Making pasta by hand from start to finish, mixing the flour and eggs, rolling and rolling and then shaping and filling is really therapeutic. This is the old school way that Evan Funke in his book American Sfoglino (and his restaurant in Venice, CA) preaches. He apparently despises pasta machines and blames them for inferior pasta that lacks the proper texture and firmness.
Well, I am not throwing away my pasta machine anytime soon. I am a firm believer in convenience as much as I love good food. So, I leave the hand rolling of the sfoglia (that’s the pasta dough sheet) to those days when I want to take my mind off work and stress (lots of stress these days). Those days where I do not mind taking my time and stretching and rolling egg dough with a long wooden dowel until it is as thing as paper. Truth be told after doing this a few times now it barely takes much longer than dough rolled with the old Atlas pasta machine.
The dough is only eggs and flour gradually mixed together by hand. Initially the mass is ragged and had dry spots here and there. Then slowly with some cutting action from a dough scraper is starts becoming more homogeneous. After it rests for 15 minutes or so I divide it into 2 pieces and knead each one very well, then wrap in plastic and leave them alone for a couple hours. After that they are ready to roll.
I do not have a specialty cool artisanal matarelo (long rolling pin) but i do have a long round dowel that works pretty well. For a surface you really need a good wooden board. Something large that will accommodate the big sheet of pasta you are about to roll. The first time I tried this on just my granite counter top it definitely did not work too well. It either kept sticking or I had too much flour. So, I now use a large cutting board i have and it works great. It has the right texture and surface to roll and then cut the dough. It also fits a Negroni on it at the same time!
Funke has a good clear method for novice pasta rollers like myself. He basically directs us to roll the dough into a large circle and using an imaginary clock as a guide. Always roll at 10, 11, 12, 1 and 2:00 o’clock then turn the dough clockwise and roll….until it starts getting thin and can be rolled on the matarello and gently stretched, rotated and rolled again. The end result is a thin round sheet that you can almost see through it. He recommends different thicknesses depending on the final dish you are making but I do not find the directions of “As thick as 7 post-it notes” very helpful. So, I judge it by eye until I am happy with how thin it is.
When the pasta sheet is rolled it is ready to be shaped into whatever you want. Simplest form is to roll it over itself like a loose jelly roll and slice it into noodles like Pappardelle or Tagliatelle. This time around I went with a stuffed pasta and made a filling of ricotta, eggs and Parmesan cheese.
I used an accordion cutter to quickly make squares of the sfoglia and with a piping bag I put a dollop of filling in each square and shaped them into cool Tortelloni. For a sauce I served most of them with a simple tomato butter sauce. This is a ridiculously easy sauce I first heard about it from the late Marcella Hazan. An onion is gently simmered in pureed tomatoes with a good dose of butter. In the end the onion is removed and you have a wonderful Burro e Oro sauce. I also tossed some in browned butter and walnuts for variety. Both delicious but the butter tomato sauce is fantastic with the perfect pasta and the creamy filling especially after a good shower of Parmesan cheese.