“Making pasta is not a hard thing to do,” says Jim Winecoff, owner of Mona Lisa Pasta. “It’s messy, it takes some time, but it’s just flour and eggs and water—that’s it.”
Although pasta at the 13-year-old shop is made using an extruder, which makes 75 pounds of pasta at once, Winecoff still enjoys cranking out noodles by hand with his Italian-made Atlas pasta machine. He offers these tips for making your own pasta at home.
Choose your flour
All-purpose flour works fine, he says, but Mona Lisa pastas are made with durum and semolina flours, which are higher in gluten, giving the dough more elasticity. “It stretches easier when you roll it out and doesn’t break and crumble to pieces,” says Winecoff.
Decide between whole eggs or egg yolks
“We use whole eggs because the whites give the pasta a firmer texture, but using only egg yolks gives a richer flavor,” Winecoff explains. “If you want it really rich, use duck eggs, which have bigger yolks.” If desired, he suggests adding flavoring to pasta at this point—tomato paste, garlic, black pepper or finely chopped herbs. Just be careful adding anything that might add more liquid to your mix, like spinach, he says.
Choose your mixing method
Although pasta can be made in an electric mixer or food processor, Winecoff prefers mixing it by hand: “The easiest, most traditional way is to make a pile of flour on your cutting board or counter,” he says. “Make a well in the middle of your flour, crack your eggs into it and take a fork and slowly scramble your eggs into your flour until you get a mass of dough.”
Let the gluten relax
The dough should rest for about 20 minutes before kneading it. Winecoff lets his pasta machine do most of the kneading for him, by feeding small amounts of dough (“not quite as big as your fist”) into the machine one by one, running each through 15 to 20 times until it’s smooth.
Cut your noodles
The wider noodles, like fettuccine or linguine, are easiest, Winecoff says. Or use the pasta sheets for filled pastas such as ravioli (which should be cut in squares rather than circles to avoid wasting pasta, he advises).
But beware: “Fresh pasta is really wet, and if you start stacking it, it will all meld together,” Winecoff says. “When I first started making pasta at home, I’d have noodles hanging everywhere—over cabinet doors, all over the place—just trying to dry it out a bit so it wouldn’t stick together.” If you’re not cooking the pasta immediately, Winecoff suggests twirling it into portion-sized “nests” and freezing them on a tray. “Just drop a nest in boiling water and cook it when you want it,” he says.
Winecoff recommends cooking pasta in an 8-quart stock pot for 90 seconds after the water returns to a roaring boil. To give the pasta flavor, the water should be “generously salted—like 2 to 3 tablespoons,” he says. And sauce it quickly, he advises—“even any pasta you have leftover. Otherwise you’ll have a giant clump of noodle.”
MONA LISA BY THE MILE
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