pasta is a daily passion. We also talk to Vicky Bennison, who turned these the extraordinary cooks into a YouTube sensation…
Photography by Emma Lee

How to make egg pasta dough

PREPARATION 30 minutes plus 30 minutes resting time

The nonna way is to decide on how many eggs you are going to use, and use one handful of flour for every egg. This handful equates to 100g of flour per egg.

• ‘00’ flour (or plain flour)

• free-range eggs

1 Weigh out your ingredients. Allow 100g ‘00’ flour (or plain flour) per person for a main course-sized portion. You need 55g egg without its shell for every 100g flour. For example, if you are making pasta for four people, you will need 400g flour and 220g egg, which most of the time will mean four hen eggs. But weighing out your ingredients means you can also use other eggs, such as duck or turkey, which is something the nonne do. If your eggs are on the small side, add a bit of water or another egg yolk to bring the quantity up to the right weight. If your weight is slightly over, use the egg shell to scoop out excess egg white. Tip the flour onto your board in a heap. Use your fingers to make a well in the centre, making sure it’s not too wide or the rim too low, otherwise your egg mix will overflow. Pour the eggs into the well.

2 Take a fork (or use your fingers) and scramble the eggs together. They are mixed sufficiently when you lift the fork and you have a homogeneous, non-clumpy looking liquid that falls smoothly from your fork. Draw your fork round the inside of the flour wall, so a small quantity of flour falls into the egg mixture. Whisk it in, smooshing any lumps, so you gradually create a batter. Repeat until you have a mixture that won’t run all over the board.

3 At this point you can cave in the flour walls and mix in the rest of the flour with a bench scraper by scraping the flour inwards and over the batter. Of course, you can beat the egg and flour together in a bowl, even with a food mixer, but it’s not as fun. Mop up any flour with your dough and give it a quick knead. If it is sticky, add a tbsp of flour and knead it in. It is better to adjust your dough now than later. If it is not sticky and you have some flour on the board, scrape off the excess, so you have a nice clean board to knead your dough. Nonne sieve any excess flour and reuse it. The dough should feel soft and pillowy, but not too sticky.

Meet Pasta Grannies author Vicky Bennison overleaf, (seen here at a local food market)

4 Knead the dough for 10 minutes minimum. Think of your hands as waves: the heels of your hands push the dough away from you, while your fingers pull it back. Once your dough has become a log, turn it 90 degrees and fold it half and continue kneading. You want to work at a brisk pace, as air is the enemy of decent pasta – it will dry it out, so don’t dawdle. If the pasta feels too dry, damp your hands with water to put moisture back into the dough. Kneading develops the gluten and elasticity of the dough. Your dough should feel silky and smooth. When you press your thumb into the dough, it should bounce back. Some nonne judge their dough to be done when they can see small holes in the dough if sliced through the middle. To knead, you can also use a dough hook on your food mixer. Leave the dough to rest. At this point, place the dough in a lidded bowl and cover it to stop it from drying out. Clingfilm is good too, but you may not want to use it. You can also use a tea towel, but it’s important it hasn’t been washed with perfumed detergent as this will add an odour to your pasta. Leave the dough at room temperature for 30 minutes. This relaxes the gluten and makes it easier to roll out. You can also leave it in the fridge overnight. The colour will darken, but it will taste the same. It’s important to bring the pasta back to room temperature before you try rolling it.

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About Italia!

Welcome to this first issue of 2020! We send you our best wishes for a productive and peaceful time in the year ahead. Here we are looking forward to travelling deeper into Italy, discovering new places and seeing the familiar in a new light.