Fresh Pasta à la Sfoglina
Photos by Michael Piazza
Based on a method I learned on a farm outside Bologna, this is unlike any fresh pasta recipe I’ve used before: There is no water, salt or oil—only flour and whole, room-temperature eggs. It requires patience and a lot of kneading, but eventually the flour will absorb all the eggs. Keep scraping the surface with a pastry scraper to get all the flour off, knead again and incorporate it ALL. Let the finished dough rest, covered in plastic wrap, at least 30 minutes.
Getting the pasta thin enough using only a rolling pin is a project for sure—but it requires no special equipment and doubles as an excellent arms-and-abs workout! The true sfogline, or “pasta makers” of Bologna, swear that only a pin can create the proper texture for sauce to cling to and coat fresh egg noodles, so it’s their preferred method. But if you have a pasta machine and want to use it for the recipes in this story, by all means go for it—your pasta will be just as delicious plus you’ll be eating it a whole lot sooner.
Makes about 1 pound of dough, enough for noodles or ravioli for 4 people
400 grams “00” flour (use a digital kitchen scale for accuracy)
4 eggs, room temperature
Measure the flour on the scale, remove ¼ cup of it and set it aside. You’ll use it later when rolling out. (If you’ve left the prep to the last minute and your eggs are cold from the fridge, put them in a bowl and cover with hot water—they will warm up through the shell.)
Make a pile of flour on a large smooth work surface, like a big wooden cutting board or just the surface of your counter. Using your fingers, make a well in the center of the flour. Crack the eggs one at a time into a small bowl and tip into the flour’s well.
Whisk the eggs with a fork, then incorporate a tiny bit of flour into the slurry and continue whisking. Add a bit more flour until the texture is creamy, then keep adding flour little by little until the eggs are too stiff to whisk anymore. Pull all the egg-flour mixture from the tines of the fork (every little bit of egg counts here!) and add to the slurry.
Using a pastry scraper, fold the flour over the egg mixture first from one side, then the top, the other side and the bottom. Scrape all the dough from the scraper and add to the mix, then using your hands knead the dough slowly until flour has absorbed all the eggs and the dough is smooth and elastic. It will feel stiff at this point, but keep kneading for 5 minutes total.
Divide the dough in two balls and wrap tightly in plastic wrap; set aside for at least 30 minutes at room temperature before proceeding. You’ll feel the difference in springiness when you press the dough with your fingertip—the dough will be much softer and more supple. Use the resting time to make your sauce.
When ready to thin out the pasta sheets, lightly flour a straight rolling pin and your surface with a small amount of the flour you set aside; begin to roll one ball of dough as thin as you can.
Here are some tips:
Use gravity to your advantage by hanging half the dough sheet off the front edge of your surface (at your waistline) and stretch the dough up and away with the pin. Repeat with the other end.
Move the whole sheet to the surface and continue to roll (your arms will get tired—persevere!) then roll the dough over on itself—it’ll seem like it will stick but it won’t. You’re essentially wrapping the pin with the dough, and then using your hands to gently pull outwards while you roll, stretching the sheet as wide as you can. Try not to use very much added flour so your noodles stay supple, but do add some if the sheet is getting sticky.
When you’ve rolled the sheet as thin as you possibly can, cut it into 2 or 3 smaller pieces: A large flat sheet is harder to thin out, so if you slice it into more manageable lengths, you can really get your body weight into it. Roll each piece again, rotating and using firm pressure until you can almost see through the sheets.
For pappardelle, slice the pasta sheets into ¾-inch strips and toss with flour; for linguine, slice them into ¼-inch strips (this is best done with a sharp knife). Set aside in shallow piles, well-floured and covered, until ready to cook. Refrigerate if you won’t be cooking within an hour or so.
For making ravioli, cut the sheets into strips double the width you’d like the ravioli to be. Spoon on the filling, use your finger dipped in a bowl of water to wet the space around and between it, then fold the sheet over the filling and press to seal. Slice the ravioli apart using a knife or a pizza wheel, using a fork to press and seal the edges. Place on a well-floured board or towel-lined baking sheet, covered, until ready to cook. Or freeze until firm, then transfer to a zip-top bag for longer storage in the freezer.
Fresh pasta dough doesn’t last long in the fridge—no more than one day—before discoloring (due to the eggs). Wrap any leftover unrolled dough tightly in plastic and freeze; pre-rolled pasta sheets or cut noodles can be dried or frozen.
This story appeared in the Spring 2019 issue.